Taking Terry to the Euros isn't worth the risk, Roy
01:35 GMT, 20 May 2012
Theo Walcott’s family were confronted by a cruelly difficult decision. On the one hand, they desperately wanted to see the player represent his country at Euro 2012. On the other, they were aware of the threat posed by gangs of racist thugs in Kiev and Donetsk.
In the end, they decided not to travel. As Theo’s brother, Ashley, explained: ‘Some things aren’t worth risking.’
Since there are eight black players among the 23 members of the England squad, we must assume that other families are facing a similar decision. Roy Hodgson understands.
‘There’s no doubt that the issue of racism and violence in the Ukraine is a concern to us all,’ he says. ‘Not least those supporters who’ll go over there and maybe risk getting beaten up if they don’t happen to be white.’
Civilised: Roy Hodgson
Now, the sincerity of England’s new manager is not in question, since he is a man of civilised instincts. As such, he recognises the sinister overtones of this particular tournament and the need to tread a sensitive path between giving entirely avoidable offence and picking a team fit to represent England.
Yet still he selects John Terry.
Terry, as the world knows, is to face trial on a charge of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Terry denies the charge and his trial takes place in the week beginning July 9.
It would have started a good deal earlier but Chelsea asked for a postponement as their players were inconveniently involved in the football season. Remarkably, the request was granted. The result is that the trial will now be held after the Euros.
With the England squad together for up to six weeks, the potential for damaging and disruptive speculation is self-evident.
Flashpoint: Terry and Ferdinand at Loftus Road
As we are constantly reminded, by eminent lawyers moonlighting as football pundits, Terry is innocent until proven guilty. Which is not only true but clumpingly obvious. And yet, by successfully pushing back the trial date, Terry inadvertently landed Hodgson with a significant challenge. And, sadly, the new man fluffed it.
Asked to defend his choice of Terry, he waffled. He took refuge in ‘football reasons’ for preferring Terry to Anton’s brother, Rio. Hodgson knows a great deal more than I do about the respective professional virtues of Terry and Ferdinand. That is how he makes his living. But while his judgment is rightly respected, it is not beyond challenge.
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Recall Chelsea’s most recent engagement with Liverpool, when Terry spent the match being outwitted by Luis Suarez and out-muscled by Andy Carroll. Remember the World Cup finals of 2010, when he passed a humiliating afternoon giving unproductive chase to fleet-footed Germans. Reflect on that recent semi-final in Barcelona, when he was dismissed for a ludicrously irresponsible assault which condemned his team to a 10-man struggle for 53 minutes.
So the football case for Terry is less than conclusive but that is only part of the story. You see, by repeatedly reciting ‘football reasons’, Hodgson presents himself as a ‘football man’. It is an overblown, overused term, designed to convey an elevated commitment to professional values. Ethics Morality These are the mundane concerns of little people. The football man lives by different rules, in a world bounded by white lines.
When Hodgson announces ‘I hope his [Terry’s] performances on the field will give the team a better chance of getting a result than if he wasn’t there’, he is acting the football man, parroting a pragmatic script.
Consider again that World Cup of 2010 and especially Terry’s infamous press conference when, with Fabio Capello at his lowest ebb, he boasted of how the England players were effectively taking control, of how he had discussed events with ‘Lamps, Wazza, Aaron Lennon, Jamo, Crouchy, Johnno, Jamie Carragher, Stevie, probably a couple more’, of how he did not fear his manager’s reaction: ‘If it upsets him [Capello] then I’m on the verge of just saying, “You know what So what, I’m here to win it for England”.’
And his risible conclusion: ‘I was born to do stuff like this.’ Of course, he was swiftly and savagely disowned by all and sundry but, by then, the damage was done.
Risible: John Terry in South Africa
Somebody recently, and quite brilliantly, described Terry as ‘self-mythologising’. Certainly Capello’s failure to understand this aspect of Terry ultimately cost him his own job. But the authorities have played their flaccid part in the ongoing fiasco.
Some of us have never understood why the FA, having properly asserted his unfitness to captain England, did not pursue their own logic by refusing him the chance to represent his country in any capacity until his trial is over.
But the buck was passed, the deed was done, and Roy Hodgson was left to struggle with a wretched situation. When he managed West Bromwich, his actions merited only minor attention outside the West Midlands. But the decisions he takes in the England job carry national resonance.
And if he truly believes that Terry’s presence will cause no division inside and outside the camp, then he is surely mistaken.
It is an enormous pity because the man is clearly far better than this wretched choice suggests. ‘That’s the decision I’ve made and that’s the decision I shall live with,’ says Hodgson, but his defiance is unconvincing.
For we remember the words of Ashley Walcott, spoken in a different context, yet strangely appropriate. ‘Some things aren’t worth risking,’ he said. And he was right.
A kicking too far for Kenny
The eulogies for Kenny Dalglish were notably restrained. True, there was a small effusion of tearful Twittering on Merseyside but no flowers were laid nor silences observed.
This was partly due to his record, which involved spending tens of millions of pounds in order to win the Carling Cup. Then there were his surly public relations.
When we think of the Dalglish tenure at Liverpool, the most prominent images involve crass T-shirts and a series of tetchy collisions with hapless interviewers. So sympathy was hard to come by.
Sorry season: Dalglish
But here’s a strange thing: one man who has dodged the Anfield bullets is the little-known managing director, Ian Ayre. And he seemed curiously eager to announce the reasons for the manager’s departure.
‘It was always about taking stock of the season in full,’ he declared.
‘It’s a very simple decision based on results and do you believe that that’s going to change Thirty seven points off the winners, 17 points off fourth place and 14 losses, that was the measurement on which the owners made their decision.’
It was almost as if he felt that trampling on the manager’s reputation might enhance his own status.
If so, it didn’t work. Dalglish may well have damaged his reputation by his charmless public performances. But, unlike Mr Ayre, at least he has a reputation to damage.
The clouds were grey and the day was chill, yet still the Lord’s Test brought the best from the commentators.
Michael Holding, liquid vowels and lightly-worn wisdom, found instant line and length. Michael Atherton was magisterial.
But the pick of my week was the exchange between Jonathan Agnew and Phil Tufnell on BBC Radio’s Test Match Special. They were discussing Tufnell’s new horse.
Tufnell: ‘I’ve named her after the wife.’ Agnew: ‘Not all of them’ Tufnell: ‘Current one, Aggers, bleeding long name otherwise.’ Cricket is back and it was never more welcome.
Which Manchester City player said: ‘I did my best to give my last grain of sand to help them win this title’
The answer, it may surprise you to learn, is Carlos Tevez.
He was speaking from Argentina, the country where he spent the best part of six months in a protracted sulk while his colleagues were toiling towards that title.
Once again, the dim little chap gives self-delusion a bad name. It will take much swallowing of pride and much frittering of money but how I hope that City’s sheik sends him packing.