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White knight stands up for England's right to fall down

Dave Richards must have been one of the men Richard Bevan, the head of the League Managers' Association, was thinking of when he explained recently that local owners understood the English game better than carpetbaggers from around the globe.

Richards is the chairman of the Premier League and former chairman of Sheffield Wednesday. Last week, he asserted the cultural values of English football, made a claim for England to be the rightful owners of the game and then fell into a decorative water feature while making his way to that night's big dinner at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. The Venky's will never represent the English game with such consistency and passion.

There were many in the old school who will have wondered what Richards did wrong as he dismissed the claims of China as founders of the game, accused UEFA and FIFA of theft of the English game and told Qatar, from where he happened to be speaking, that they needed to respect the Englishman's desire to have a drink at the right time which, when it comes to the 2022 World Cup, is any time.

"In our country and in Germany we have a culture," Sir Dave said, perhaps speaking in that strange slow voice with a generic continental accent English and Irish people sometimes use when addressing foreigners. "We call it 'we would like to go for a pint and that pint is a pint of beer'." As a cultural sloganeer, Sir Dave won't be troubling Peter York any time soon.

Yet Sir Dave will certainly have impressed the fans with his defence of the we-would-like-to-go-for-a-pint-and-that-pint-is-a-pint-of-beer culture.

Some felt Sir Dave was speaking from the heart.

"Any suggestion he had a drink is nonsense," Phil Gartside, the Bolton Wanderers chairman who helped Dave back on his feet said. "It's a dry place."

This may well have contributed to the attack which Richards later attributed to his broad Yorkshire sense of humour.

Sir Dave's time in "a dry place" could have contributed to his choleric mood if not his fall into the decorative water feature.

Perhaps, when he went on the offensive, he was contemplating the big dinner in the Museum of Islamic Art and how the big dinner would not be the same without the finest wines.

In his subsequent apology, Dave, sounding like one of the lost tribesmen of the Kalahari, explained how he had merely wanted to "make the people aware of my culture".

Like Bevan, he feels that this culture is under attack. Bevan believes that the foreign owners may abolish regulation and they may also be less inclined to employ men like Sam Allardyce, another cultural institution. Sir Dave's culture is in greater peril and he did all that he could to protect it and then he apologised for it.

Many would see the apology as the sign of the failing in the culture, the England that has lost its nerve, as Tom Stoppard wrote.

Sir Dave is generally seen as an embarrassment, something which isn't diminished by the strange combination of the knighthood and the ordinary bloke name 'Dave'.

England has to apologise for everything on the world football stage which makes them mimic, in a strange, way their nemesis Sepp Blatter.

Nobody could claim that Joao Havelange and Blatter were forces for good in the game but Sir Dave made his points so clumsily that their years of rule were made to seem like the natural order after so much English arrogance. Equally, only those who have been to Qatar to inspect their facilities believe the World Cup should be held there.

This is not about having a drink at the right time, something the Qataris have dealt with, but it is about the World Cup and what it means. Something was stolen when Qatar was awarded the tournament. It wasn't votes but it was the removal of the pretence that this was a tournament for the people. It may have just been pretence, but it was quite a comforting pretence.

Sir Dave could have done some good while defending his culture, instead his scattergun approach diminished the validity of any future attacks and his cultural points were lost in the laughter.

The protection of that culture led England to pursue an English manager for their English players. The English FA continue to play down the importance of having a manager, a curious position for an association which was, until recently, employing the best paid international manager in the world.

Those days are gone. Right now, the FA are making it sound like all they need is a man to cut the oranges at half-time and maybe lay out the cones, but even that is under control.

"We can deliver a squad into Poland so it's perfectly possible," Alex Horne, the FA's general secretary said a few weeks ago when asked if England might wait to appoint a manager.

Horne's confidence that the FA will be able to get the players to the airport on time without any of them forgetting their passports will have been noted by their rivals in the tournament.

It may seem that there is disarray but it may well be that this is the greatest attempt yet to play down expectation while also conducting some public negotiations with Daniel Levy.

If there is no need to show up until a few days beforehand with the squad already picked, what's the fuss about?

If the travel arrangements are all in hand, why should anyone worry?

This is not an impossible job, it's a simple one. Certainly there will be no need to hand Wembley over to Spurs as part of the deal for Harry Redknapp. Hell, even Sir Dave could probably do it.


Sunday Indo Sport