When Il Generale Fabio Capello arrives in the new year with his all-Italian lieutenants, he should feel at home among the platoon of mercenaries who have invaded British sport. A quick roll-call reveals that two-thirds of those supervising our 28 Olympic sports as performance directors or chief coaches have been recruited from overseas. In a week when another Aussie, Mike Scott, has been confirmed as successor to swimming's Bill Sweetenham, it seems football is not alone in having to rely on foreign expertise to teach us how to play our games. So does this mean there is something endemically wrong with the British coaching system? Are our coaches simply not good enough? "Not necessarily," says the 2012 chief Seb Coe,a long-time advocate of utilising non-domestic help. "In some cases they are, in some not. It is very simple, really, you go for the best available, and some of those federations which have embraced this philosophy are now on top of the heap." It is no secret that Coe would like to see more foreign coaches imported into his own underachieving sport, athletics.
Wheelchair Tanni perfect for Sport England
Sport England are advertising for a new chairperson to replace the outspoken Derek Mapp, who recently fell foul of the autocratic new supremo at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, James Purnell. Current deputy chair Ged Roddy, who runs sport at Bath University, and Richard Lewis, executive chair of Rugby League, are front-runners but, as English sport seems to have abandoned home rule, perhaps trendy Purnell should go for a "foreigner". Paralympian icon Tanni Grey-Thompson may be Welsh, but she has the perfect credentials. And she's a Labour supporter.
Time this MP fought a champion's corner
In a week when football's finest are again up to their jockstraps in sleazy behaviour, a sporting icon such as James Cook deserves better treatment than he is getting from his local MP. Cook, a former British boxing champion, runs the Pedro Youth Centre in Hackney's "Murder Mile" and, as we report on page 63, has been lauded by the police for his efforts in helping cut the crime rate by offering sport as an alternative to the guns-and-gangs culture something right up the Government's street. Some months ago he wrote to Hackney MP Diane Abbott (pictured), inviting her to take a look at the project. He never received a reply. Ms Abbott, so vocal about youth crime in her election campaign, is obviously far too busy appearing on those weekly TV political love-ins with Michael Portillo.
Russians on spying mission in London
Political relations between Britain and Russia may be somewhat frosty, but 'tis the season of goodwill between the future Olympic cities of London and Sochi. The Russians, who follow 2012 with their Winter Games two years later, had their spies swarming all over Canary Wharf for two days last week with the blessing of the London team. Sochi Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko, who admits he copied London's bidding blueprint, says: "We are very impressed with the London preparations. They are right on track, and we are keen to study how they are going about it."
Outrageous misfortune for arrow slingers at Palace
Those rehearsing a few bows among the 'arrers at the World Darts Champ-ionships have been disappointed. Sponsors Ladbrokes invited the Queen (pictured) "a keen darts fan", they claimed to Ally Pally but strangely never received a reply. "Must have got lost in the Royal Mail," they mused. Along with Sid Waddell's OBE, eh?