I’ve seen 18 different England managers during my career,” sighs BBC commentator John Motson, who at 71 is well into his 53rd season of watching football for a living.
“If you look at the list of England managers, it makes bewildering reading. Walter Winterbottom, the first ever, was there from 1946 until 1962. Now look at the time span of the people who came after.”
When Sam Allardyce left his post, Alan Shearer called England the “laughing stock” of world football. Was that fair?
I’m not so sure about the laughing stock. There have been times when English football officials have looked at Fifa and Uefa and pointed the finger – quite reasonably given what we’ve heard – at Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.
In that sense, there is an underlying culture in football in general where people are trying to make an awful lot of money for themselves over and above what they should be being paid.
Does what football has become worry you?
Yes, it does. Everybody says they’re shocked [by the recent scandal exposed in The Daily Telegraph], but people are aware that there has been a culture underground in football.
I think the agents are a serious cause of that, and the FA have to bring in some new rules to police, if that’s the right word, some of the activities that agents and so-called advisers seem to be exerting on managers. I don’t think this [Sam Allardyce’s downfall] would have happened if agents and financial advisers had not been involved.
Why do you think this is happening now?
This has been going on for some time, but there are degrees of it. I think the flood of money that has come into the game this last two or three years, particularly the overseas television deals for the Premier League, means that people are looking at the global market.
That was what that sting set up to talk to Sam Allardyce was about. The English game is so widely admired across the world now, so seen across the world – I think that opens the door to all sorts of people who might want to get their fingers in the pie who don’t necessarily come from or operate in this country.
I think there’s an awful lot of networking that goes on, and it isn’t all necessarily above board. But that doesn’t start and finish with Sam Allardyce; that’s a cancer affecting the game worldwide.
How does the England team stay focused on the World Cup qualifiers?
Somehow or other the game has to get itself back on its feet. Particularly regarding the England team, there has to be a positive line somewhere. It’s hard to say that just after what’s happened, but what does occur to me is that the game against Malta on Saturday is almost a gift for Gareth Southgate.
Is Southgate a genuine long-term prospect?
Well, they’ve given him four games! If he shows he’s got the capability and, as always in football, gets the results, I think he would have a very good chance of getting the job permanently. If things go horribly wrong in Slovenia or at home to Scotland, then at least the FA have given themselves a breathing space because the next qualifier isn’t until March.
There isn’t a wide pool of candidates and if it isn’t Gareth Southgate, then they have to make a difficult decision. If they stay English, the choices are very limited.
And if they don’t?
Does Arsène Wenger come into the reckoning? There are a lot of people at the FA who would have liked to have hired Wenger even before they gave the job to Allardyce. Wenger has always been insistent on fulfilling his Arsenal contract, but that runs out at the end of the season, and after 20 seasons Wenger might say his job is done there.
In which case, he is an international figure, he speaks perfect English and watches everything that moves on the continent. Having been in the Premier League for all that time, I think he would certainly be a candidate.
World Cup Qualifier: England v Malta is on Sat 4.30pm (k/o 5pm) ITV, 5pm Radio 5 Live
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