World Cup Football: Clemente fights rearguard action

Click to follow
HE HAS long since become Spain's equivalent of Bobby Robson in his final days as England manager. But Javier Clemente took his hate-hate relationship with the press to new extremes during the national side's final training session before flying to Dublin yesterday.

Noticing that photographers had taken over the windows of surrounding high-rise apartments during the 'secret' work-out, Clemente slipped down his tracksuit trousers and half-bared his backside in a gesture of disdain.

The ensuing pictures, not surprisingly, received more play than those of his players. 'Clemente's secret rearguard,' said the photo caption in El Pais. Meanwhile his players, referring to the presence of the press in private flats, shouted what could roughly be translated as, 'Hey, missus, better watch your fridge'.

Clemente had already upset the nation at the weekend by saying that not qualifying for the World Cup finals 'would be no big deal. Let's face it, Spain has never done much at top level'. Not the kind of talk Spanish fans liked to hear before their country's most decisive match in years. The country's media duly produced a list of Spain's greatest football achievements, culminating with their victory in last year's Olympic final in Barcelona.

The press had niggled Clemente for his apparent decision to fight fire with fire in Dublin. Describing Ireland's play as 'typically English', he is expected to put out a line-up built to combat, and also to employ, the long, high ball. However, it would be in keeping with Jack Charlton's perverse character if he instructed his players to keep it on the ground.

Clemente has criticised the Lansdowne Road pitch as 'more like a rugby pitch. The bounce of the ball is difficult to control.' And he predicted the noise of the Irish fans could make the atmosphere 'an inferno' for his players. 'I'll tell my boys to go out there to win,' he said yesterday. 'To play for a draw would be suicide.'

McGrath's simple answer, page 38