Mon 7 October
International break week 1.
I’m sad to see Harry Redknapp slagging off the FA in the Mail, which is serialising his autobiography. Not the most helpful thing to do for his country in the run up to the crucial qualifiers. He is making the same mistake with a book serialisation as others before him. In lashing out at the FA, the organisation that hurt him, he is risking hurting his country too.
Jack Wilshere is quoted in the Press as saying only English players should play for England. Never a truer word spoken. You shouldn’t even have to consider arguing the point. It is self-evident. Residency rules are irrelevant and should be scrapped. He says just because you spend 5 years living in England does not make you English. If that means we miss out on a potential world class superstar, so be it. If we can’t develop our own, that’s life. He goes on to confuse the issue by talking about what an English style of play is, which is a matter of opinion unlike nationality which is a fact of life. In fact it is ironic that the sensible comment that is probably going to generate the most debate of the week has come from a young man who has otherwise demonstrated such poor judgement by his behaviour in public.
Wed 9 October
Greg Dyke confirms the Premier League would not join the commission to improve the England football team. No surprise there then. He also said that the changes made to the rules affecting retrospective punishment were meant to ensure incidents like Torres clawing Vertonghen could be dealt with and since it hasn’t worked, he wants it changed again, as soon as possible until it does allow it. I don’t think Dyke stands a chance when I see what is lined up against him. It’s why I admire him for giving it all a go regardless. Better to burn out than to rust.
If and when they do change the rule again they should make it retrospective to achieve the intention they set out to achieve in the summer. It used to be taboo to do this with legislation but the government itself abandoned that principle some time ago and does it all the time when it suits them these days, like when they broke the contract they’d had with millions of citizens (mostly women) to postpone their pension entitlement just as they reached the point when they had been promised all their working life they would be paid it. Incidentally, I don’t think they have realised yet that unless they do a U-turn on that one, it’ll be the main reason they lose the next election, no matter what they do to try and turn the economy round. No one forgives a betrayal like that. Back to the football – It should be child’s play to do the same thing then by backdating rules dealing with assaults on the field of play in a football match.
Wayne Rooney is at this stage being reported on TV in a positive light for complimenting Roberto Martinez for the way he has changed Everton’s style of football. To me, it sounded like an ill-disguised sideswipe at the previous Everton manager, who of course has just taken over at Man United and has not had an ideal start.
Thurs 10 October
Sure enough, the Press are all over Wilshere’s nationality quote and social media is also full of comment.
Surely there is a fundamental difference between being an Englishman and being British. You are either English or you are not. It is either a geographical fact i.e. you were born in England or you were not. Or it is a blood fact, i.e. one of your parents was English. The only way you should be able to have a choice about which country you belong to is if you have mixed parentage.
Since Wilshere’s comments people have muddied the waters by quoting the names of sportsmen who have performed wonderfully for England who were not born here to prove he must be wrong. That is missing the point entirely. You should not qualify to play for a country based on how well you might do for them. Either you are English or you are not.
I really appreciate what Kevin Pietersen and others have achieved for England. There is no doubt we would not have had anything like the success we have had without him. The bottom line is though that the cricket board has had qualification rules that are far too lenient for decades and many of England’s stars should never have qualified to play for us in the first place. It appears to have started as a way of helping out South Africans who would otherwise have missed out on an international career and was mutually beneficial because they were better than the English players available at the time. It doesn’t mean that they were ever really English though and you can’t tell me that every time we win with them in the side it doesn’t feel a bit like cheating. It’s the reason why we and they get so much stick from the countries they leave behind.
We have gone nearly 50 years without winning one of the major football trophies. They can bluster about it all they like but at the end of the day it’s just not cricket. I don’t want it to become football either. I’d rather go another 50 years than win a trophy using foreign players under a flag of convenience.
Having said that, I think the question of being British and representing GB is different. Being British includes the English but it is like an extended club. Not only is it extended geographically to include the other home countries but it is extended by other rules of qualification too. Whatever rules our government has created to allow someone to qualify as British we should use to welcome otherwise foreign nationals to our team. I regard it as an honour when someone like Mo Farah regards himself as British and chooses to represent Great Britain. He even appears to be as English as they come but if he is not actually an Englishman, then how fantastic that he has chosen to be British. I would say the same about Kevin Pietersen if it was a British cricket team he was playing for. It is still an honour that he chose to play for England; it’s just that in my view, if the ECB had been principled, he would never have had the option in the first place.
The initial members of the Greg Dyke commission have been announced. Great to see Glenn Hoddle back in the fold officially. As I wrote some time ago, I would have him back as England or Spurs manager any time. There will certainly be a contrast between his approach to the issues and Howard Wilkinson’s. I expect to see sparks there. It will be interesting to see if they can bury their different approaches to unite in finding the best way forward for England. Greg Dyke says he is disappointed but not surprised by the Premier League’s refusal to be a part of it. Me neither. Therefore, whether the commission is going to be able to achieve anything will rely on the government’s ability to persuade / force them to (see my previous blogs). They appear to have selected Danny Mills purely on the basis that he submitted a paper on the subject. On that basis, perhaps I’ll be hearing from Greg too! Now that would be a turn up.