- 29 May 08, 07:57 AM
I'm off to Trinidad today to commentate on England's friendly for BBC One this weekend. I'm not complaining, but this is a game that shouldn't be happening. England should be heading for the Euros not the Caribbean.
While Fabio Capello's boys are getting down to some serious PR on behalf of England's 2018 World Cup bid, back in Europe there are 16 squads hard at work preparing for the big kick-off in Austria and Switzerland.
How on earth did we miss out?
I'm hardly the first person to conclude that the die was fatally cast when Steve McClaren was appointed as Sven-Goran Eriksson's successor.
But I'd go further. I think our fate was sealed the instant they overlooked the one man who would surely have taken England cruising past all-comers to the Finals, the one man who ticks all the boxes the Football Association could possibly want ticking.
That man is Chelsea's not-so-dearly departed Avram Grant.
Think about it. After Sven, the FA needed a scandal-free appointment. And old Avram is almost certainly what those members of the FA's international committee would call a safe pair of trousers.
We are assured he is happily married. But frankly, even if he wasn't, the idea of any fledgling Faria or Ulrika throwing themselves at his feet in the lifts of Soho Square is preposterous. There must be limits to how much fame, money and power can cloud a woman's eyesight.
Don't forget that Grant had already been an international manager, albeit with an almost directly inverse record to McClaren's. With Israel, Avram overachieved with a group of underrated players. With England, McClaren underachieved with the overrated.
Consider, too, what a fantastic antidote that grizzled, hangdog demeanour would have been to what we actually got; the McClaren grin, an expression that barely flickered from the insanely cheerful however pear-shaped things were going on the pitch.
It was a smile so fixed it seemed to have been cemented there by an accidental leak of Fixodent. That is until the rain came at Wembley and poor Steve stood clinging to his umbrella, like some amateur-hour Mary Poppins, hoping for a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
England 2-3 Croatia. It takes strong teeth to chew through that one.
Last week, as Grant's pain unfolded in Moscow, I was in Bielefeld, northern Germany. I'd been sent there to interview some of the Turkish squad based nearby.
Watching the Champions League final in the amusingly-named Der Wunder Bar, I was joined by four fellow travellers from Holland. Wanting to break the latest football gossip to my new Utrecht-supporting friends, I asked if they'd heard the news that McClaren was a candidate to take over as manager of Dutch side and Champions League qualifiers FC Twente?
"Steve McClaren?" asked one. "Who he?"
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