Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Alan Green: Mourinho in frame to take over from McClaren

Despite a gallant effort from Northern Ireland, it now looks as if we'll be facing the first major tournament since 1984 that hasn't featured a representative from the British Isles.

Actually, I remember that European Championship in France rather well since I was despatched to do commentary for BBC World Service on the final between the hosts and Spain.

It was the ONLY commentary on BBC Radio from the Championship.

It won't be like that next summer in Austria and Switzerland.

I'm pretty certain that 5 Live will still do as many matches as possible and I'll definitely be there even if England aren't.

And I'm afraid they won't be.

No one really played that badly in Moscow, especially in the first half but, after the interval, Guus Hiddink completely out-thought Steve McClaren.

Russia were far better and, now, such is the significance of the result, England will have to beat Croatia after, they pray, Israel have taken points off Russians.

They may as well be wishing on a star.

For a start, Israel have nothing whatsoever to play for.

We'll see. I'm not even confident England would beat Croatia.

But it wasn't the four minutes of madness on Wednesday night that's caused England's downfall in a relatively 'soft group' (ask yourselves how England would have fared in the far more difficult run of games that Scotland and Northern Ireland had to face).

No, it was the crazy four days last season when England drew at home to Macedonia (how bad was that?) and then played and lost wretchedly in Zagreb.

If England had beaten Macedonia they wouldn't be in this mess.

McClaren is a 'dead man walking' and he looked totally distraught after the game in Moscow.

Sadly, he'll wake up every day until the curtain of qualification probably closes on 17th November knowing his reign as England boss is ending.

You can rest assured that, between now and then, every writer imaginable will have his say on who should get the job next.

So, I may as well have mine.

Let's have none of this 'little Englander' nonsense. If the best managers around happen to be foreign, so what?

Even on Wednesday night I heard talk that Jurgen Klinsmann has made it known he's been touted for one of two 'major' opportunities in international management.

How many 'major international' jobs are soon to be up for grabs?

Then there's Hiddink himself. Yes, he's agreed a new two-year extension with the Russian FA (half paid for by Roman Abramovich) but, he says himself, it still isn't signed.

What ,though, about a very highly-regarded manager who's recently come onto the market?

His club pay-off precludes him joining another English club this season but says nothing about the international job should it arise:

Jose Mourinho.



Lee might dip into Pool again

I know of no one in football journalism that wasn't sorry to see Bolton sacking Sammy Lee. He is one of the game's truly nice guys.

But, sadly, I know of no one either who thought it a sound appointment in the first place because, Sammy, whatever his immense football knowledge, is a natural 'Number 2' - rather like Steve McClaren.

And he broke a cardinal rule of the game. Never, never, be the first to follow a successful manager: always, always, be the one that follows the successor.

I don't particularly like Sam Allardyce but I never questioned the success he had at Bolton. Probably, he took them as far as they could go. Lee never had a chance.

I'm sure he won't be out of work for long. He was excellent with the England under-21s and there might be coaching changes with the national side soon that require new blood alongside a new manager.

But don't be surprised to see Lee return to Liverpool.

Benitez is missing his much-valued former assistant Pako Ayestaran who returned to Spain.

And Lee speaks fluent Spanish.



Moscow off-line for Euro final

I've been commentating for nearly thirty years, starting in Northern Ireland on television and continuing in England for BBC Radio.

In that time there've only been three occasions when, either through corruption or incompetence by the local providers, I've been forced to provide that commentary on a telephone: in Istanbul (Fenerbache v Manchester United); in Beijing (China v England) and again on Wednesday night in the Luzhniki Stadium.

The Russians were brilliantly useless in providing a service.

The engineer turned up with about ten minutes of the game left to play and, anyway, couldn't provide the line.

It is one more string to the bow of my argument that Moscow is a wholly inappropriate place to stage the 2008 Champions League Final.

Consider this: the semi-finals won't be complete until three weeks before the Final; then, fans of the winning clubs have to find flights and a hotel (the going rate for a semi-decent bed in May is currently £800!) before applying for the necessary visa that takes 7 to 10 working days.

It's a joke. UEFA should be ashamed of themselves.

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