Why did FA not consult former England managers?

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The Independent Online

I always thought I was moderately intelligent. After all, I did pass the 11-plus, but I am baffled by what I have been reading about the recruitment of Sven Goran Eriksson to replace Kevin Keegan as England coach. Every day seems to bring a new example of top- class spin the England cricket team would be crying out for.

I always thought I was moderately intelligent. After all, I did pass the 11-plus, but I am baffled by what I have been reading about the recruitment of Sven Goran Eriksson to replace Kevin Keegan as England coach. Every day seems to bring a new example of top- class spin the England cricket team would be crying out for.

On the one hand, the Football Association promised to consult widely in its efforts to find the best possible man. How is it, then, that Arsÿne Wenger, Terry Venables and Roy Hodgson were not even spoken to about the job? We can safely assume that, unlike Eriksson, Wenger does at least know who plays in goal for Leicester City.

Arsenal, fortunate enough to be represented on the selection panel, were able to head off the FA at the pass by persuading Wenger to agree a new deal. Like Sir Alex Ferguson in 1996, Wenger will have found an England vacancy quite beneficial.

Venables, despite a decent track record in the job, did not merit a phone call. Hodgson's phone also remained silent, despite the fact that he is English and most observers who had seen both him and Eriksson at close quarters felt that at the very least he was the equal of the Swede. Never can a short stay in Lancashire have proven so expensive.

As Graham Taylor has said, the only men who really know the job are those who have done it; yet none of Eriksson's predecessors were asked for advice.

None of this is to question the qualities of Eriksson, nor to imply that England can only be managed by an Englishman or someone with intimate knowledge of the English game's quirks, of which more later. It is just that when he was unveiled by the FA you would have been forgiven for thinking he could walk on water when, in reality, he was a unanimous choice only because most of the selection panel knew too little about him to be able to express any reservations.

Returning to the quirks of the game, can it really be that a controversy is raging about card schools, of all things? Paul Merson spoke about the damaging effects of gambling addiction and Kevin Phillips had felt excluded from the card-playing clique. However, footballers have drunk and gambled since the game began.

More interesting, aside from the question of when footballers will ever get a life, is the fact that the FA was forced to issue a statement denying that it had denigrated Keegan with its comments about team spirit in their efforts to talk up Eriksson. It was not so long ago that it gave Keegan a vote of confidence.

That vote of confidence was not consistent with the observation of the FA's chairman Geoff Thompson, who announced that Keegan needed additional technical assistance. And, we now learn from new FA comments, Keegan was nominally part of technical director Howard Wilkinson's staff. What was Wilkinson's view on the adequacy of Keegan's back-up and on the card schools? Remember Ted Buxton? He was the ex-Spurs scout whom Terry Venables took to Lancaster Gate.

Venables had to overcome a lot of FA resistance to Buxton's appointment. What are its feelings about the recruitment of Eriksson's right-hand man on reportedly 10 times the salary? Also, Eriksson's own deal was played down in briefings to the press.

Is it legitimate to invoke the national interest when coming between Eriksson and Lazio, while at the same time claiming the moral high ground in general and arguing at Brussels for the retention of the system that holds players to their contracts? Why are the writers who receive their privileged briefings so supine? Why did nobody probe the FA's relaxation of the restrictions on betting by players?

Why are Adam Crozier, (with Keegan), and David Davies (with Venables and Glenn Hoddle), so eager to make public reference to their friendship with the England coach? I worked at the top level in football for 30 years and count a small number of the footballing fraternity as friends. The mutual respect we have for one another would not allow me to presume on the relationship publicly.

It seems that David Dein has usurped Noel White, the international committee chairman, and Geoff Thompson in the move to recruit Eriksson. It was a smart move by Adam Crozier to set up the seven-man selection panel. But he now knows that the more people who feel qualified to talk, i.e. Dein, Peter Ridsdale, Davies, Crozier himself, the more clouded will become the public picture.

Thank goodness for the refreshing, straightforward common sense of Peter Taylor. Who would have thought after his red card in St-Etienne that David Beckham would now be in line to set the good example the FA seems to be craving?

grahamkelly@btinternet.com

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