This appointment is the equivalent of Des Lynam gaining control at Tottenham and putting Barry Davies in charge of the team

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A curious thing is that any number of people in all walks of life imagine themselves successful in football management. Some take the fantasy as far as to apply seriously for vacant situations.

On first being acquainted with this, the chairman of a club prominent in the old First Division expressed astonishment. "You'd be amazed by the sort of people who've written in," he said. It was loose thinking on his part, because despite serious gaps in football education, many think themselves capable. Typically, you may think, this includes one or two journalists.

All will be encouraged by the news that one of Brazil's most famous clubs, Flamengo, have replaced the former international Edinho as coach with an obese 59-year-old radio commentator, Washington Rodrigues, who is considered to be so under-qualified that he would find difficulty in coaching kittens to play with balls of wool.

According to a respected Brazilian broadcaster, Jose Werneck, the appointment can be regarded as temporary, but no matter. As Rodrigues is a friend and former radio colleague of the club's president, Kleber Leite, this is the equivalent of Des Lynam gaining control at Tottenham and putting Barry Davies in charge of the team.

Holding opinions about the game and putting them into practice are entirely different things. This applies equally to identifying faults and bringing about improvement. However, as the former England and West Ham manager Ron Greenwood once said, expertise is assumed automatically on retirement from the game, even if that amounted to no more than a kick-about in the school playground.

Oddly, Rodrigues' appointment is not entirely without precedent in Brazilian football. It was as a result of his fierce criticisms in a newspaper column and on radio that Joao Saldanha was invited to manage the national team following a disaster in the 1966 World Cup.

A big difference was that Saldanha played the game professionally, and had taken a Botafogo team that included Didi and Garrincha to the Rio championship. Having brought together the most brilliant assembly of players in Brazil's history, Saldanha fell out with the authorities and was replaced by Mario Zagallo shortly before the 1970 World Cup finals.

Seven years later, Brazil turned to an army captain and former volleyball international, Claudio Coutinho, whose only previous connection with football had been as the man responsible for ensuring the national team's privacy and safety of their wallets. "I am reading many books about coaching," he said in Rio before a match against England.

As the list included one by a British journalist whose experience did not run beyond Sunday football, it was decided immediately to abandon the idea of betting on Brazil, an eminently sensible decision considering their futile attempt to impersonate Europeans and that the encounter passed without a goal. Not long afterwards, Coutinho drowned while scuba-diving.

A book Rodrigues should read is the autobiography of George Allison, who was persuaded to manage Arsenal on Herbert Chapman's death in 1934. He had spent more than 20 years as London correspondent of William Randolph Hearst's chain of American newspapers, and was the BBC's first football commentator.

Inheriting a team that included the great Scottish schemer Alex James and eight England internationals, Allison, who gave up playing when still a teenager and had never managed, put his name to three League championships and an FA Cup. Apparently Allison did not know much about football, but an awful lot about publicity.

Tottenham Hotspur also put their trust, albeit temporarily, in a man who had no qualifications as a coach or a player. While grooming Bill Nicholson for the job, they handed it to a member of the administrative staff, Jimmy Anderson. What Anderson knew about football would not have covered a microchip. He once suggested to Danny Blanchflower that the best way of playing against the famed Sunderland trickster, Len Shackleton, was to demoralise him. "If he catches the ball on his shoulder, then you catch it on the back of your head," he said.

Came the day when pressure proved too much for Anderson. "They're at it again," his wife called from the foot of the stairs after scanning the Sunday sports pages. Groaning, Anderson handed over to Nicholson shortly afterwards.

Comments