Nicholas Foulkes: The tell-tale brolly that betrayed the England boss

On why staying dry just ain't playing the game...

Share

Poor Steve McClaren: even if anyone manages to eclipse his impressively brief tenure of some 16 months, the moniker "Wally with a Brolly" will remain. What McClaren failed to understand is that as well being a football manager, one has to appear to be a football manager. Sheltering under his polychromatic umbrella, sipping what looked dangerously like a large skinny latte but might have been warming soup, some of the photographs of McClaren show a man gazing off into the middle distance; giving the air of a bored businessman parent, his body on the touchline of a school match, but his mind on something engrossing like a spreadsheet or a bank balance.

The umbrella was the problem; while he may have been offering helpful suggestions to this team, they were drowned by the unvoiced message being broadcast by his brolly – risk averse, detached and aloof. By contrast, his Croatian counterpart, Slaven Bilic, revelled in sharing his players' predicament, scampering about ferally, protected only, if at all, by a beanie hat. I was out in the downpour and I know how miserable it was; yet Bilic gave an impression of animation as well as physical and emotional identification with his lads.

In the Peninsular War, during the fighting around Bayonne, Wellington noticed a great many umbrellas being used by officers. He sent one of his ADCs to let them know that "Lord Wellington does not approve of the use of umbrellas during the enemy's firing, and will not allow the 'gentlemen's sons' to make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the army". Wellington went on to describe the deployment of umbrellas on the battlefield as "not only ridiculous but unmilitary". As it is in battle, so it is in football; umbrellas have no place.

I would argue that it is not so much England's defeat, but rather his own umbrella that cost McClaren his job. It demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of modern football. Part pantomime, part bravura display of athleticism, part gladiatorial combat, it is 100 per cent drama, and sheltering beneath a large umbrella sipping a warm, possibly milky, drink is not the stuff of epic drama. However, either consciously or intrinsically, Bilic understood that rain heightens the effect.

In fact a heavy downpour is as much a cinematic ploy for heightening the drama of a situation as is, say, pulling a gun. Take the rain-drenched lovers' kiss: from Peppard and Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's to Grant and MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, it is almost a convention of romantic comedy that the protagonists' lips meet under diluvian circumstances. Would Four Weddings have been so successful had Hugh Grant fumbled for his umbrella, Pakamac and galoshes before chasing after Andie MacDowell?

As ever, Hollywood understands. Would the poster for The Shawshank Redemption have had the same impact if it had featured a man sipping a cuppa under an umbrella? Would Singin' in the Rain have been remembered if it had been called "Cowering Beneath a Brolly"? Why, there was even a far-fetched thriller called Hard Rain which enjoyably mixed a heist with a downpour to give full rein (excuse the pun) to the dramatic potential of a flooded town, complete with powerboat chases and submerged houses.

How McClaren must be wishing that he had spent a little time before the match reviewing the DVD of Hard Rain; he might have made a more dynamic pitch-side impression. Perhaps we might even have won the match. If not, at least we would not have lost the battle of the managers. As it was, the be-beanied Bilic totally outmanoeuvred the British manager. Wellington would have been ashamed.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living