I know exactly who the next England football manager should be – and he’s a teacher at our school. Teachers in schools across the land will know someone similar on their staff – colleagues who could do the job superbly and who would redefine it in beautiful ways – and who would only ask for perhaps a sixtieth of the current £3 million-a-year wage. They might even settle for less than that, given that it’s part-time and they could still manage two or three days a week of teaching.
So come on, the FA. Here is a unique opportunity to turn this increasingly sleazy game around. Here is your chance to make a magnificent statement, to make an appointment that would start to take football back to something more wholesome and grounded.
My own favoured nomination loves the game and has a deep understanding of it, too. He is way ahead of the rest of us in this latter respect. We might similarly adore the game and faithfully howl and bellow in sympathy and support of our team (in my case Leeds United), but we never begin to see the game in the way he does. We don’t really understand all the tactics, the positioning, the significance of the formations. In fact, some of us still cling on to the idea that sheer traditional Yorkshire grit will somehow propel our team back to the top one day.
'Give our beleaguered profession a boost'
But he “gets it”. He can tell whether a player is off-form or whether he is simply being asked to do the wrong things. He can spot where a team is going wrong and what they should try to do instead. He calls it right every time – or nearly every time. He even predicted the result of the England-Iceland calamity.
He can read the game but – even more importantly, perhaps, for the England job – he would inspire and motivate players, just as he does with his pupils, colleagues and parents. There is immense humour and a complete down-to-earth honesty in all that he does. His self-deprecating manner might initially surprise and wrong-foot those millionaire footballers but within minutes of calling his first squad together I am sure that he would command respect and instil great loyalty and motivation. The media, too, would be wholly disarmed by his sharp wit, combined with a calm and easy manner – this is a man wholly comfortable in his own skin and entirely uninterested in money or self-glorification.
Does that sound like a teaching friend of yours, too? Of course it does. Our profession is loaded with people with highly transferable skills but who happen to be driven by other personal goals. The FA would not only be doing the image of football a huge favour in appointing a teacher as the new England manager; it would also be a magnificent and timely gesture of appreciation and respect towards our own brilliant but beleaguered profession.
Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire
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