Sunday 24 September 2017

Passengers in back four under threat from the commuter belt

Dion Fanning

A writer recently complained that so much of modern travel is not really travelling at all. You depart and arrive in the same airport, enter and exit past the same shops, travel along the same roads and end up staying in the same hotels. He suggested ditching the convenience and experiencing travel as it was supposed to be, when it gave a sense of travelling. He may not get a sympathetic audience from Roy Hodgson.

The only surprising thing about Roy Hodgson's journey on the tube last week was that he was pestered at all. Roy Hodgson always wears the look of a harried commuter, a man who would complain if the 5.37 to Clapham Junction was running two minutes late.

Hodgson should slip effortlessly into the anonymous world of the underground without creating controversy but, as he made his trip to the Emirates, it wasn't that simple.

This journey, which looked like a throwback to an idyllic time when a man like Mr Hodgson could move easily among the people, soon became another part of the fallout from English football's most toxic saga.

Hodgson dropped the bombshell when approached by a commuter. Rio Ferdinand wouldn't be in the England squad he was naming the next day.

This was not news to anyone who had watched Manchester United lose to Tottenham. It may have been classified as breaking news if Roy Hodgson had wondered why Rio Ferdinand was still in the Manchester United squad, but still it would have been a valid question.

Rio had spent most of the evening against Tottenham demonstrating why he is, at this stage, a great pr man but not a great defender. For Hodgson to tell a man on a train that Rio Ferdinand was unlikely to be named in an England squad was almost as unremarkable as if he was to rule Terry Butcher out a few days after he had played in some Masters tournament.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect was Gary Neville's curious defence of the footballing skills of Rio Ferdinand in which he pointed out the failings of those around him.

Neville's excellence as a pundit is obvious, yet it is legitimate to question if his loyalties prevented him from speaking as harshly on this matter.

He has shown an ability to separate his career at Manchester United from his tv work in the past, but those who feared his appointment to Hodgson's coaching staff would affect his analysis may have a point.

Neville's work on television is too important to be compromised by the essentially meaningless task of being an England coach.

Hodgson may have felt he was doing nothing more than relaying the obvious but it soon became a story that was out of control. Hodgson then had to warn commuters that he might not be as friendly in future, a warning that may have been welcome for tube commuters, disturbed as they so often are by any outbreak of warmth.

Hodgson may retreat, which would be a shame. If truth is the first casualty of war, the freedom to chat idly with other passengers on the Jubilee line was the latest casualty of the Terry Affair.

Before the week was out, there was another victim, Mr Ashley Cole. Cole is a man of the utmost integrity, especially if one holds to the Jonathan Franzen view of integrity, that it is a neutral value. "Hyenas have integrity too they're pure hyena".

Cole has displayed a weariness with this case from the outset, famously declining to stand up in the witness box, remaining true to himself at this moment and at all other times.

"To live outside the law, you must be honest," Dylan sang and there is something of that truth in Ashley who tweeted "Hahahahaa, well done #fa I lied did I, #BUNCHOFTWATS". It was hard to find anything wrong with this sentiment, even if Ashley subsequently apologised for it through his lawyer.

Yet it was easy to hear the authentic voice. "I was really upset and tweeted my feelings in the heat of the moment. I apologise unreservedly for my comment about the FA," sounds less like the Ashley Cole many of have come to admire than his initial comment. Cole needs to remain true to himself, whatever about the rest of them.

* * * * *

Roy Keane has always given the old-fashioned view that he considers television to be trivial business and the sooner he is back in the dressing room, the better. It hasn't always been a view shared by those who have also been in the dressing room with him.

Keane appears to have a deep ambivalence about the modern footballer which is something of a handicap if a man wants to be a manager in the modern age.

He shared many attributes with Graeme Souness as a player and he may also be following his career arc in management and punditry.

Souness, too, often appears to see little of merit in the modern footballer. He was enthusiastic in his praise of Roberto Mancini last season during the Tevez affair which almost cost Manchester City the league title.

Souness spent a little longer than Keane in Turkey before eventually heading to Blackburn Rovers but it was easy to see how their careers over there could be replicated.

Keane now hopes to catch the attention of Venky's who are attempting to portray their latest attempts to run the club as something more than comical.

Yet there is the danger that it would become something more incendiary under Keane than it was under Steve Kean.

Unlike Souness, Keane didn't stay long in Turkey which is a shame because, like Souness, his methods would have been appreciated over there.

He, too, might have become a better manager.

Keane's management style could easily benefit if his message was spoken by an interpreter. The relentless highlighting of the failing of players could be massaged into something more palatable by a translator.

At the very least, it would have been interesting to see if this method would have produced results. Keane's essential message would, you sense, have been easily understood. Fear is a language which recognises no borders.

dfanning@independent.ie

Sunday Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport