The other England manager

talks to the man at the pinnacle of the game in this country
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It is an important weekend for the new man, the youngest appointed to the figurehead of English football, as he enters his first match in charge. There are delicate decisions to make, important issues to address, results to achieve. Glenn Hoddle has his hands full in Moldova, too.

The election of the 51-year-old Southampton director Keith Wiseman as chairman of the Football Association in succession to Sir Bert Millichip may not have quite the same public impact as the elevation of the 38- year-old Hoddle. It will, however, have a great influence on the game in the near future.

When he returns from his official duties in Chisinau, Wiseman will have on his agenda such significant items as overseeing a turnover which has grown from pounds 8m to pounds 50m in five years and of improving the ruling body's standing in the European and world government of the game.

He and the FA have also to convince such disparate interests as the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association, as well as parliamentarians taking an increasing interest, that they are able to administer a game growing ever larger.

This in addition to building on the progress of the national team at Euro 96 while remaining true to the grass-roots membership of 43,000 clubs. Internally, there is also the question of how to get things done given that the decision-making body, the FA Council, numbers some 90, often aged, members.

Wiseman, a solicitor and coroner in Southampton by background, represents the first step in the process. Though he was not the choice of a Premier League miffed that he outflanked their own candidate, Sheffield Wednesday's Dave Richards, he is of a new generation of administrators comfortable with commercialism, having been involved in the formation of the competition.

"It is too easy to portray negotiations as massive face-to-face clashes," he says. "Particularly when one or two individuals might enjoy the prospect of one. The FA has been supportive of the Premier League and I am sure I can continue to solve things with their chairman Rick Parry. I have worked with him for five years and personal relationships are important.

"The main problem I see in our professional game is not the divide between clubs in the Premiership. As a Southampton man I am conscious of it, but we still receive several millions a year. The greater problems are for the next 20 clubs in maintaining their place in the sun, then the next 50 in maintaining their place at all. We have to ensure the structure is maintained. The place a Second or Third Division club plays in the life of a town is enormously important."

The criticism of the FA is that it remains rooted in Corinthianism. "That may be no bad thing in some ways," Wiseman says. "We are responsible for the whole of the game in this country. We are not a profit- making organisation. The responsibility is to be commercially efficient and ensure that the money is spent wisely."

But is not the council, which contains representatives from such as universities and the Commonwealth, unwieldy and anachronistic? "I have no problem with a body that meets five times a year to debate and control the whole of football. And crisp decisions are not necessarily the right decisions," he says. "But, yes, I think it is necessary for the 15-man executive committee to be able to take binding decisions more often."

Getting the turkeys to vote for the Christmas that that would represent will be a delicate task and Wiseman will face another in his desire to streamline the various committees linking the FA with the PFA, the Premier and Nationwide Leagues. Both will need to be done, however, if the politicians are not to interfere, with pressure growing to reform the organisation of the game as it hurtles its inflationary way towards the millennium.

Wiseman believes that the sleaze and corruption of recent years are "an odd residue of a difficult past", though the Premier League's bungs inquiry has fingered only George Graham as it labours its way towards a final report. "A lot of clubs were fed up with things that seemed to be happening. A number of clubs are plcs and others, even smaller ones, are heading that way, which brings a burden to do things in a proper way. I would be quite surprised if there needed to be the type of Swindon or Tottenham inquiry again."

On the wider front, there is England's place in decision-making within Uefa and Fifa to strengthen, and a technical director to appoint to complete the new triumvirate. "There may be an outside perception that a new man will be hamstrung by committees but I hope he will be agreeably surprised by how much freedom he has," he says.

"As with Glenn, he may have to be broadly accountable but he will be allowed to get on with the job." As a member of the international committee, he remains sad that Terry Venables felt forced to go - "a misunderstanding; Terry was rather touchy" - and also has considerable confidence in the new coach: "A first-class person with a lot of ability".

With that, it is time to attend a small leaving do at Lancaster Gate for Sir Bert, with whom he agrees that the chairman's post may soon have to be paid and nearer full-time if able younger men are to be plucked from their careers. Perhaps he may soon be the first.

We wait, also, to see if the game is able to say of him what he says of Hoddle. As he plots his course through the often tortuous politics of football, one can only hope that he retains the enthusiasm he has revealed today. And that Keith Wiseman can live up to his surname.

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