Sunday, 20 November 2011

So, Farwell (for now) Martin Johnson

Oh dear, it really didn't work out at all. If ever proof were needed that generalship and strategy are entirely different from leadership and execution, here it is.

No-one expects a manager to be able to cover all the bases himself, and Heaven knows the RFU can afford as big a coaching team as it needs. So he's no tactician ? Hire one. Doesn't know back play ? Get a specialist. etc etc.

But ... he does have to be able either (a) to select players, and then frame the strategy to suit the chosen team, or (b) devise a strategy, and select accordingly. And in particular he needs to be able to pick a captain - he of all people should know that.

Instead (to take just one example) England has a tremendous pool of back-row talent, and no coherent back row: compare and contrast with the one that was driving Johnson's arse forward all those years. Oh, and no captain. Whatever Moody's undisputed talents and bravery - leading from the front, fine, but - being permanently face-down in the mud after yet another over-the-top solo charge doesn't really do the job.

Whatever Clive Woodward imagines, the 2003 World Cup belongs exclusively to Johnson; and no-one can take that away from him. He's still a thoughtful and deeply knowledgeable sportsman. The very best of luck for whatever's next.

ND

11 comments:

Waterman said...

The pressure to remove Johnson came primarily from the sponsors leaning on Rob Andrew. The drunken antics, the hotel "incident" and more, all were clashing with the clean image the sponsors wanted to present. Johnson thought the behaviour was ok, the sponsors thought otherwise and a form of corporate morality imposed itself.

BigBadBank said...

He never had a strategy or a settled squad, let alone a team, as you say, but the worst thing was he always blamed the players. I wouldn't work for a manager like that.

Elby the Beserk said...

There is a long history of football clubs, having sacked a manger, then doing it on the cheap by appointing an ex-player as the new manager.

I would say it works about one time in ten. I'm not a big rugby bod (unlike my older brother who spent the whole of the World Cup in NZ, and copped 27 games along the way), but I felt from early on that MJ wasn't up to the job. And so it proved. Not to mention the fact that the RFU is a shambles. As are most of the sporting bodies, it seems.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

He always struck me as a thoughtless unintelligent thuggish bruiser as a player; it is one of the wonders of modern rugby he barely picked up a card. His Leicester teams played one-dimensional attritional rugby and he took the same approach into international rugby as a boss. I never understood his appointment in the first place. You take a man with no coaching skills or experience but tremendous powers of physical intimidation and expect him to work wonders? Pah.

However it strikes me the real villain of the piece is Rob Andrew. Macavity, that man.

The Lakelander said...

I've always thought that he had more than a passing resemblance to one of those famous twins from the Ozark Mountains but without their charisma.

dearieme said...

"And in particular he needs to be able to pick a captain": good God, why? In professional rugby the captain may be as unimportant as in professional soccer: it's not cricket we're discussing. Even in amateur days, my experience was that the skipper was often less important on the pitch than the pack leader and the half-backs. Often his main contribution was to collect the money to buy the opposition's jugs of beer.

James Higham said...

This happens in many codes and in the Australian game, it's often the lesser backman, rather than the star who becomes the best manager.

Respect is not enough - he has to know how to lead, as you say. MJ seemed to be that unfortunate combination - a disciplinarian in one way but allowing too much to go on in others.

Anonymous said...

So it appears skills in dwarf-throwing aren't required in "elite" rugby! Who knew?

dearieme said...

Well, anon, if he did it overarm it might be useful training for a hooker.

Laban said...

Wales supporters are incurably optimistic - three wins on the trot and it's the return of the 70s every time.

England supporters are the other way round. If you go to the BBC sport report of their 2003 win over Wales (3 Welsh tries to one, but Jones missed a few early kicks and Wilkinson kicked 23 points, mostly penalties gained by English forward dominance) you'll see a comment from an England supporter to the effect of "Useless England yet again, saved by Jonny's boot" - this at a time when England had beaten every team in the world in the previous nine months and were as good as I've ever seen them in 40 years.

Elby the Beserk said...

Lakelander

I thought they were high veld boers? i.e. had no-one but brothers and sisters to breed with for generations?