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Roker Ramble: Crisis? What Crisis?

Big coats, tricky questions, and elderly white men - it's the Roker Ramble!

Arsenal v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

A week is a long time in football, politics, work - I can’t remember, but it’s all true.

Take last week for instance - there was Jurgen Klopp, hugging indiscriminately and beaming about how they’d snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. ‘Defeat’, he inferred, was an occasional occupational hazard on an otherwise seamless journey of beautiful football towards the ultimate goal.

One week on and our man was starting to sound like every other European manager with a treatment room full of injuries, a slew of fixtures coming up against teams that actually want to compete, dark nights, cold pitches and no winter break to look forward to. Welcome to England mate. No more luvvy–duvvy hugs now – he was incensed at the refereeing decisions not to award his side a penalty or two, and he railed against the Neville brothers (I used to have one of their albums - seriously) for criticising his goalkeeper, who, it has to be said, was pretty useless again (but so good looking – he’s like a young Flash Gordon – that must count for something?).

Anyway – when will these managers learn how to deal with the British press? Take Pep for instance, last week with his side having lost a second game in a row, he was asked about tackling:

I’m not coaching tackles. I’m not training for tackles … what’s a tackle?

When your team have won only four out of their previous fifteen matches and with all the resources that are available to them, the media want straight answers to straight questions. If you answer with some ethereal conceptual claptrap that insinuates the questioner is on a lower intellectual plain than oneself, then you’re going to be in for a long hard winter.

I get the impression that British journalists like their answers like they like their football - straight, simple and to the point, and perhaps the sooner some managers realise that, the better for them?

Elsewhere this week, in a letter to Parliament it was held that the reform of the FA was being frustrated by -

...some 25 life vice-presidents on the FA Council – all elderly white men – who do not represent anyone but block even the most minor of changes.

The accusation was made, surprisingly, by five elderly white men, three of whom used to be FA Chairman (although not at the same time), which begs the question - why didn’t they sort it out when they were in charge? One of the elderly five, and the most outspoken, is Greg Dyke and I’ve never understood how he ended up as FA Chairman in the first place.

He’s a journalist and broadcaster and former Director General of the BBC. He also has an honorary doctorate from the University of Sunderland - but we give them to anyone. How does all this, impressive as it may be, qualify him for a move into becoming Chairman of the FA? And perhaps with this background, it’s no wonder that he didn’t sort out the elderly white men when he had the chance.

Now I don’t know the ins and outs of the argument, and quite frankly life's too short, but if the directors of an institution put their own interests above that of the organisation - and I don’t care if it’s British football, British Tennis or British Home Stores - then it’s time for change.

Not so’ says Arsène Wenger, who’s taken quite an interest in the matter. However, in the wider Arsène world, the good news is that his coat is getting even bigger - he now looks like he’s wearing a sleeping bag.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The bad news, for him at least, is that his season is about to end by being knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern in the last sixteen - as usual, and by crashing and burning in the fixture congestion and cold dark nights of the mid-winter Premier League.

But he's adamant against change within the FA. Sports and politics “should not deal together", he says. “Apart from the fact that England has not won the World Cup.....I don’t see that football is in crisis in this country.

Perhaps apart from the growing sex scandal and the fact that the brass band are still allowed to play at internationals, maybe?

I get the feeling that Arsene is moving inexorably into an elder statesmen type role in English football, ready to give his opinion on lofty matters and questions affecting the wider game. His contract with Arsenal is up at the end of the season and whilst many thought he would move into the England manager's position, that route, for now at least, has been closed.

But I think I know where he’ll end up – I hear there may well be a vacancy for an elderly white man as a life vice-president on the FA Council. That should do nicely.

It’s not often I agree with much - no, sorry - anything that Mark Hughes says, but his comment after the Arsenal-Stoke game was a classic. After Stoke were awarded a penalty for Joe Allen being laid out by Granit Xkaka he was asked if he thought it was a penalty, and was told that Wenger had disagreed with the decision.

'Well, if Arsène doesn’t think it was a penalty, then it wasn’t a penalty’, he said with barely a smile. Elder statesman indeed.

But if Arsène does retire at the end of the season, how will he be remembered? As revered as Clough or Paisley? True, unlike Clough he maintained a consistently high quality throughout his career, and would retire at the top of his game, whereas Cloughie did tail-off towards the end. That he created a team from (almost) nothing and built them into a global presence, whereas Paisley did inherit both a team and an ethos from Shankly? Possibly.

However there are two reasons why Wenger will never be seen in the same light as either Clough or Paisley. Firstly, because despite all of the good he has brought to the game and of all the entertainment he's provided, he simply hasn’t won enough, especially in Europe to cement his reputation.

However, secondly, and more importantly, it’s because he wasn’t born in County Durham. And that's got to hurt.

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