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Barwick shrugs off talk of failure

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Mihir Bose | 09:06 UK time, Thursday, 31 January 2008

You may think Brian Barwick, the Football Association chief executive who completes three years in the job today, does not have much to celebrate.

Under his watch, England have failed to qualify for a major championships for the first time since the 1994 failure to reach the World Cup in the USA.

Yet the Barwick I interviewed at Wembley against a backdrop of a lovingly-tended pitch could not have appeared more relaxed. Indeed, he was a lot more relaxed than I have seen him in recent times.

Nor for that matter could he have appeared more determined to assert that, despite the failure to get to Euro 2008, his reign has not only been longer than those of his predecessors but, according to him, a much bigger success.

After all, the three men who preceded him all left under a cloud. Mark Palios quit over the scandal surrounding Faria Alam, Adam Crozier lost out in a power struggle with the Premier League, while Graham Kelly departed following the cash-for-votes row with the Welsh.

Before the interview, one of the questions 606 website users wanted me to ask Barwick was why he did not resign following that dismal performance against Croatia last November.

He said he did not feel he deserved to lose his job. Nor in fact was he willing to accept that the appointment of Steve McClaren was a mistake or that the selection process - which had seen the FA interview several candidates and even chase Luiz Felipe Scolari - was in any way wrong.

As Barwick sees it, McClaren was simply the victim of events.

Barwick's bullishness stems from the fact that his three years have witnessed dramatic and, what he sees as, positive changes to the way the FA is run, namely the appointment of a new independent chairman.


He has also found a ready replacement for McClaren in Fabio Capello, a world-class coach.

Barwick refused to explicitly set Capello the task of winning the 2010 World Cup, emphasising more the base requirement of qualification. But if anything like the reported sum of £40m is on offer as an incentive if Capello can win major tournaments, Barwick was quick to point out that he had negotiated such lucrative television deals for the FA that it could expect to earn £1bn over the next three years.

Barwick was more circumspect about whether England players who transgress off the pitch should not be selected. Should, I asked him, the likes of Ashley Cole or John Terry, whose private lives are splashed across the tabloids, be chosen to represent their country?

He replied that players did have a responsibility to behave themselves and be role models, but said that selection wasn't something he should get involved with. He did, however, admit that, along with Sir Trevor Brooking, he had talked to Capello about the special role of the England captain.

His most curious comment came when I asked him about the "root and branch" review, he and the FA promised on the morning after the Croatia defeat.

When I asked him about its progress, Barwick spoke of a "front-to-back" approach. The Capello appointment was to fix the front end. The longer-term backroom work was still to be done and, with the arrival of a new chairman, had been put back to the autumn. It will be interesting to see the results and implications of this review if and when it ever emerges.

Barwick recognises that while Capello may prove an excellent short-term fix, the longer-term challenges of generating better players and coaches to groom them need to be tackled.

How well he addresses those problems will ultimately determine how his reign at Soho Square will be judged.

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