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Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007

PREMIER REPORT

Controversial Mourinho unfit to be new England coach


LONDON — Brian Barwick, the chief executive of the Football Association, probably earns at least £1 million a year. Critics may argue no, not earns — that is what he is paid. Whatever.

Christopher Davies

To help find the new "world class" England manager, Barwick's Boot Room, comprising some of European football's biggest names, will advise on the runners and riders.

It does beg the question why the most influential man in the body that runs English football should need to ask so many outsiders about such an appointment, but the English are different.

On the reasonable assumption that Steve McClaren's successor will be a household name, why on earth does the F.A. need a think tank to tell Barwick and the board that Fabio Capello, Guus Hiddink, Jose Mourinho or Martin O'Neill is a good manager?

The lineup of Team Barwick includes Glenn Hoddle, Graham Taylor and Sir Bobby Robson, former England managers who were all shown the door by the F.A. Now they are helping to find the next candidate for the hot seat.

There is also Sir Alex Ferguson, such a patriotic Scot that he would probably advise the F.A. to appoint someone useless (though some would say they can do that even without outside help).

Others on board include Roy Hodgson who has just quit as Finland coach, Frank Beckenbauer (German) and Michel Platini (French). The pantomime season at Soho Square never stops.

The problem with committees is that too often it can be impossible to get a decision — what if all the good and great of European football each has a different preferred candidate?

Would the F.A. organize Think Tank II, the football equivalent of a retrial, to find the man to lead England in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign?

Barwick even asked England captain John Terry, rarely far from controversy, for his views.

Two weeks ago a Sunday tabloid ran a story alleging Terry was involved in some lurid goings-on at a London nightclub, not the first off-field (or even on-field) negative publicity the defender has attracted.

It is unusual, to say the least, for players to be consulted about a new manager because there is invariably a personal agenda and, unsurprisingly, Terry wants to be reunited with Mourinho.

"Jose came in and took us to a new level at Chelsea," said Terry. "I am very lucky to have worked with Jose — he is a fantastic manager and a fantastic guy. He could make a big difference. He's a great guy, tactically he is very aware, and he understands the game very well.

"He enjoys the day-in, day-out stuff with a club side so maybe it would not suit him, but you never know. We (England) are at a very low point at the moment but we can only go forward. The F.A. are looking to bring in the right man to help us do that."

If the F.A. doesn't choose Mourinho, the new manager will know his captain preferred someone else.

For his part Mourinho is doing what he does best, playing the media game superbly, saying via his press adviser that he would listen to any offer from the F.A. It would be more surprising or newsworthy if an out of work manager did not want to listen to high profile job offers.

It is unrealistic in this day and age to expect prospective managers to be squeaky clean with a closet bereft of skeletons.

Mourinho doesn't so much have skeletons, but an entire graveyard, and if the F.A. even makes an official approach to him this columnist will seek another country to support.

Yes, Mourinho is successful and England needs a head coach who can produce the goods after failing to qualify for Euro 2008. But there are limits to what I believe are acceptable negatives on a resume and Mourinho's baggage is excessive.

As Chelsea manager he won two Premiership titles. He also lied to UEFA about referee Anders Frisk, lied to the Premier League about illegally meeting Ashley Cole, scandalously gave out incorrect information about the Berkshire Ambulance Service when Petr Cech was injured at Reading, regularly abused referees and encouraged his team to surround match officials when decisions went against them.

After a mysterious incident involving his dog's quarantine, Mourinho accepted a police caution which amounts to a criminal conviction. His disrespect of opponents knew no barriers.

Does Barwick really need anyone to tell him that such "qualities" surely outweigh Mourinho's coaching and motivational abilities when it comes to appointing an England manager?

* * * * *

LIFE IS rarely dull on Tyneside where Newcastle United provides a regular soap opera of drama.

But like so many soaps there is too often an unhappy ending, and the latest in the starring role, manager Sam Allardyce, has already had the noose tightened by a Geordie nation fed up with decades of underachieving.

Big Sam was brought in last summer — managerial changes are part and parcel of life at Newcastle — after establishing Bolton Wanderers in the higher echelons of the Premier League.

His magic has yet to work at St. James' Park, though Wednesday's 1-1 draw against Arsenal gave Allardyce some breathing space. The noose has been loosened if not removed.

Newcastle is treading water in mid-table, but United's glass is invariably half empty after years of failure.

Crucially, Allardyce has the support of owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort in the wake of stories about dressing room strife and player revolts.

At Bolton, Allardyce assembled a team of hungry imports, the direct style of the team proving successful.

Newcastle fans prefer more style than route one football, but the personnel Big Sam has his disposal now is not as good as he had at Bolton — the defense is too generous, the midfield does not possess the dogs of war Wanderers had, while ongoing injuries to Michael Owen have robbed United of a cutting edge in attack.

With the backing of the influential local newspaper the St. James' Park faithful adopted a cheer-not-jeer approach to the Arsenal game and were rewarded with a rousing performance by Newcastle, which fully deserved a point against the country's best team.

With games against Birmingham, Fulham, Wigan and Derby coming up — all below Newcastle in the table — United has the opportunity to "kick on" as Allardyce put it.

Big Sam guided Bolton to the UEFA Cup and a similar achievement in his first season at Newcastle would silence the critics, though eventually he must lead the black and whites to some silverware.

Christopher Davies writes about the Premier League for the London Daily Telegraph.


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