Brazilians, eh? They have been showing us how to play football for years, but now one of them has demonstrated just how bonkers you would have to be to run the England team. Luiz Filipe "Big Phil" Scolari, a World Cup winner with his home nation, is the first man ever to turn down the job. "Last night there were 20 reporters outside my house," he said in breaking the news on Friday. "I don't like this pressure so I will definitely not be coach of England.'
There are suggestions that he was insulted by the money on offer, but Scolari has also apparently received threats to his family. Anti-foreigner bile from England fans? It doesn't seem unlikely when The Sun is busy re-releasing the Dad's Army theme, "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler" (with the name of the German coach substituted for the Führer) complete with wartime air-raid sirens. Whatever his reasons, Scolari sent a clear message: I do not need this grief.
It is, of course, as much of an English tradition as Beefeaters and public-school buggery that the man appointed to lead our team to glory be flayed alive at every opportunity, even before he's had time to foul up properly. Oh, there have been honeymoons, sometimes quite passionate affairs. Remember the greeting for Kevin Keegan, the proper, patriotic Englishman so many craved? Remember that jolly tune in praise of our first foreign incumbent, Sven Goran Eriksson? And yet even with these two it was only ever going to be a matter of how soon and how ugly the divorce proceedings would be between them and their press tormentors, with the public baying and gawping at every revelation and catastrophe. Who can blame Scolari for declining to take the hand of the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, and trip with him down the aisle of insanity?
So now something - someone - most be reclaimed from the wreckage. As the chorus of complaints about the appointment procedure reaches a crescendo, Barwick must return to his shortlist and invite the most comely reject to give the wonderful, terrible job a go. Whoever gets it will be fourth choice, after Scolari, the Dutchman Gus Hiddink, who went off to Russia instead, and the Arsenal genius Arsene Wenger, who is above such trifling work. Would you take a job if your prospective bosses had spent months publicly courting other people first?
The favourite now is Steve McClaren, Erikssons's deputy, manager of Middlesbrough. On Thursday the unfashionable club he bosses produced a miracle comeback at odds with their, and McClaren's, decidedly colourless image to reach the final of the Uefa Cup. Yesterday, The Sun splashed with the story that McClaren had had an extramarital relationship. The provenance of this story was more instructive than its content. It seems he had the affair while separated from his wife, a minor indiscretion, if it counts as one at all. Little chance then that the love life of Sven's most likely successor will keep us even half as entertained as the Swede's has.
Far more revealing is the possibility that McClaren might have co-operated with The Sun's expose to pre-empt it occurring after takes up the England post. If so, he may be the first man in history to apply for a job by confessing to an affair. The episode suggests three things. One, that McClaren understands, as the still-popular Terry Venables did, that to emerge from the England job only half-scathed you need to have a grasp of politics. Two, that he still wants to do it. And three, as Scolari might say, he must be nuts.Reuse content