Sunday, October 9, 2011

Johnson's failure is complete

I fear this may well be my last post, so many thanks for your kind messages all.

And it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to say "I told you so", it really doesnt, but, err, I told you so.

I have been beating the same drum ever since MJ was appointed, not through any forensic recruitment process, but by the power of the media and by a governing body at the beginning of its frightening decline to where it is now. Leaderless, ruderless, shambolic and embarrassing. It makes the ECB and FA look like model sporting bodies. There can be no bigger insult when these corrupt charlatans seem better organised than the RFU.

If you have the time, have a quick read at my older rugby related posts. I have always said Johnson should never have got the England coaching job. I laugh at his media cheerleaders now brazenly copying my precise points, some months after I raised them. As ever, the blogs are way, way ahead of the MSM.

Paul Ackford's piece in the paper yesterday was good, but he said nothing I didnt say before the RWC even started. Johnson has been badly, woefully found out. Weak, thoughtless, schizophrenic selection, and a rigid, inflexible gameplan leading to watching an England team some 4 years after he took charge that apeared never to have played with each other. And in some cases (step forward Tuilagi etc.), they hadnt.

I have offered forensic analysis on why these selections were so poor in my previous posts. EVERY one was bang on. Moody injured, Sheridan out, Lawes inexperienced, Youngs massively out of form, Cueto slow, Easter fat... shall I go on?

My point is not to rub this in. I'd love to have been proven wrong if it meant England doing well, but I was extremely confident I would not be. And if this simple blogger can perfectly anticipate the problems Johnson's selections were going to create, how could neither he, on 350k a year, nor his massive support staff not spot it as well? (and frankly those in the MSM).

I will not even touch on the media's handling of the England team in NZ. It was as inevitable as it was disgraceful. But to summarise, the narrative was set well before the RWC started. That is because like me, they knew this England team was crap. And it is very easy to beat a crap team around the head with bogus inflated stories about "dwarf throwing" and having a hug with an old girlfriend.

Our pisspoor footballers are the easy target, because they are universally thick and not very good, so stupid stories around major tournaments are easy to write. But for rugby it is harder - the England rugby team is usually good and editors cant be commissioning daily attack pieces on a winning team. But with this rugby team going down as one of the worst in modern RWC memory, the narrative was set and followed through to the letter by the mandarins in the MSM, like that entirely discredited idiot Mick Cleary in the Telegraph. They'll be plenty more bullshit "analysis" pieces by lame hacks before the month is up on how England's supposed "bad behaviour" was the cause of the team's poor performance, mark my words.

But back to the pitch. A few beers in Queenstown has nothing, NOTHING to do with this lamentable performance.

It is down to the RFU and Johnson being unqualified for the job. 4 years, FOUR YEARS Johnson had to develop a squad worthy of the name. And he sticks with proven liabilities like Easter and Moody. Then he wonders why our penalty count is so huge.

I wont repeat all the other areas where Johnson got it so painfully wrong. Its all there on the record for those of you who have the time and inclination to read. This disgraceful England RWC performance (and the media's reporting of the England side) was as predictable as it was lamentable. And heads must roll as a result.

But what to do?

The RFU needs top to bottom overhaul. Getting Francis Baron (regular readers will know I am a supporter) back is only a sticking plaster for a broken leg. It needs a strong, senior corporate leader. Someone with outstanding commercial credentials, some rugby knowledge, a track record of success, transparency and managing cultural change. Someone to get back respect to what was once the leading governing body in UK sports. Step forward for example Ian Coull, former CEO of SEGRO (or Slough Estates) who would provide the RFU with immediate respect and commercial savvy. I've no idea if he would want the job, but this is the calibre of CEO the RFU must attract.

Next, sadly Rob Andrew has to go. I have never called for his departure before (it was merely the lazy refrain of people who didnt know what he did), but he is now part of the problem, not the solution and he has been hiding too long. He no longer has the respect of the playing group nor clearly management. He is simply part of a failed bureacracy.

Needless to say, Martyn Thomas has to go. Culture comes from the top and Martyn has destroyed the RFU, treating the sport like his own personal play thing, selectively briefing journalists and riding roughshod over good corporate governance. Without Baron to manage him, Thomas has lost all control.

Get the media right. Firstly, the RFU needs to be much more transparent with the rugby writers. They need to be given greater access to senior individuals on a regular basis.

BUT, the relationship with the media needs to be tightened up and formalised. No more adhoc briefings, no more endless fireside chats with players during tournaments (I could write a separate piece on media around tournaments and media going forward for the RFU, but I'll save that). And primarily, the instigation of proper media protocols. The on-going internal sniping and filtering of information has been poisonous. It must stop. And the RFU needs to do a much better job of highlighting its successes - club participation, coaching qualifications, charity work etc etc. The RFY does lots good and all we hear about is how rank Martyn Thomas is.

On the playing side, well clearly Johnson has to go. He must not have his contract renewed. That the media are writing "players stand by Johnson" or worse making stories up like "Johnson gets only partial support" (in the Independent) sadly just shows the depths to which a journo will stoop to get his 750 words. As if a player will bad mouth his coach in public. Christ almighty what planet do journos live on?

No, Johnson's departure will be welcomed by players who clearly were not able to play for him in the way he could get players to play for him when he was actually on the field. We need a new coach, not necessarily a decorated player, but one with a solid coaching pedigree, the respect of the players and a proven club coaching track record. And he MUST BE ENGLISH (I fear the RFU in its current state will ask that idiot Jake White or even worse that former Aussie coach, to do the job). How about Jim Mallander?

They must get rid of that shower of assistant coaches who have ransacked the England team. The Leicester clique who unforgivably have retained their jobs despite this litany of failure. Wells, Smith - they MUST GO. They have brought nothing but failure to the party.

And finally, as I know I have gone on long enough, a new selection committee must be formed. One with a proper remit of watching, assessing, tracking and evaluating players, not by how much they can lift in the gym (though this is clearly important), but by how they play the game. The selection committee would look to identify partnerships (like how about a centre partnership that actually plays in their club positions and was not thrown together in panic a week befotre the start of the RWC). The committee would also ensure it knew the players well off the field. They need to know what makes them tick. Could they hack it at international level, or will they flake out in the first half of a quarter final against a pathetically weak French side? This selection committee would need to report regularly to the England coaching team and the RFU CEO. It is a formal position, not one that can be done over a few beers in the Wandsworth Ship Inn.

None of the above is rocket science is it. But it does not happen now. And I have not even touched on the relationship with the clubs. Maybe there is time for another post...

Hey ho.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Martin Johnson - the chickens are coming home to roost

For Martin Johnson, the end of this world cup cannot come soon enough. For he simply needs to be put out of his misery and England desperately need a new coaching team that has a vague inkling about what it is doing.

The Argentina game was a shambles. A predictable disgrace and the blame can be firmly placed at the foot of Johnson and his useless staff.

As always, let me start by saying Johnson was a great player. Arguably our finest. And a wonderful, inspirational captain. But as I have already said and explained in previous blogs, being a great player does not make you a great coach. Johnson has been badly, badly found out. Heads must toll at the RFU for choosing Johnson. No question they bowed to media pressure and the likes of the morons in the MSM like Stephen Jones, Chris Foy and Mick Cleary.

Johnson had zero, ZERO coaching experience. How on EARTH he was deemed to qualify for the highest coaching role in the land is anyone's guess. But picked he was. And he was given the brief to build a side capable of winning the world cup.

Well I'm sorry, but Johnson has failed miserably. And the Argentina game encapsulates exactly why.

His stated captain, Lewis Moody was not even on the pitch - he was injured, as any follower of the game will know. Moody for all his many strengths, is injury prone and will never, ever last a world cup. He should never have made the squad and making him captain was a foolish error.

Andrew Sheridan has been injured for months. Yet he was picked and EXACTLY as The Chairman predicted (see earlier blogs), he is now on the first flight home. I feel sorry for the bloke. He is clearly a good lad and when firing (which sadly is never enough) is a good player (though again as I have oft stated he will always be found out by technically superior props who do not give away significant strength). Sheridan's departure is a terrible indictmet of Johnson's clueless selection policy. When this commentator can quite clearly accurately predict Sheridan would not last a world cup, how can the man in charge on 350k? He needs to take responsibility for his actions.

The starting winger for the England game was a player who never plays there. One assumes he knows how to play the position, but at London Irish, Armitage playes full back, and very occasionally OC. I know this. Why doesn't Johnson? He picked a player playing out of position.

Our starting openside, arguably the most critical position on the pitch, was a player who does not play there for his club. Haskell playes blindside or No. 8 for Stade. This is simple fact. Yet Johnson, due to his rank attempt at selection, didnt have a specialist openside to call on. Not even Moody is a specialist openside for god's sake. So Johnson has selected a squad in which there is not one specialist openeside flanker. And he still draws his salary?

I have not got the energy to moan about the centre partnership again, but just to remind people, Johnson cobbled this together 2 weeks ago in pure desperation. An ageing slow Tindall asked to play out of position (is there a theme emerging here perchance?) next to a Samoan 20 year old with 20 first class games under his belt.

Is this acceptable to you? This is pre-schoolboy stuff - asking the big lad to play OC in the hope he may scare some of the opposition. Its embarrassing. This is international rugby where opposition players to not scare easily. We need an IC centre who can pass and an OC who has a teeny bit of experience and who preferably doesnt want to play for a different country. Should Tindall get injured, who replaces him? A kiwi reject who is even slower and even less creative. Hape is nowhere near, NOWHERE NEAR international class. Johnson furiously defending the player was really about defending himself wasnt it? Johnson has been badly caught out.

A lot of people keep shouting at the Chairman to come up with solutions - to pick his own team.

"Come on then Mr Chairman - who would you pick?" they scream from behind their keyboards.

But they fundamentally and embarrassingly miss the point. I am not paid 350k a year to do it. I have not been coaching England for 3 years, tasked with finding a suitable combination in the centre to help england achieve something. And its not about what I think. I am criticising Johnson's inept coaching and even worse, strategically redundant selection policy.

Some of the Chairman's readers say it is not Johnson's job to create centres out of nowhere. Of course its not you DOLTS. Johnson's job is to find the right combinations and develop them at the international level, ideally more than 2 weeks ahead of a world cup.

ANY premiership player is capable of playing international rugby. This is a simple fact. Johnson's job is to find the right combination - one which works together, players who complement each other. I can't say who they are at the moment, can I? I have not ben tasked for 3 years with finding this combination. Johnson should have done this 2 years ago. But he didnt. He ended up panicking due to his own incompetence and picking a player out of position and a 20 year old Samoan.

I have used cricket as a good example of a proper selection strategy. The cricket selectors are now getting the consistency needed for international selection. Some england payers have dodgy county records. But the selectors see through bare statistics to find combinations that work. Its a science. Johnson just thought he could roll up and look menacing and suddenly England would win a game. Well its a bit more complciated isnt Mart? His arrogance offends me. He should never have taken the job and he is being found out. But he couldnt turn down the wage could he? I dont blame him.

How about the second rows? Lawes is a youth. His losing his head v Argentina was predictable - again I blame Johnson. Second rows need real depth of experience. An ability to read the game and take the right action at the right time. They dont need to be kneeing players on the head. They also, I would argue, need to be sure of their place in their club side. Louis Deacon? Please.

I'd like to see a winger who is fast. Call me old fashioned but that is my first requirement for a wing. It seems to work well for every other country. By picking Cueto and leaving Simpson Daniel, Sharples, Benjamin and former bloody Lion Monye at home shows the rank incompetence of the man. Watching Cueto play, having to cut inside every time is frankly dispiriting.

I like my SHs to be able to pass without taking 2 steps. Johnson appears not to mind, so he picked Care.

I like my back rows to be fit. So he picked Nick Easter, who isnt, unless it escaped your notice.

The Argentina game was an embarrassmsnt. The Argies are not the team they were 4 years ago and are missing some of their best players, while others are clearly ageing. Yet time and time again, England were slow to the breakdown, gave away silly penalties, offered NOTHING in the backs and nothing going forward. They were confused, slow, a rabble. They looked like they had just been put together, which given Johnons haphazard selection policy, they basically had.

It is too painful to watch. Of course England will beat Romania, Georgia and Scotland. Its not hard is it. Even this England shambles will get past these minnows. But come the knock out rounds and England's total ineptitude under this god-awful coach will be fully exposed.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some thoughts on New Zealand and the World Cup

I have long given the kiwis grief. Which is odd really. I love the country. I have many kiwi mates. A beautiful place with, in the main, friendly people. A country which punches above its weight and which despite its youth (my house is many many years older than New Zealand) deservedly has real national pride.


I cannot stand their arrogant attitude to rugby. Their sense of entitlement. The ridiculous posturing of their players and the rank and hateful attitude of their rugby fans. Their picking and choosing of pacific island players but offering no support in return.

Ask any former pro where they hate touring most and it will be New Zealand, for the relentless hostile attitude towards the mother country and the myopic rugby fans littering the otherwise deserted country. Their ability to apparently cheat at will with offsides and forward passes and a desire to win at all costs which clearly affects the integrity of the game in New Zealand and its officials. Yes, I am saying New Zealand officials cheat (step forward the hateful, belongs in jail Steve Walsh).

Mostly, I can never, EVER forgive the whole kiwi attitde towards the Lions and the quite deliberate taking out of BOD by that hired goon Tana Umaga. The most hateful incident in the history of the game. In fact, just thinking of that game now and the whole tour, gives me heart palpitations. The kiwis need the Lions more than the Lions need the kiwis. But the Lions were faced with hate, aggression and bare faced foul play at every turn. The whole tour was a disgrace for which New Zealand rugby will forever be held in my contempt.

And I have not even started on the bloody "haka" yet.

I simply dont have the energy to write about it. It has already been all over the bloody UK press. We cant get away from it. This grotesque macabre dance, with less cultutral credibility than a Morris Dance. A sponsored choreographed insult to both the teams which are forced, yes forced by IRB regulations to stand and watch 20 grown men shout and spit in their faces, and to the culture it claims to represent.

The pure spine tingling arrogance of the kiwis who insist on the opposing team standing there compliant while they are screamed at and dont let them do anything in return, lest they sulk and go and do the pointless dance in the underground carpark of the stadium, to a blank wall, thereby rendering the entire thing even more pointless than it was before.

The haka is an abomination. A fully paid up creation of the Addidas brand. Souped up by Wayne Shelford and refined further by McCaw, a second generation kiwi with as much Maori blood as me. Laced in bogus myth and politically corect Maori mumbo jumbo, the haka is an irrelevant insult to the history of New Zealand. And the morons like the monosyllabic Nonu, seeking to find insult in even the most benign of responses to the haka personify the problem.

The kiwis have been given a sense of entitlement in the game that no other team in no other sport can match. And the haka is the worst of it. This nonsense that it is part of the game is patently untrue. Its only been around in its current form for a matter of years. Check youtube for how it used to look before Shelford go hold of it. Its not traditional. Its a waste of time. A tourist trap gone global. When Brian Moore writes he enjoyed the "challenge" or whatever crap he comes up with, he writes it out of fear of offending. How can anyone enjoy being shouted at? Its farcial. It makes Rugby look like a joke.

"Ah yes Chairman, but its all part of the theatre of sport"

No its not. If rugby has to rely on a bunch of preening buffoons like Piri Weepu screaming for 5 minutes while his colleagues kneel down holding their forearm (bizarre) before the start of an international match, then the game really is in trouble. Frankly we should just knock it on the head.

"well its standard in schools - they do it before all school matches and everything Chairman"

This is also a lie. Hakas have been introduced at school level in the past 5 years. It was never done before it became this giant it has become under the current Kiwi leadership. A combination of superb marketing and the overwhelming political correctness of the kiwis, hand wringing and desperate not to offend. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous? Watching pre-pubescent kiddies doing a haka before a game of football? This is what happens now, all in the name of political correctness.

"well opposing teams need to face the challenge"

What drivel. Sing your anthem and kick off. Play rugby. Dont waste my time having to watch grown men prance about doing throat slit gestures or sticking out their tongues like a gurning 1980s clubber. Its not a challenge. Its a one way street, as demanded by the kiwis. Do as they say, or they'll run off and sulk.

And yet. And yet...

Despite all this, I can safely say the kiwis will win the world cup and they damn well deserve to. They are the best team by MILES. As the every excellent Brendan Gallagher in the Telegraph today reports, there are 45 kiwi players in the world cup, NOT in the NZ side. That is incredible for a nation of over 4 million people. About the same population as that cesspit of hate, Birmingham.

The kiwis are frighteningly good. They (and I simply do not undersand how this is the case) are bigger, stronger, faster, fitter than every other country. How do they do this? How do they consistently produce this extraordinary convyer belt of outrageous talent? I've been to NZ many times. Auckland is deserted. There is no one there. A few teeny tiny Chinese students learning English. Where on earth do all the rugby players live?

This is a tiny country, which has proved to be the best team in the game every year. A combination of bad luck and poor decision making has cost them the last 4 world cups, but it wont happen again. I dont buy this whole "chokers" tag which the Aussies have unwisely attached to them (by the bloody sports minister no less!). They are just too good. And much as I am already dreading the final, when we are sure to see hundreds of maori folk in fancy dress prancing round the pitch doing hakas, the kiwis will deserve to win this tournament and I will offer them my congratulations.

Monday, August 29, 2011

GB Athletics - Heads simply must roll

Halfway through the world championships, and what a thoroughly disgraceful performance by the lamentable british contingent.

There is a cultural problem with GB athletes, which for me at least, is symptomatic (and symbolic) of a much wider british cultural malaise. The performances of the British athletes at these championships has been an utter disgrace. They should have funding pulled and given to those who do give a monkeys.

Let me start with that lanky weed Martyn Rooney. This is the idiot who refuses to take off those ridiculous shades every time he runs, no matter how stupid it makes him look. A runner who at his best is good at European level and can get under 45 seconds. Well last night, he jogged over the line in over 46. He GAVE UP. That is club level. It is a disgrace he is paid for this dirge. He was flown, at MY expense to Korea only to serve up that. A shambolic, careless performance. Cut him.

But this is really just scratching the surface. Poor old Dwain Chambers falls victim to the ridiculous one strike and you are out rule. Lisa Dobriskey fails dismally. Mo Farah, for whom I have a lot of time as he has clearly improved dramatically in the past year, sadly showed why he will never, ever win a global gold medal. There will always, always, be someone with a faster kick than him.

I can go on. The utterly ridiculous Christine Ohurougu. Save us the waterworks Christine. You are a disgrace. That false start was pathetic, and possibly planned. Ohurougu's 2007-8 performances are starting to look very, very shady indeed. She cannot now even break 53 seconds. She has no place on an international running track. I am sick of the sight of her frankly, dragging her heavy legs around the track and almost coming to a standstill at 350 metres. Jesus - I assume she manages to complete the odd 400m in training? There is always, always an excuse. Some random "injury" or other. She should be put out to graze as there is no way, NO WAY, she will get into an Olympic final. Cut her.

Its not that these athletes do not win gold medals. That really would be harsh. Its that they have failed to get even close to their PBs. At a major championship, there is simply no excuse for that. These people should go out and get a proper job and stop scrounging off the national lottery. If they are unable to show improvement or potential, then why should they receive funding of any sort? The list of national lottery scroungers in the GB team is vast, and captained by Ohurougu.

Marlon Devonsih will never, ever be able to reach a world final. He is not even close to breaking 10 seconds. So get rid of him. Holly Bleasdale didnt even record a height in the pole vault. And then we have Lee Connell, that weirdo Scotch woman, who lollops around the track like a shire horse. Sorry, but she is plain rubbish.

Like so many of the ageing GB team, she is going through the motions. Enjoying the life of the athlete, with foreign training camps, glamorous venues and the fact they dont need to go to an office every day, but failing to meet their side of the bargain - improve. Connell is using her funding as a get out clause from real life and it simply must stop. We all know, she will never, ever make a global final. In fact, Connell wont even make a euro/commonwealth final. Yet there she is in a GB tracksuit having a wail of a time and no doubt looking forward to getting pissed in the Olympic village next year.

GB athletics needs a top to bottom overhaul. The huge acerage of deadwood needs to be chopped, so funding and training facilities can be focused on those with the will and talent not to abuse it. Step forward the wonderful Jessica Ennis.

An absolute disgrace.

UPDATE: Oh no. Now Ennis has caught the bug. A shambolic performance in the javelin. I am crushed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A farcical England Rugby squad

So Johnson has finally selected his squad. Regular readers will know my general thoughts on the quality, or lack thereof, in this dismal squad. It is laughably bad. The worst world cup squad in living memory. A squad devoid of a basic backbone, of speed, of flair, creativity and one creaking at the seams due to patently unready members. For all this, I blame Martin Johnson, who is now sinking into the mire of his own arrogance and incompetence.

Before I attract the ire of too many readers, I have no personal axe to grind with the man. What a wonderful player he was, but the qualities he brought as a player are simply not translating into the coaching world. Of course we know he was patently unqualified for the job and was ultimately selected by the media while the RFU itself was disintegrating.

Johnson's qualities as a player were a single-mindedness, refusal to compromise, a one track approach to the game.

It is precisely these same qualities that has lead him to get himself into the shithole he now finds himself. A refusal to compromise has lead him to sticking with the beyond useless Hape and Tindall. The same single mindedness means he picks liablities like Moody and Sheridan. And his one track approach to the game means no place for true high quality players like Simpson Daniel.

His strengths as a player are his weaknesses as a coach. It is as simple as that.

A fit and firing Youngs, Moody and Sheridan will of course get into the England first team. But they are not fit. As sure as night follows day, Moody will get injured in the first game and will be fit again if England make the semis. Sheridan, as I have oft stated, the most delicate man mountain in the world game will never, ever last a world cup, let alone a full game.

But Youngs' selection is even more disgraceful. The bloke has not played a minutes' rugby in months. He is recovering from shoulder surgery. His form dropped dramatically before he was operated on. And for this, he makes the England team? Johnson needs his head examined. It is a disgrace that Youngs has been selected for the RWC squad in his current state.

The squad is full of players picked on hope. MJ hopes Moody will be fit. He hopes Youngs will recover. He hopes that yob Tuilagi (it sticks in my throat to see him playing for England) will suddenly develop into a world class centre at the age of 20, one season in to his premiership career. He hopes, somehow that Hape/Tindall will be able to strong more than one pass together and Cueto may find his way to the line.

This reliance on hope shows Johnson has failed. He has failed to develop a squad worth the name. He has failed to pick the right players and failed to find a midfield capable of finding the tryline.

This litancy of failure is sadly symbolic of the decline of rugby lead by its spineless governing body. The sooner we have a clear out in the post world cup inevitable disaster, the better.

I am dreading the Ireland game.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shanaze Reade wins a race!

So, a week or so after finding yet more excuses for failing to win a race, despite being the most lavishly funded female bike rider in the world ("err, my pedal slipped"), the ever lovely "Shanaze" Reade has actually won a race - the Olympic test event in London. Well done Shazza.

She then has the temerity to moan about the track. As usual, our Shaz appears to have forgotten her manners, innit.

But honestly. BMX? BMX? Is this a joke. If I wanted to watch a bunch of tattooed/teenage yobbos ride their push bikes round a field or up a small hill, I'd go to any council estate in our hellhole country. That BMX is deemed an Olympic sport, while a game such as squash is not, is not just absurd and ridiculous, it is offensive.

And as for Shanaze, I am sick of the site of her. She is pathetic. She falls apart at the first sign of pressure and competition. There is no way she will win gold in the Olympics, if she even manages to reach the final of this ridiculous sport, where if you are first going into the first corner you win. Every single time (go on, watch it). Its scandalous she gets the exposure she does, for being a serial under achiever in a ludicrous "sport", while proper sportsmen (like squash players for example, or kayakers etc.) scrabble around trying to get sponsorship.

What a farce.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Chairman knows best VI

I hate to say it, but 2 days after the Chairman's diatride over the disintegration of English society, yobbos smashed various city centres to smithereens making off with a nice plasma TV. A few days after my rant at the rancid quality of England rugby, they were thoroughly humiliated by a very, very mediocre Welsh team. Admittedly, my call on Stuart Broad has goen badly wrong, but this does not change the fact that...

the Chairman knows best.