Get Hodgson! The Diary of a Crack Euro Coach - Day One

John Terry is constantly banging on about cracking one off and Sir Trevor is talking in tongues. It's gonna be a long month...
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John Terry is constantly banging on about cracking one off and Sir Trevor is talking in tongues. It's gonna be a long month...

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Krakow. Or, as England’s John Terry has cheekily named it - “Crack Off”. When I seized upon this potentially memorable bonding moment and asked him to elaborate on that particular choice of moniker he just smirked at me and said - somewhat facetiously one might add, not to say, you could argue, fatuously:

“There’s fuck all else to do in this shithole, is there?”

I immediately responded to England’s Brave Captain - not that he is any longer, technically or indeed literally for that matter the actual captain of this, my, England team - but I did on that specific occasion give John Terry my own personal assurance as a senior professional that I would on certain occasions take a, how should we put this, a liberal approach to profanity. He looked over my shoulder towards the unabashedly polite receptionists and once again offered me that famous insolent trademark smirk and said:

“I’ll just go and crack one off in that case, Roy.”

I felt it extraneous and wholly inappropriate on that occasion to insist, in front of and in full view of the travelling party, my squad and indeed the charming hotel staff, that he call me “Gaffer”. I shall, however, be insisting henceforth and from this precise moment that he do so in future, for footballing reasons and indeed those of an altogether more personal not to say paternal nature.

I immediately responded to England’s Brave Captain - not that he is any longer, technically or indeed literally for that matter the actual captain of this, my, England team

Needless to see the media circus was out in force, hoping to trap me into a confession about the whole Rio non-story. Look, I think Earl Bernstein very aptly not to say neatly sidestepped that issue with an outstanding fudge - not that, clearly, and I almost hesitate to dignify this with comment though circumstances contrive if not actually demand an explanation in these 24-hour saturation newsreel times…but let me emphasise my use of fudge for figurative reasons rather than any colour-specific consideration.

Lord David, Sir Trevor and indeed Bevington himself have been masterful not to say extremely intelligent and perceptive colleagues from the moment they handed me this unexpected and obviously delightful, even humbling opportunity. As Lord Brooking himself told me on Day One:

“Smile every seventh word and they’ll be eating of your hands by sundown.”

Sir David Berstein came to me in the night, in his bathrobe and said unto me:

“Let me be your rock.”

My owlish eyes, usually transmitters of a wily even deceptive cunning, must have blinked in brief bemusement because David - he’s no stickler for dignitaries - sat down on the corner of my bed, patted the space next to him and bade me sit, while he expounded on all things footballing and extraneous:

My owlish eyes, usually transmitters of a wily even deceptive cunning, must have blinked in brief bemusement

“I shall be your deflector shield. If these bastards come to me with their questions and their insistence on reason and logic and accountability and transparency, let them come is all I’ll say in the here and now. They think they can get at the truth about Rio and England’s Brave John Terry? Let the gobshites fucking try! You, on the other hand, Roy…you keep your notoriously steady hand on the tiller; smile every seventh word; play a rigid and predictable brand of percentage-led, safety-first, shit-on-a-stick anti-football and see if we can’t grind out some utterly tedious draws and single goal wins. Go get ‘em, Roy!”

I don’t mind admitting to a shiver not to say, in light this undeniably European-flavoured occasion a frisson of something almost akin to inspiration as he hugged me and held my shoulders between those dainty but assertive fingers. He looked me in the eye and said.

“I am your shield. Hide behind me and I WILL deflect the truth.”

The next morning, as is his way, there was minimal contact over breakfast - it were as though we had never spent those moments together yet he did find time to saunter casually one might even say arrogantly to my table where he ran a finger over an imaginary speck or streak perhaps and said:

“Remember. I am your protector. You just relax while you can. Go out there into the ancient and atmospheric township of Krakow and browse the city’s precision-cutting offer.”

I was moved to answer:

“You don’t know how much that means to me, sir. I have long been given to understand that Poland boasts a storied not to say noble tradition of blow-wave art, though had given up hope of ever actually handing myself over to such masters of the coiffeurs craft. I shall go now…”

“I am your shield. Hide behind me and I WILL deflect the truth.”

I hugged him briefly not to say chastely and pushed my way through the forest of cameras and microphones outside.

“Roy, Roy!”, called one smart Alec - not, clearly, Sir Alec himself, I used the term, obviously - though in the circumstances elucidation is clearly desirable - flippantly, in the manner, one might say, of England’s John Terry.

The wise guy pushed forward and thrust a big bushy mike in my face.

“Roy - can you please, just so we’re all clear, lay out your definition of Footballing Reasons?”

Without hesitating and, I might add, with a hint of steel in my deceptively intelligent and questioning though occasionally owlish eyes:

“Speak to The Rock.”

At which point I strode off to avail myself of a Croydon’s Glory.

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