Arsène Wenger talked complete sense when raising his hackles against that Team GB side (or, as he called it with unwitting cynicism, "England") to play in the London Olympics. Well, almost complete sense. The erudite Frenchman said he expectedthe Football Association to show "clear leadership". He would be wiser to expect "clear mud".
This unified nonsense has been a mess from the start and it is set to become messier by the finish. The FA are solely to blame for this (with an assist from the BOA). The great patriots out there will shine the torch on the traitors such as Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and, of course, Scotland for refusing to get behind the Union Flagged cause. And all the while the culprits will sit in their privileged seats at Wembley, thinking to themselves, "Isn't this marvellous" as Wayne Rooney does a cruciate, Gareth Bale nobbles a knee and David Beckham drains his ducts dry with pride at becoming a modern Olympian for Great Britain.
It will not be marvellous; it will be pathetic, ill-considered and damaging. Since setting out on this vanity-fuelled, money-craven venture, the FA have put the prospect of popular opinion first and football second. "It's not a real tournament," says Wenger. If he was so minded he could launch his evidence for that claim in one word – "Beckham".
The absurdity of the 37-year-old even being mentioned as a possible barely needs spelling out. But here goes. On present sporting ability he would only get in the Team GB Side For Men Whose Name Is David. Yet Fran Halsall, a swimmer who won a European Championship gold medal, believes he of the golden balls who wants a golden bauble should be picked because he's "soooooo patriotic". Quite right. Maybe he could link with Alf Garnett down the left.
It's about selling seats and it's about schmoozing. And they have the cheek to criticise Scotland, who have steadfastly declined to give their backing due to footballing reasons. How many times do they have to repeat that they don't trust Fifa, or their wretched president, with their assurances that Scottish participation would not jeopardise their independence. That is the one genuine argument in a debatefilled with the fake and the flimsy.
Who really wants a Team GB? The public? Yes, that's all you hear about down the supermarket, in the pubs or at the bus stop, isn't it? Sure, they'd support it when it came around, might even quite enjoy it, but do not believe for a second their Olympic experience will rest on the comical sight of Beckham trying to keep up with Bale. Put simply, for more than 50 years there has been no place in Britain's footballing culture for Olympic football. It's always been a non-event because we weren't in the event.
"Yet the poor players want to play so, so badly," goes the whine. No they don't. Ask them, honestly, what they would prefer: a Champions' League final or an Olympic final? Quiz them about the content of their boyhood dreams. Not one of them – unless they are a converted Usain Bolt – was there in that back garden shooting against the tree to win the gold.
So why are they so keen? They happen to be humans who like the spotlight, that's why, and nobody can deny that once the jingoism begins the glare will be dazzling. Furthermore, it's a damn sight more of an attractive proposition than pre-season training. Essentially, footballers want to play, and on the biggest stage if possible. And this will be a big stage, even though it will be covered in tinsel and balloons.
Wenger and Fergie are just being honest. They enjoy that luxury. Harry Redknapp, he of the next England dug-out, wouldn't dare attack the concept. Neither would any Englishman worthy of his ambition. The last thing you want to be labelled in working- class England is unpatriotic.
The truth is England can't have it all. England can't have the greatest league in the world, plus compete in World Cups and European Championships, plus win the Olympics. Fergie's been saying it for years. Something has to give, and with the clubs paying the wages it is bound to be the country, run by the pitiably weak FA.
Like Wenger demands, the very least they should do is take the decision out of the players' hands. Otherwise, young men, who, to be frank, aren't that bright, will be in the invidious position of choosing their own headline. So what do they want to be: a hero or a turncoat?
There should be no shame whatsoever in opting for the latter. Yet there will be. The appointment of Stuart Pearce ensures there's a Psychoin the background constantly banging the drum. Prepare yourself for nine months of nationalistic baloney before the Nigerian Under-23 team run rings round our brave boys. Five rings, most probably.
McIlroy's peculiar decision worries his fans
You're 22 years old and have just enjoyed a season which included your first major victory, a rise to world No 3 and earning more millions than you could hope to spend. So what do you do? That's right – sack your manager.
Well, what's he ever done for you? Apart from help you make the treacherous transgression from amateur to professional, apart from linking you up with the caddie to whom you have become so loyal. Oh yeah, and fixing you up with the fitness guru who has changed you physically and to whom you credit so much of your success, as well as the putting coach without whose guidance you recognise you would not have won the US Open in record style.
There were other things, too. The guidance, advice, warnings and the arm around the shoulder when you capitulate in very public view. But then, he was rewarded handsomely. There were glaring faults which just had to be addressed. No, not on the golf side. Wasn't much wrong there. But on the "brand" side, on the sponsorship side, on the PR side. You know, the aspects that really matter to a young golfer.
In the land of superstardom, there's a time when you outgrow who you were and stride out to who you think you could be. But that particular path is strewn with disaster stories.
Those of us who see the magic in Rory McIlroy can only pray his weird dismis-sal of Chubby Chandler is not the start of ruinous things to come.Reuse content