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Anorak | Ding But No Dong

Ding But No Dong

by | 6th, September 2002

”’THIS is a ding, rather than a ding-dong,” said an FA spokesman. He was referring to the latest clash between England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fans celebrate as Sven issues an invitation to play to anyone who has an England shirt, own ball and wants to

The intention, presumably, was to indicate that the whole thing was a storm in a teacup. The effect was rather different. Whereas a ding-dong suggests a two-way battle, full of cut-and-thrust, a ”ding” suggests a knockout inside two seconds. And no prizes for guessing the winner.

Eriksson may have initially put Sir Alex on the back foot by whisking David Beckham off to Dubai midway through the metatarsal saga, but Fergie landed a killer punch this week and Eriksson and the FA are still reeling.

When Sven sat in the directors’ box and watched the ”unfit” (and unavailable) Paul Scholes zipping about like a demon in a United shirt, he must have felt utterly humiliated. When Beckham was taken off in the final minute with a dodgy calf, and consequently withdrawn from the England squad, insult was added to injury.

Beckham’s injury is by all accounts genuine, but the symbolic damage has been done. Ferguson has stuck two fingers up at Eriksson and the Football Association, and the club v country ”debate” is once again in full swing.

In Ferguson’s defence, no-one can blame him for wanting to protect his players. And his attitude to friendlies is shared by the other top managers, such as Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier, both of whom count out their players and count them back in again every time the international fixtures come around, hoping that their boys will return intact.

Even without injuries, there is the physical and mental strain of international duty. It is the other side of the same coin that Eriksson worries about when he complains about the demands of the Premiership.

Nor is their anything new about Fergie’s policy. For decades, managers of leading clubs have operated an unofficial quota system, allowing two selected players to go on England duty and keeping two back. Eriksson’s problem is that he has inadvertently brought the issue into the open – albeit with a little help from Fergie. He has raised the call-up issue, but undermined his own case with his complaints about fixture congestion.

Given that he can’t hope to win either battle, he would have done better to keep lines of communication open with the top managers and relied on their co-operation. Now he will lose face by backing down or pursuing a doomed war against the financially powerful clubs who hold the all cards.



Posted: 6th, September 2002 | In: Back pages Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink