Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What to do with a former England captain and football legend?

He’s a footballing legend with an international pedigree. He’s won winners medals on the pitch at the highest levels of European competition and has achieved success as a player outside England. Many may think that this record of achievement, and at times downright adulation, by both fans and the media would mean that he has worked to earn the respect of all the football community. But within the next few weeks decisions will be made which to will have to use both the heart and the head, and will begin the new process of defining the new manager of the international team.

Terry Butcher and David Beckham require need to be dealt with in a similar way if George Burley and Fabio Capello are to build respect and achieve success in their new posts.

Capello needs to use his head and put aside the public clamour for a token place in the England team for Beckham in their next match against Switzerland. It is, no doubt, a temptation for the new England manager to use the LA Galaxy player as a human shield from the often rabid English redtops, a measure to avert attention from the inevitable challenges he’ll face on the field as he builds and shapes his own team from the smouldering wreckage Steve McLaren has left behind. But as the first act of significance of a new managerial post it would send out unhelpful messages which will prevent future progress for the England team. Capello cannot afford to send the message that he will be swayed by media hype or player pressure. He must be guided by a belief in his own abilities and the desire to win and to realise the huge, and as yet unfulfilled, potential of English football to regularly compete at the World Cups and European Championships.

David Beckham, for all his undoubted skills on the pitch, is the past and not the future for England. Beckham didn’t move to LA to maintain his position at the peak of on-field prowess, he know himself that the game’s up. His inclusion will be an impediment for England and cannot contribute to the development of the team or the confidence of any of his likely replacements in Lennon or Wright-Phillips. Capello, who dropped Beckham at Real Madrid, must do so again if he’s to succeed with England in the long-term.

The imminent appointment of Terry Butcher as an assistant to George Burley at Scotland has raised the hackles of a few of the Tartan Army, and several of Scottish football’s many bigots. Butcher has through his past success managed to put out both the anti-Rangers and anti-English elements of the Scotland support, and so will inevitably face a mixed reaction in his early period in charge. But the fact remains that the vast majority of Scotland fans yearn for success on the pitch to match the spectacular achievements in the bars and city squares of Europe that our fans have achieved over the past twenty years. I’m not a fan of Berti Voghts, but that was because he was rubbish, not because he was German.

I don’t want Butcher to wear a kilt for a double page Daily Record spread the day of our game against Croatia. I don’t want some faux patriotism from him, or to see him belt out ‘Flower of Scotland’ because it will make the bigots hate him less. I don’t want him not to be an English football legend.

I want him to provide inspiration and sound advice to Scotland’s up and coming talent. I want him to help make Stephen McManus and Andy Webster half the player at an international level he was, because it that’s the case we’ll have a great chance to qualify for the next World Cup. I want him to do the job he’s been asked to do by the new manager, because George Burley, like Fabio Capello, deserves a fair chance to make his own mark at international level, and if that means Terry Butcher then so be it. His appointment has to be a footballing decision, not an emotional one.

The same Scotland fans who cheered Nigel Quashie’s goal against Trinidad and Tobago and laughed with him as he kissed the badge for the fans as we sang ‘You’re Not English Any More’ will also accept Butcher if he demonstrates professionalism off the pitch and shows real commitment to the team. I hope Terry Butcher is the most popular Assistant Manager in Scottish football history, because if he is I’ll be watching the team in the World Cup finals in 2010.