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

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

Recruitment Genius: Ventilation Cleaning Operative

£15600 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the battle of the election videos, and a robot sarcasm detector

John Rentoul
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping child abuse taking place right now

Mary Dejevsky
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower