Now that all the media noise about the appointment of Roy Hodgson as England manager has died to a low hum rather like that of an old fridge in a quiet kitchen, and now that Euro 2012 is looming over the horizon like a promise ( a promise tinged with disappointment and despair, but a promise nevertheless) I think it’s time that I came clean: I wanted that England job. I wanted it badly, really badly. I typed out my CV and I applied for it because, as a football fan and, specifically, a Barnsley fan and a fan of the Brierley Cubs under-eights, I knew I was qualified.
Have you seen what England managers do? That’s right: they stand or sit on the touchline and they wave their arms. They shake their head in a mixture of disgust and philosophical resignation at the injustices of the world. They punch the air.
They shout instructions that aren’t really that complex: things like “pass it!” and “get rid!” They turn to an assistant and say something and the assistant nods. Occasionally they pull out a notebook and a pen and they write something down. Let me tell you, readers of the Yorkshire Post magazine, in the words of the immortal Yosser Hughes from Boys From the Blackstuff: I could do that.
Have you seen me at Oakwell, home of the mighty Barnsley FC? I can wave my arms like the best of them. I can punch the air, although I often miss. I can shout simple phrases consisting of words of one syllable. I can turn to my mate John who sits in the row behind and say something that makes him nod. I don’t get out my notebook and pen, mind you, because then people shout “Watch it! He’s writing a poem!” but apart from that I’m perfect managerial material. I’m even more like a manager at the Brierley Cubs under-eights games, watching my grandson Thomas in goal. In fact I’m so much like a manager that my wife has to tell me to calm down “because it’s only a game with bairns”’.
I prowl the touchline like a tiger; well, a tiger in a sensible showerproof jacket. I slap my chops in frustration, causing them to wobble alarmingly. I applaud wildly and attempt encouraging gravity-defying jumps, disturbing the old mineworkings below. When a goal is scored I celebrate hugely, forgetting that I’m clutching a cup of tea, with splashy consequences for me and Brian who’s standing next to me. He’s learning, though: he brings a brolly most weeks.
Yep, I’m the man for the job. I said in my letter of application that I’d insist all England friendlies were played on the fields Thomas and his mates play on: Brierley Park or that top field at Shaw Lane or that one at Darton near the motorway. I’d make the England stars go out with the dog-droppings shovel then round with the raffle tickets before the game.
I’d make them play four 10-minute segments like the under-eights do and then I might let them buy some sweets from the stall. I’d abandon Wembley and have all the internationals at Oakwell; well, it’s nearer to a lot of places than Wembley, and it’s meant to be the national stadium, and I’d make them turn up on a service bus. And we’d win Euro 2012. And the next World Cup.
Do you need an assistant, Roy?