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.