Des Kelly: Don't flush train man Hodgson down the tubes after Rio gaffe
21:30 GMT, 5 October 2012
What was Roy Hodgson thinking The man is a disgrace. In one reckless moment, he trampled over this country’s proud traditions of discretion and decency.
Doesn’t he know that nobody ever talks on the London Underground I mean what sort of freak actually chats to other passengers The trick on public transport is to stare ahead, stick in some earphones or hide behind a newspaper.
You do not speak to strangers, however friendly they may appear. You don’t answer questions. And you never make eye contact, since this is Cockney code for ‘I’m not from around here, please mug me’.
Boob tube: Roy Hodgson was left red faced after a conversation on a train about Rio Ferdinand went public
Despite this, millions of people still
travel by Tube each year, a transport experience that combines the
slowness of a bus stuck in traffic with the inescapable, airless scrum
of an overbooked budget flight.
The majority make it to their
destination, too, often without being robbed, stabbed or peed upon. But
rather than applauding the England manager for mixing it underground
like the rest of us plebs, they are pounding him like a fat guy
delaying the train because he is caught in the closing doors.
Not that Hodgson will ever abandon
the limo again after the laughable bout of faux indignation he has
faced this week following a conversation he had on the Jubilee Line
where he said Rio Ferdinand would not be in his squad.
This resulted in an amusing back-page
scoop, before descending into an unseemly bout of misplaced rage and
apologetic hand-wringing that did nothing more than demonstrate just how
preposterous and overblown with self-importance football can be.
Asked by a gaggle of fans on their way
to the Emirates Stadium whether Ferdinand would be back in the England
fold, Hodgson politely replied he would not recall the player and
supposedly added the defender had reached ‘the end of the road’ –
although this is disputed.
When I say he spoke to ‘fans’, a
member of the assembled audience also happened to be an enterprising
former News Of The World journalist who got more than he expected for
his Travelcard and duly phoned the tale and pictures in.
People have been frothing ever since about how Hodgson broke a confidence and caused huge offence to a player.
One piece went on to argue Harry
Redknapp would never have done such a thing. That’s because Harry would
have been chatting through his open car window, as usual, and nowhere
near the Tube.
But did anyone out there actually
think Ferdinand was going to be recalled Surely they only had to pay
attention to the signs; the Underground is full of them.
Going up the escalator at Paddington
the other day I saw a poster that said ‘Kent: It’s Closer Than You
Think’. I couldn’t work out whether it was an advertisement or a threat
End of the road: Hodgson revealed that Ferdinand would not be in his latest, or subsequent, England squads
But I have not been confused about
Hodgson’s signals regarding Ferdinand lately. He made them perfectly
clear in the only way possible, by not picking him.
Throw in the comments of his
right-hand man (and next England boss), Gary Neville, made before the
England manager whipped out his Oyster card, and a return was never a
Neville pointed out Ferdinand would be
35 at the next World Cup, England wanted to avoid having experienced
internationals in the stands, since it was divisive, and that Ferdinand
had not played consistently for England for the last 20 months.
He added: ‘How many games do you think
Ferdinand played for Fabio Capello in the last 18 months Three. His
last competitive game under Capello was 12 months before Hodgson took
charge. He’s not been playing for England for the last two years. Roy
Hodgson is looking towards 2014.’
And there you have it. As signals go, that’s a big red light.
So Hodgson did not betray some
incredible secret. This was not the inadvertent leak of a sea change in
England policy. He told some people on the Tube the stuff they already
knew. Big deal.
If the England boss wants to chat to someone on the Underground, then we should applaud him.
Not the first: Fabio Capello famously was left with egg on his face at the release of his 'index'
If Hodgson wants to leave a player out, that’s his prerogative too. Not everyone will agree, but he is the England manager.
There is no point in climbing to the
top of the managerial tree if you can’t drop things from up there on
occasion. He doesn’t have to apologise for that.
Whoever advised him to say sorry in this instance, or prevented him from doing so, is really at fault.
I’d rather Hodgson said what he
wanted, when he wanted. Why did everyone get sanctimonious about it
Because it’s more interesting than having to talk and write about a game
against San Marino, that’s why.
The FA got it spot on
The Football Association have set a dangerous precedent with their verdict in the case of John Terry’s rant against Anton Ferdinand. They have applied common sense.
The report into the race-row ban said: ‘At no point is his (Terry’s) demeanour and facial expression that of someone who is imploring, injured, or even quizzical in the face of an unfounded allegation.
Dammed: FA applied common sense in their judgement over John Terry, and the Ashley Cole evidence
‘On the balance of probabilities,
there is no credible basis for Mr Terry’s defence that his use of the
words ‘f****** black c***’ were directed at Ferdinand by way of forceful
rejection and/or inquiry.’
Hear hear. I said something similar
myself last October: ‘You can make your own mind up whether that sounds
like a plausible alibi, especially when you see Terry spit the words out
in anger, not bemusement.’
As for Ashley Cole, I was mystified
during the court case how he could be allowed to ‘provide a “character
reference”, without the entire courtroom dissolving into fits of
His character duly shone through on
Friday, when he called the FA ‘a bunch of t***s’ on Twitter. Classy, eh
He deleted it, of course. Maybe he will go back and alter that remark
later, much like his evidence.
Punditry lesson: with Tottenham a goal up against Panathinaikos at half-time, Robbie Fowler announced it was ‘too easy’ and Spurs would claim a certain victory. The Greek side equalised and the match finished in a draw.
Roll on to the next Europa League game later that evening and, with Liverpool leading Udinese by a goal at half-time, Fowler was again asked for his prediction. ‘I don’t think it’s ever easy when you’re 1-0 up,’ he said without a hint of irony.
Repatriation might be better
When stories emerged that Kevin Pietersen was in talks to return to Test cricket, I misheard the original report and thought he had to undergo ‘repatriation’.
Sadly, he was not being sent back to South Africa. It turned out England wanted him to undergo ‘reintegration’, whatever the hell that means
Back in the fold: Kevin Pietersen has been handed a new England central contract
One report even claimed Pietersen
would have face-to-face talks with senior players such as Graeme Swann
and Stuart Broad to ‘try and convince them he has changed’.
Good luck with that, but unless my
eyesight is as bad as my hearing, I believe the statement referred to
‘reintegration’ — not reincarnation.
Brit swim chiefs need to stick to these shores
British Swimming is currently holding an inquest into Team GB’s poor Olympic performance, but there is plenty hiding in those murky waters.
Recently, I asked how the men at the top of British Swimming — chief executive David Sparkes and performance director Michael Scott — could possibly run the sport from their respective homes in Germany and Australia, popping in and out of Britain on lavish expense accounts.
Sink of swim: David Sparkes
UK Sport is now seeking details of the
pair’s travel costs — as this column asked. Quite rightly, since
25.14m of public funding brought just one silver and two bronze medals
at London 2012.
Sparkes (pictured right, receiving his
OBE in 2008) insists he should not be part of any inquiry, putting the
blame on rank-and-file staff for the disappointment. Worse still, Scott
is part of the panel investigating his own performance. But I want to
add some more important questions for UK Sport and the swimming inquest
Scott signed a four-year extension to
his contract before the Games worth more than 1.2million. Does he pay
income tax in the UK on this salary — or does all our public cash
If he is not paying UK tax, in order
to qualify as a non-resident, Scott would have to be in the country
fewer than 91 days per tax year over the four-year period of his deal.
How can that be enough time to run British Swimming
During the past month, Scott has been
in Australia arranging his marriage to a nurse. This does not sound like
a performance director who is planning to spend more time in Britain,
even if he could.
And when he is here, where does Scott
stay Surely he cannot spend his whole time in five-star hotels at
Britain’s expense Perhaps the inquest can find out.
Is this how ‘elite performance’ is
run British Swimming CEO Sparkes seems to think so. However, he might
have a few issues of his own.
Aside from living in Germany, jetting
in and out to a second house in the Midlands, Sparkes has recently been
elected general secretary of the European Swimming League in Luxembourg
and will also join the bureau of the International Swimming Federation
(FINA) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Not enough: Rebecca Adlington was one of many swimmers to fall below expectation at the Olympics
I am sure this is good for his
personal profile and may give Britain some wider influence but, like
Scott, it doesn’t sound like an individual who is going to bring a
renewed focus to Britain’s swimming team.
Despite all this overseas travel, Sparkes has a Mercedes company car in the UK.
I wonder how many miles it has on the
clock, since he also uses British Swimming’s private chauffeur to ferry
him to and from airports and meetings.
Perhaps the inquest and governing
bodies could establish the cost of this and find out whether the
chauffeur is ever used for other personal trips and errands After all,
we’re paying for it. Britain’s four-time Olympic medal winner Rebecca
Adlington says the sport needs a British head coach to progress.
Most of us would be content to start
with someone who just bothered to live in this country — and paid UK tax
on their publicly funded salary, too.
As I’ve said, 25.14m worth of questions. We need 25.14m worth of answers.