WHEN I was at junior school, we were always allowed to bring in games at the end of term. The leaders and decision makers in the sporting world seem to allow themselves to do the same. And the game they like to play is “Silly Beggars”.
The end of the season, it seems, is a time for messing your team’s manager around. So we had England head coach Brian Ashton spending the best part of a month waiting to be sacked by the RFU, but expected to carry on in the meantime while his bosses dithered about in the same excruciating manner that Ross from Friends used to when faced with the choice of dating the character played by Jennifer Aniston or the character played by Helen Baxendale.
(This, by the way, was one of the reasons I hated Friends. The characters were perfect, their friends were beautiful and funny, but none of them could make a bleeding decision about anything without whining about it for at least four episodes.)
More than one rugby union writer has used the word “Machiavellian” to describe the England shenanigans over the last couple of weeks. I think that’s disingenuous; Machiavelli at least knew what he was doing.
Then there’s the ongoing soap opera at Liverpool, which is proceeding with all the dignity of a bitch fight from an episode of Dynasty, sadly without the shoulder pads. Rafa Benitez has been left in the middle with a facial expression somewhere between bemused and miffed as confusion builds in the tale of who exactly was in on the meeting at which it was suggested bringing in Jurgen Klinsmann as manager.
But coming up quietly on the rails of those two stories is a developing saga at Manchester City.
It all started last weekend, when the Sunday Times suggested that Sven-Goran Eriksson would be replaced by Luiz Felipe ‘Big Phil’ Scolari in the summer, much as didn’t happen with the England job two years ago. (Following that same train of thought, perhaps Steve McClaren will end up in charge of City next season.)
City promptly insisted that Eriksson was not leaving. End of story. Except…
A couple of days later, at a business conference in Dubai, owner Thaksin Shinawatra was given the chance to put the story to bed once and for all… and passed it up. Would he be sacking Eriksson at the end of the season?
“There are no plans at the moment,” he said. “We will have to evaluate at the end of the season. I’m not happy with the performance of the club in the second half of the season.”
The received wisdom on this is that Thaksin has been listening to advisers and agents who may not have been pointing him in the right direction. It left Eriksson to try to clear up the mess at a press conference this afternoon.
“It would have been better if he had not said what he did at this moment,” Eriksson said of his owner’s remarks. “But it is out there. If that is his opinion, it is OK. It is not a big problem for me. I will do the job as if those things had not been said.”
That is easier said than done. But if anyone can smile on in the face of speculation about his job, it’s Sven. This was the man, after all, who took England into the last eight at two World Cups, and was still deemed to have failed. Now he has taken Manchester City into England’s top eight, and that may not be enough either.
When Eriksson left the England job two years ago, there were suggestions aplenty that he had squandered the country’s golden generation of talent. But the bloke who took over did far, far worse. It’s a tale that Thaksin may wish to bear in mind over the next few weeks if he wants to avoid joining the top brass at Liverpool and the RFU in a round of the silliest end-of-term game ever invented.