Inept England and UFC's poor cousin
Not since Uncle Albert and his three half brothers decided to set up their own Dragons’ Den at 7DAYS Towers has there been a four-man panel as inept as the Football Association’s latest ‘taskforce’.
You know, the one designed to sort out the unlucky guy to next manage England.
Back then, Al and his calamitous cohorts decided against investing in a little listening device that housed all one’s music and could have movies transferred onto it to watch on the go - “it’s just a glorified walkman!” - instead backing Grandad 7DAYS’ “foolproof” underwater welding kit. Needless to say, it never sparked into life.
And that’s exactly what Alex Horne and Co need to do if they’re to solve football’s equivalent of the Da Vinci Code: which mere mortal can lead the ramshackle Three Lions into the latter stages of Euro 2012?
That’s Euro 2012, as in happening this summer. The fact that the FA has left it this long to appoint Fabio Capello’s successor, when everyone knows it’s going to be Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, is beyond a joke.
England’s inability to land a first major trophy since 102BC is often conveniently blamed on a pesky injury to one of their star players pre-tournament - David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Emile Hesk…
However, now the main strain on their Euro bid is not having anyone in place to lead them just six weeks before they lose to France in their Group D opener in Donetsk.
There’s no excuse, Capello rightfully jumped ship back in February. Or maybe it’s a cunning ploy to allow Redknapp to play his way out of the running. By that we mean scupper Spurs’ season and show exactly how tactically naïve he is.
The White Hart Lane outfit were comfortably third in the Premier League when Fab fled, with ‘Arry talking up a title bid. Now, with only one win in nine, they’ve dropped to fifth in the table and seem set for a late-summer Europa League excursion to FK Rabotnicki.
Yes, Redknapp is famous for massaging egos (a key skillset for England) and he’d play with 10 forwards if he could, but surely leaving it until the last minute to integrate his tactics is only asking for trouble. Especially when the Euros requires you to hit the ground running.
Champions Spain have honed their play through years of competing, and winning, together, and the likes of Germany and Holland know exactly how they’ll set up come Poland and the Ukraine. England, like Redknapp of late, seem completely clueless.
FA bigwig Horne said last month: “We know exactly what we’re doing between now and our first game and we just need to slot a manager in, giving that individual enough time to get used to the set-up.”
They need to “slot in” Redknapp now. Or Roy Hodgson, or Stuart Pearce. Although, given that the position represents football’s ultimate poisoned chalice, maybe the FA have had as much trouble flogging it as Uncle Al did those underwater welding kits.
UFC SHOWS BOXING HOW IT’S DONE
At first glance, you can’t help but think the Ultimate Fighting Championship is little more than a cheap imitation of boxing. From expert comments man Joe Rogan, of ‘Fear Factor’ fame, to the poor man’s Michael Buffer, ring announcer Bruce, err, Buffer - UFC has B-grade written all over it.
However, having watched the stunning spectacle that was UFC 145 on Sunday, headlined by the light heavyweight title fight between champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and Rashad Evans, it’s clear mixed martial arts has boxing locked in an arm-bar and has no intention of letting go.
The bout between the ex-training partners was one of the most anticipated in the sport’s history after Evans severed ties with Jones last year, perhaps due to jealousy at his rival’s rapid rise, calling out the champ ever since.
Despite the insatiable public demand, though, it would be a fight that would struggle to happen in boxing. We can picture it now: the champion, wary of going up against someone with such intimate knowledge of his style, doing everything he could not to give the fans what they craved and, with little administrative control in the sport, ultimately succeeding.
Even Jones, who won by unanimous decision, didn’t seem to be all that thrilled with the match-up. But under the iron-fisted control of supremo Dana White, it was yet another example of the UFC getting things done.
Meanwhile, in boxing the likelihood of the greatest fight in the past 20 years - a super showdown between bitter foes Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather - never going ahead grows larger by the day.
The reluctant duo are in action over the next two months, with the romance of boxing and the chance of an upset ensuring mass audiences for both. However, the end result will be that same unsatisfied feeling we’ve had since the first round of talks failed in 2009.
Drawing on an illustrious past is something the UFC just doesn’t have the luxury of, having hit the mainstream only in the past 10 years. Not that that bothers White and Co - theirs is a sport focused on today.