I almost choked on my Orange Pekoe tea – FA Chairman David Bernstein, no less, pleading that I manage the England football team, albeit warming the seat for ’Arry! Followers of my meanderings know that ’Arry is my ’ero. I tipped him for the England job last year.
I now unfold my England masterplan. I need to bring back the joy, the flair, the imagination, the élan, the culture, the awe. Restore the showboat that’s been missing, yet thrives in Spain, France and Holland. I shall rinse out stolid pragmatism, instil self-belief. Bulldozing footie will be binned.
My players will sit with me to watch Singin’ in the Rain and revel in Gene Kelly’s dancing. My boys are still boys, cherubic youths who thirst for glory. They’ll dance with the ball at their feet, play to feet, to space, treating the ball as a lover. Imagine that ball as Angelina Jolie!
So, you say, give us your world beaters.
In goal: Joe Hart. We share the same window-cleaner. Kyle Walker at right back, a mercurial flyer. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling my centre halves: intelligent, at ease on the ball. Ashley Cole at left back, he’s been there, done it, and swapped T-shirts with Angelina.
Steve Gerrard is captain and right-side midfield, beside the vastly talented Tom Cleverley and Rob Roy’s Peter Pan Paul Scholes or the stalwart Scottie Parker.
Wayne Rooney is world-class, revels in pure footie, loves being in the hole, and dwells up the road from me. Daniel Sturridge and Ashley Young complete the team: searing pace, youthful precocity, enormous self-confidence, unfazed by global names.
My back-up squad oozes class. Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain, Daniel Defoe, Jack Rodwell, Danny Welbeck, James Milner, Andy Carroll (for Plan B, if you must).
My secret weapon is motivation. I shall deploy the amputee servicemen who rowed the Atlantic, an inspirational bunch of guys, for my Henry V team talk. Boy, will they light up my team. Bring on the Dutch, then the French, and finally the Spaniards. Then, ’Arry — they’re all yours.
Exit, pursued by a bear, waving a flag of St George!
England v Netherlands is on tonight at 7.30pm (k/o 8pm) ITV1 (not STV), 7pm BBC Radio 5 Live
This is an edited version of an article in the issue of Radio Times magazine published 21 February 2012.