Woodward's reliance on media strategy spins unending web of self-deception

Contrition? Too little of it to mention. Instead, more of the old bluster and mumbo-jumbo. Gratuitously, he dragged up the two-year-old glory of England's World Cup win in a last attempt to put down an All Black team which has moved the game on so mesmerisingly over the past few weeks and beaten his own bizarrely assembled, and prepared, crew so unmercifully. It is embarrassing.

What he should have said - any innocent could have told him better than some highly paid fact manipulator - was that he had made a series of gross miscalculations, he had been out-coached, out-thought, out-behaved, and if he had any instinct for a little belated damage limitation, some slight retrieving of a shattered reputation, he might just have conceded a few unswervable, unspinnable truths.

He might have said that just as his rival Graham Henry had got more or less everything right, he had got just about everything wrong, but at least he could say sorry - he could say that men sometimes grow stronger and wiser at the broken places.

Instead he said, so risibly it is almost beyond belief, that the tour had been a great success off the field. How could this have possibly been? How could you play three Test matches without a remote chance of victory, and have success off the field? What does a touring team do significantly off the field that isn't geared to the job of winning on it? We have trawled well enough all the areas of breakdown on Woodward's tour. We have discussed the rank selections, the lack of Test preparation, the failure of fair and current appraisal, the crazed belief that the elements which made England World Cup winners could be re-created nearly two years on, when Johnson and Dallaglio were gone and men like Wilkinson, Robinson and Kay had become ghost figures. We have noted that the best forward, Ryan Jones, was called in as a replacement, and the best out-half, Charlie Hodgson, did not get a sniff of consideration. That was all considered and adjudicated upon before the final, inevitable defeat in Auckland last Saturday. But Woodward marched on in his error, beyond caution or reflection or, it seemed, reason. Indeed, somehow he managed a final insult to the intelligence of all those who had witnessed his relentless fall into ineptitude.

What he said about the role of Campbell, the architect of the mind-numbingly counter-productive campaign against the All Black captain Tana Umaga, challenges belief. "Alastair has been outstanding. I just don't think people like change. The way he has got on with players and all he has done for them has been brilliant. The media has missed an opportunity with him. If they had spoken to him, he would have given them ideas on how they could have written more creative stuff in terms of following the team around and how we are operating. That's why I brought him along, to try to move everything with the media on to a whole new level, but unfortunately the media have not taken up that challenge."

Certainly not, mate. Some like Stuart Barnes and Paul Ackford and J P R Williams preferred to go on the evidence of their own eyes and then run it back through their experience of what gives a team a chance of winning - and what is the equivalent of a suicide note. Most of the rest of us, without quite the insiders' advantage, tried to do a little of the same. This may have worked against creativity, but it did provide a certain degree of wholesome detachment from the messaging zeal of Mr Campbell.

For some in the Woodward entourage this represented a degree of betrayal, a consorting with the enemy, but that was too bad. Patriotism is a fine quality, but we are talking here about sport and its values and the way it should be shaped. This is by performance and merit and not some clumsy fashioning of the news.

The Brian O'Driscoll affair was unfortunate, to say the least, but once you had considered the evidence, and concluded that if Umaga and Keven Mealamu had been less than fastidious about the way they deposited O'Driscoll on the Christchurch field, they were plainly not guilty of spearing, the rest was down to the citing commissioner. He was emphatic that there was no charge to answer.

That was the instinct in this quarter, and it was supported 100 per cent by those detached former international players whose views were consulted.

On the vital issues of the Lions tour, what did Campbell have to offer the media? A disastrously unrewarding spin campaign on the Umaga issue and a "photo opportunity" apparently set up without the knowledge of one of the subjects, Gavin Henson. Even this sent out a dubious message; the picture, of Henson and Sir Clive Woodward, was supposed to convey a perfect accord on the wisdom of leaving the Welshman out of the first Test. Henson could scarcely have looked much less mollified if he had been told his house had been ransacked. In a way, it had.

Woodward was tough-minded, hard-edged when he guided England to the World Cup. In New Zealand he was a parody of himself, selling the overstated goods of massive organisation and squandering his best assets, players who demanded selection on their form and their fire and not their reputations. He lost touch with the fundamentals of his business, and no amount of creative writing could have obscured that.

Mourinho's passion loses something in translation

In the high summer of English sport, before a ball has been struck in the Open and the first bout of sledging fired in the Ashes, the image of Jose Mourinho pointing a finger and declaring the verities of football is back among us.

In one of his less beguiling utterances, to Chelsea's official magazine, he declares, "I saw the Manchester United players and manager after their last home game go for a lap of honour after losing to us. But if they do this in Portugal they throw bottles at you. From my culture, sometimes here the passion between the fans, players and manager is difficult to understand when a team doesn't have success."

Life is really too short, Jose, but if you really want to know I might be able to spare some part of a day to explain why English fans don't throw bottles - at least at their own team - when they don't win.

Part of it has something to do with the word loyalty. Another is that some of them are aware that the difference between winning and losing can be many different things. Some of the least attractive include the naked pursuit of everybody else's talent, a bankroll of unlimited length, and a willingness to lie to gain some brief advantage.

Politicians must lead, not jump on the bandwagon

The sight of British politicians milking the success of London's Olympic bid was disquieting for all the old reasons, not least the sheer inadequacy of the government's approach to sport before the scent of reflected glory became so overwhelming in Singapore.

A fresh pinprick is provided by the New Zealand government's principled battle against the idea of playing cricket against Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Kate Hoey, a former sports minister who, staggeringly, knew something about sport and recently took an undercover look at Mugabe's stone-age empire, is right to point out that while the New Zealand government is applying pressure to the International Cricket Council it has also taken biting measures against the renegade regime.

Here, of course, the politicians heaped the pressure on the hapless England and Wales Cricket Board - and then pursued other empty headlines at no cost to businessmen. Now, though, the Olympics demand performance and nerve on the sports front. Now there are no excuses.

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