Just when Brian Barwick must have been thinking that there was light at the end of the tunnel and the bad publicity his organisation was receiving would soon begin to recede, ‘Big’ Phil Scholari decided to wreck four months work by turning the England job down in a very public manner indeed. Seemingly the last forty eight hours have given the Brazilian an insight into the workings of the English Media and he didn’t like what he saw. Citing the press intrusion over his appointment, Scholari has declined the invitation to take over as Sven Goran Eriksson’s successor. Whether this is the true reason or merely a smokescreen diverting attention away from the fact that he wanted more money, only time will tell. Some of the press written has been of a personal nature, and understandably he was not impressed, particularly the comparison of his relationship with his wife to that of Eriksson and Nancy Del’Olio.
The outcome is that Barwick and Co now have to reach for a second choice, probably Steve McLaren whose stock rose again on Thursday with Middlesbrough’s incredible comeback to beat Steaua Bucharest, having at one point been three goals behind on aggregate. However, given that scriptwriters Croft and Perry seem to have been running the recruitment process as a prototype for a new comedy show, that cannot be taken for granted. What is probably certain is that we will not be seeing the new England manager announced on Thursday. To do so would lay the beleagured FA Chief open to more criticism, this time along the lines of a panic appointment.
For certain, there has been a lot of negative commentary regarding the choice of Scholari. Professional snipers such as Lineker made it clear that they were not happy with a World Cup Winner being appointed, with facile points such as “anyone could have won the World Cup with Ronaldinho and Ronaldo in the side”. My observation is that if managing is so easy, why have these individuals not tried it. In the main, it is because they do not have the requisite skills to do so. It is an easy job to sit and write incredibly negative press – I know, I have done it – but much of the previous days media coverage is bordering on the xenophobic. One of the more salient observations was made by John Barnes who believed Scholari to be a good appointment but more importantly, a credible teacher to bring through the next England Coach probably ready for appointment in 2010. Perhaps the funniest has been from Graham Taylor, ex- England Manager who has slammed the FA as amateurs and acting as a disgruntled ex-employee should. Let us not forget this is the man who successfully guided England to the 1994 World Cup. Missed that one didn’t you? Yep, me too.
What is certain is that the media will take their own plaudits for this farce but lay the blame squarely at the doors of the FA. The scribes will no doubt be congratulating themselves for putting the stick through the front wheel of the FA bicycle and causing the rider to go headfirst over the handlebars. It is after all not their jobs to have the best interests of English football at heart, despite their false protestations to the contrary. Indeed, it is in their best interests to wreck the structures and reputations of those involved as it is the only way in which they are able to write. Another example of this is Arsenal’s qualification for the final of the Champions League. Instead of congratulating the club and having a positive spin on events, they were handing out brickbats for the performance and in some cases, having half of the squad leaving once the season is over. The journalists in question cannot wait for Barcelona to win so that their demolition of Wengers’ team can continue, no doubt dreading Thierry Henry staying as it would make them all look like the incompetent naysayers that they are.
The standard of football journalism is in steady decline. There are very few worth reading, and none in the tabloids where original thought seems to be stifled and replaced by bile and petty jealousy. Not that football as an industry helps itself, with moronic behaviour being seen from the boardroom downwards. It is after all no longer a shock to pick up the papers and see that players are being caught on camera in compromising situations or sold down the river in a kiss and tell spectacular. What is surprising is that players do still get caught out, never seeming to learn from their predecessors.
Back to The FA though. Barwick and his cohorts on the recruitment panel are now in some serious trouble with this appointment. Not that being turned down by your chosen candidate for a role is by any means unusual – it happens in industry regularly – but it is the public withdrawal that hurts them. In particular, this has been a spectacular own goal for David Dein, Scholari’s champion. Dein regularly gets negative publicity for his football politics. For Arsenal, he has proven a great director, appointing Wenger and getting the new stadium delivered but also he has got things wrong; the initial bond scheme for the North Bank Stand being part of a steep learning curve in relations with the fans. For England however, he draws stinging criticism from all quarters. The only visible target left at The FA for Erikssons detractors to aim at, he is reviled as the consumate football politician, decried for alledgedly wielding his influence to Arsenal’s advantage – not proven, m’lud – he has everything that the hacks wish they could get, a successful business and football career, the ability to shape the game and money. Very few of the dogs could attain that, otherwise they would have done so.
He will no doubt have detractors within the machinations of Soho Square, relishing his discomfort over this appointment but this will be forgotten if England perform well at the World Cup. It is also his escape clause, which seems to have slipped below the radar of the media and footballing community. When England fail in 2008, 2010 or 2012, he will be able to point to todays events and quite rightly say, “What did you expect to happen when we did not get our first choice?”. This is going to happen. And no-one can argue with it as it is based on an indefinable argument, namely what would have happened if Scholari had taken over. Not that the Fourth Estate will bear any of that in mind, the rampant egotism that ravages that once proud profession will see to that. It is a sad state of affairs when the journalists believe that they are more important than the subject they cover, robbing them of the obectivity they need to write effectively and shape change for the better. In football’s case, this will never happen with the deterioration in the relationship between the pen and the pitch to continue scraping the bottom of new barrels indefinitely.
Todays Tunes come from Raw Artistic Soul, a collective heavily influenced by World Music backed onto some of the funkiest grooves this side of christendom. These are from 2005’s album, What About Love.