Ola from sunny Portugal!

While this blog’s glorious founder spends his time hunched over his PC, pondering his future as MYPA 47’s coach on Football Manager, I’ve been sunning myself on the Algarve. And allow me to say, first of all, that the weather here is lovely, the food is lovely too, now if only somebody could teach the Portugese how to lay a road properly, they’d be in business.

While I’ve been away, I’ve purposely not kept abreast of the sports stories back in Blighty. I’ve figured that if something truly mindblowing were to happen, it’d find it’s way to me eventually. Well, my hard-rockin’ amigos, something HAS reached my tanned shell-like, and it’s got the old brain cells rumbling.

A few months ago, I discussed John Terry’s attempted use of the “Super-injuncton” in order to prevent a Sunday newspaper printing damaging stories about his personal life. Of course Terry’s injunction was overturned by the courts and the rest, as they say, is history. Now word reaches me that two more England stars have successfully applied for injunctions, again muzzling our ‘papers and undermining our claim to freedom of the presses.

My opinion of this has changed somewhat, previously, I was very pro “the press”, but recently, I’ve had a change of heart. Not in respect of the use of “super- injunctions” (an abhorrent tool if ever there was one), but I’m more concerned about the use of the term “In the public interest”. As in the argument, that it would be in the public’s interest to publish these stories.

Of course, the public would be very interested to hear what footballer was been putting what into whom, but that doesn’t exactly mean that the public’s interest is being served by publishing these details. Use of the term “In the public interest” should left for those occasions where the public interest is actually being served by publication.  If you’d like an example of what I mean by “Public Interest” in this context, simply google the words “Trafigura” and “Scandal”, you’ll get my drift.

Is it the case that the dead tree media are simply masking prurience and an obsession with scandal and circulation with the veil of “Public interest”? Undoubtedly they are. While John Terry was revealed to be a nasty piece of work off the pitch (something we all knew already), what type of public interest was served by the lurid publication of the ins and outs of his private life? While Max Mosely was revealed to be a flagellating weirdo, with an erotic desire for German (not Nazi) themed BDSM sessions, again the question remains, is THAT in the public interest?

No and No again. While being odd, being unfaithfull and even being a loathsome b***ard, may be  unpleasant, it isn’t illegal to be so. And as long as these private individuals are going about their private business without bothering “The Public”, maybe they should be left alone.

However, let’s be vigilant here, while I hold the view that the public interest is not being served with the publication of THESE details. Let us not start to slip down the slippery slide of the silent, acquiescent press. Allow them their “public interest” argument, but let us not lose sight of what “public interest” actually means.

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So now the dust has settled and the players have returned with their tails between their legs, it’s time to assess where England go from here. I posted the other day that the game needs a complete overhaul in England, and it appears I’m not alone in my opinion. This move cannot happen overnight and may take many years, but in the meantime England need to move on.

As ever when England struggle, a lot of blame lands in the lap of the manager. Predictably, there are many out there in the press and on the streets who demand the head of Capello. Undoubtedly, the Italian made mistakes in South Africa, and he deserves some of the criticism heading his way. However, he should not carry the can for the team, and I believe he should keep his job. Of course, a manager who has won eight league titles at four different clubs and a Champions League trophy has become a bad manager in two weeks, hasn’t he? No, the clamour for his head is just another knee-jerk reaction, one that occurs to almost every England manager. Even Bobby Robson, the man who took England to their second-best World Cup finish in 1990 suffered the same fate after Euro 88.

And even if he is sacked, who do you replace him with? Harry Redknapp? As much as ‘Arry has said he’d be interested in the job, he’s also called for a young English manager to take over when Capello stands aside. Read into this what you will:

“This guy [Capello] has a fantastic record at club level. But look, we’ve had a go with it now. When he finally moves on, in four years or whatever, surely there has to be a young guy or somebody in this country, surely we have to find a manager from England, an English manager.”Harry Redknapp

Does that sound like “give me the job” to you? No, it doesn’t. And why would he want to leave Tottenham, a club he has just taken into the Champions League? A job where he is a hero, to the possibility of becoming another vegetable caricature? Quite simply, why choose the poisoned chalice of England over the champagne glass of Champions League football at Spurs?

Then there are other calls for Roy Hodgson to take it, the man who is just about to move to Anfield. Again, why would he take the England job, and all the undue stresses that come with it, over the opportunity to turn around the fortunes of one of England’s biggest clubs?

And it also seems like nobody else is going to ask this question, so I will. What exactly is better about Hodgson and Redknapp than Capello? Look at their past records. I’m not going to sit here and dispute that Harry Redknapp is a top Premier League manager. He did an excellent job at Portsmouth, and has continued that at Spurs, but how many league championships has he won? None. How many European trophies? None. A solitary FA Cup sits on his CV, and there is no international experience.

Then there is Roy Hodgson, another fantastic manager with experience managing in Italy, Scandinavia and at international level with Finland and UAE. However, his honours list is limited to a couple of Swedish championships and a UEFA final. They are even all in their 60s, so you cannot make a youth-over-experience argument. All they have over Capello is the fact they are English, and the last time being English was used as a case for appointing a new manager, England got “Schteve” McClaren.

No, not for me. Capello has made mistakes, but as things stand, he IS still the best man for the job. But he needs to learn his lesson tactically and I have absolutely no doubt that he will. There are many who blame Capello absolutely for the defeat to Germany, claiming his tactics were “inept”. Whilst he made some frankly ridiculous substitutions, how Capello can be blamed when an entire back 4 can’t deal with a simple goal kick is beyond me. Or if a back 4 simply don’t mark the opposition forwards. This is not tactical error, this is the players on the pitch letting down the manager.

And this is something Capello will learn. Players that have let him down need to be discarded, and quickly. In the countless calls for the revolution of the English game, many people have stated England will have to “sacrifice the Euros”. I don’t believe this, I think there is more than enough quality to progress to the competition, but it is important to quell the expectation the press normally ramps up.

But Capello MUST bring the younger, hungrier players into the international fold, and begin the process of ditching the ‘Golden Generation’. In my opinion, that should start with the likes of Lampard, Heskey, Upson, and James. I’d also expect him to drop the disruptive former captain, John Terry. I expect this to be controversial, but Terry was ripped to shreds by the Germans. Indeed, many will have seen the irony of English footballers being “roasted” for a change!

I’d also expect Capello to change the system England play, and Rooney will play on his own up front. I’m of the opinion that Capello currently picks a system for his players, rather than players for a system. It is clear he has wanted to fit both Gerrard and Lampard into the same side, yet with Lampard gone this is no longer a problem. He will also have learned that both of England’s best full-backs are better pushing on, and need more cover when they get forward. Two holding-midfielders may be a solution. As a result, I’d expect the new system to be 4-2-3-1.

So who to bring in? Personally, I’d expect to see the likes of Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson in the next squad, along with perhaps Gabby Agbonlahor. I’d also like to see a new defensive pairing at the back, with two out of Phil Jagielka, Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill. With Jack Wilshere to come in the next couple of seasons, there is still talent out there and the possibility to mould a decent side together. Mix these players with a couple of older heads, and there is still potential for England.

So I guess it’s time to “play England manager”. My team for the Hungary game on 11th August is below.

As always, I’d appreciate your comments.

4-2-3-1

(GK) Hart

(RB) Johnson (CB) Jagielka (CB) Dawson (LB) Cole

(CM) Barry (CM) Rodwell

(RM) Milner (AMF) Gerrard (LM) A Johnson

(ST) Rooney

The England Captain

February 14, 2010

Wayne Bridge and John Terry

Bridge and Terry - Not Comparing Notes (Photo: Getty)

First of all, apologies for my lack of activity recently, things at work have been absolutely hectic and I’ve not been able to dedicate as much time to my blogging as I’d like. My slightly enforced absence from the world of sports means that I’m about 2 weeks behind the times, so again, my apologies if this particular entry seems a bit untimely.

So, as I type this, Rio Ferdinand is our new captain, from a playing perspective, it feels like Capello didn’t have much of a choice. Gerrard, while awesome at club level, still hasn’t really delivered on the international stage and has been sub-par this season, Lampard still looks like a man who can’t believe he hasn’t been worked out yet and Rooney is still at least three years off taking the role on himself. The problem is that Capello doesn’t have that many “Captain Like” players to choose from and Rio Ferdinand is the only realistic choice available to him.

The sporting presses worked themselves up into a predictable lather over who would be our new captain following the John Terry fallout. They made out like the captain was some kind of mythical, god-like figure who bestrides the English game like a colossus, like a kind of Churchillian figure.

Of course, this isn’t anything like what the captain does, the English Football Captain is primarily a figurehead and the role is largely ceremonial.  Our football captain, unlike, say, the cricket captain doesn’t have an input into team selection or tactics, those responsibilities are handled by Signors Capello and Baldini. Indeed, if you actually break down the football captains responsibilities, beyond the obligatory photo calls and interviews, you don’t have that much left. I mean, I’m sure that John Terry is great at calling a coin toss and doing that swapping thing with the pennants at the start of the match, but I could do that. And as for “geeing up” his team mates, nobody waves his arms around better than John Terry, but it’s hardly switching formations and tactics on the fly, is it? And more crucially than that, John Terry doesn’t even take responsibility for arranging the pitches for his team to play on and paying the FA the subs fee each week (hat-tip to Chris D).

Signor Capello appreciates the decorative nature of the captaincy more than most people, and that explains why he was able to dispose of John Terry’s services so easily.

John Te(injunction)

January 30, 2010

Occasionally, you come across a story that while “sports flavoured”, is actually about something with a wider social impact, the recent travails of John Terry is such a story.

Let’s first of all, discuss the sporting aspect of the Terry saga, despite what our moralising press print today; his place in the England squad isn’t under threat. It’s harsh to say it, but Wayne Bridge isn’t important enough to warrant such a drastic result. If Terry had played away with Colleen or Victoria Beckham then maybe Terry’s place would be jeopardised, but it’s only our second choice left back, so really, who cares? From a sporting perspective, it doesn’t matter what Terry does with anybody, as long as he’s able to play for 90 minutes without keeling over in an asthmatic heap.

The really interesting aspect of John Terry’s misfortune is the so called “Super Injunction” that he’d applied for. For those of us who aren’t so media minded, let me give you a brief rundown of what a super injunction actually is. Basically, it’s like a super charged gagging order placed on the press to prevent even the reporting of an injunction taking place or any details relating to it. They first came to the attention of the public when the oil trading company Trafigura had been accused of charting a ship which had dumped toxic waste in the port of Abidjan in the Cote d’Ivoire. The super injunction was used to prevent the reporting of an official internal report by Trafigura into the dumping.  So all encompassing is the super injunction, you aren’t even supposed to know that one has taken effect. Indeed, the only reason we knew of this one is because it was referred to in a question in the House of Commons, which are traditionally protected from our libel laws.

Mr Justice Tugendhat repaired a lot of the damage Mr Justice Eady caused to the presses in lifting this injunction.  You might remember Mr Justice Eady as being the man who found in favour of Max Moseley following the alleged Nazi BDSM orgies he took part in. Eady’s ruling effectively stopped the presses, already losing income from falling circulations, from wanting to take the risk of running contentious stories.

The point isn’t John Terry, who he puts it in and when, it isn’t about his endorsements or about the fact that he is celebrity dad of the year for 2009 (according to a survey conducted by Daddies sauce).  No, it’s about freedom of the presses, one of the very cornerstones of a civilised society.

Mr Justice Tugendhat, I and a thousand journalists salute you.