NORMAN GILLER weighs up the possible reactions of past England football managers to the off-the-field activities of John Terry
The imaginations of old football hacks have been running riot this week wondering how the England football managers of our time would have handled the John Terry scandal. Leg over is nothing new in football, but it takes on a different connotation when it affects dressing-room harmony â€” particularly with a World Cup on the horizon.
Fabio Capello â€” from the land, don’t forget, of Berlustconi (sic) â€” will discover from the following summary that most of his predecessors were not as equipped as he to deal with the fall out.
Walter Winterbottom (1946-62): He had all the responsibility but little of the power of managing England. Ex-schoolteacher Walter was the puppet of a panel of selectors, mostly chairmen of League clubs who would have had Terry thrown into the Tower in an instant.
Squeaky-clean Billy Wright (pictured right) was captain for 90 of Walter’s matches in charge, and the nearest he came to a scandal was electing to marry a divorcee, the gorgeous Joy Beverley, towards the end of his career. Even that was met with frowns in certain quarters of the FA and the question was heard: “Is this the sort of man we want captaining England?”
Sir Alf Ramsey (1963-74): Alf was a cold disciplinarian, who would have told Terry to his face that he was an idiot and would have punished him by taking away the captain’s job. Bobby Moore was his captain for 90 matches, and when he got involved in a dispute with West Ham â€” drinking in a nightclub on the eve of an FA Cup tie at Blackpool â€” Alf unceremoniously dropped him for the next England match.
In contrast, when Bobby was arrested on the trumped-up jewel-theft charge in Colombia on the eve of the 1970 World Cup finals, Alf stuck by him and instantly dismissed it as a South American plot. Alf struggled not to be suspicious of anybody who spoke with a foreign tongue, particularly if it was laced with a Scottish burr.
Joe Mercer (1974): Uncle Joe would privately have had a good laugh about it, but publicly admonished Terry and he would have let him keep the captain’s armband after getting him to shake hands with Wayne Bridge. Yes, he was that good a diplomat and spin doctor. Anybody who was close to Joe in his Man City days will tell you he kept many a potential scandal from erupting by clever diplomacy, particularly when dealing with the peccadilloes of his lovable, larger-than-life assistant Malcolm Allison.
Don Revie (1974-77): The Don (pictured here celebrating an FA Cup win with his Leeds club captain, Billy Bremner) would have carefully calculated if Terry was vital to his game plan. If he considered him irreplaceable, he would have got him to put his signature to a ghosted apology that would have been released to the media. If he decided there were players equally as good, he would have thrown him to the wolves. Any man who, while manager of England, could dress himself up as an Arab to get a new job was capable of anything.
Ron Greenwood (1977-82): I was the writer who dubbed him Reverend Ron because of his sermonising and his Christian-driven morals, this back in the local paper days when I used to sit at his feet taking in his lessons on life in general and football tactics in particular.
Ron would have been torn apart on this one, but would have eventually told Terry that his position was untenable. The thought of a player having an affair with a team-mate’s partner would have been abhorrent to Ron.
Sir Bobby Robson (1982-1990): As a man who came under the media microscope for having an affair with not one but two redheads, Bobby would have been tormented by this problem. Not the most decisive of managers, I think he would have tried to ride the storm with Terry still his captain, but would have ultimately tossed him out as the tabloid revelations continued, as may yet happen in the Terry case.
Graham Taylor (1990-93): The fact that he could substitute his then skipper Gary Lineker during the 1992 Euro championships suggests that the captain’s armband did not count too much with Graham. My belief is that Terry would have been turfed out of a Taylor team, but I am sure Graham will have an opinion on this while scrambling around in his new role as saviour chairman of Watford.
His Dad was an excellent football journalist and would no doubt have advised him to put the team first. It would have given The Sun the chance to use the headline: “What A Turn Up”.
Terry Venables (1994-96): El Tel is saving his opinion on the other Terry for his exclusive Saturday column in The Sun. I reckon he would have had a tete-a-tete with each senior player in his squad and then made a decision based on their views.
The Chelsea captain (a job Venners did until a mega fall-out with Tommy Docherty) would, I am confident, have survived under the Venables banner, provided upcoming revelations are not too damaging. He would have been expert in showing John Terry how to survive a skin-scorching investigation by the media.
Glenn Hoddle (1996-99, pictured left): Sorry Glenn, but it is impossible not to think of you calling in supposed faith healer Eileen Drewery for her take on the Terry shenanigans. She would have no doubt advised that he should pay for sins in this life and surrender the captaincy. At least you have the satisfaction of giving Jasper Carrott one of the great football jokes: “Glenn Hoddle has found God. It must have been a heck of a pass.”
Kevin Keegan (1999-2000): These days Kevin saves his opinions for ESPN, but when he was in charge of England I bet he would have done his utmost to keep John Terry as captain. He is a football man first and foremost and would have tried to divorce the private matters from the on-field requirements. And if, as was likely, the FA had interfered in his decision, he would no doubt have walked out. Kev was always his own man.
Sven-Goran Eriksson (2001-06, pictured right): Stop laughing at the back there. What could Sven have done but support Terry, given the bed-springing activities that were going on during his sweet FA tenure? Sven (along with the likes of Tiger Woods and Max Mosley) can advise Terry on how to endure the snigger factor that is going to become a major irritation.
Steve McLaren (2006-07): Nicknamed the Wally with the Brolly, he proved he knew how to look after himself when he covered himself with an umbrella in his last game as England manager. McLaren would possibly have called in Max Clifford to help him deal with the scandal, as he did when the media searchlight was turned on an affair that he admitted to before taking the England job. No doubt he would have sat on the fence until pushed into making a decision. John Terry would have dictated the outcome, in his favour.
Fabio Capello cannot take much comfort from studying the actions and attitudes of his predecessors, but he seems to me to be the kind of strong man who will decide what is best for the team regardless of any media attention.
Me? I think Terry went a Bridge too far.
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