MARTIN SAMUEL: Andrew Strauss lost the right to lecture counties

Andrew Strauss lost the right to lecture counties when he gave England job to an Aussie

  • Andrew Strauss remonstrated with counties over the lack of English coaches
  • Nick Kyrgios is the world’s most tiresome athlete, he is certainly not box office
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked a mug at Molineux during his side’s penalty farce
  • Aymeric Laporte did not control the ball with his arm – that decision was wrong 

Very polite, most cricket folk. That is the only explanation for the way Andrew Strauss was allowed to remonstrate with the counties over the absence of English coaches in The Hundred, without being challenged.

Who, after all, made an Australian the England coach? That was Strauss in his previous role as director of cricket for the ECB. And if England, with 142 years of Test cricket behind them, don’t have faith in an Englishman why should Manchester Originals, Trent Rockets or any of the other franchises yet to bowl a ball?

If another Australian, Tom Moody, takes charge of Oval Invincibles as expected, that will mean no Englishman has landed a job as head coach across the eight teams that comprise The Hundred. Including Moody there will be five Australians (Shane Warne, Simon Katich, Darren Lehmann and Andrew McDonald), and one each from South Africa (Gary Kirsten), Sri Lanka (Mahela Jayawardene) and New Zealand (Stephen Fleming).

Andrew Strauss slammed the counties over the absence of English coaches in The Hundred

While this reflects the cosmopolitan nature of the competition and the success of T20 club competitions abroad, it also amounts to a lamentably serious failing within the ECB. Warne isn’t even a coach, for heaven’s sake. Lehmann was the head of a now discredited Australian regime.

It can be argued that the counties should have looked elsewhere, but it is not just up to them to produce talent. Good coaching is the product of a strong national system from which county opportunities arise. If England haven’t got a coach worth a carat it has about as much to do with the Peaky Blinders as the Northern Superchargers, who have barely drawn breath before copping the blame.

Certainly it is somewhat rich coming from Strauss, whose three-man shortlist in 2015 pitted Trevor Bayliss against his Australian compatriots Tom Moody and Jason Gillespie. And nobody is arguing that Bayliss hasn’t done a fine job. His record in the white-ball game earned him the role and with England winning a first World Cup this summer he has more than delivered. But that alone does not justify the appointment.

The club game cannot help but be influenced by national events. Without a doubt the Football Association’s recruitment of Sven Goran Eriksson began a process culminating in even mid or lower ranking Premier League clubs looking abroad. And what of Bayliss’s successor? The man now in Strauss’s shoes is offering no guarantees.

‘It would be nice to have an English coach, but we’ve got to get the best bloke,’ said Ashley Giles. Chris Silverwood, one of Bayliss’s current assistants, and born in Yorkshire, is under consideration, perhaps Paul Collingwood, too.

This time, however, it is fair to say the ECB owe English coaches one. Through Strauss, they sent out the message that graduates of the domestic game were not suited to the highest level.

They can hardly be surprised now if their newly-minted franchises, with so much of county cricket’s future finance resting on them, reach the same conclusion. It is the ECB’s example to set.

Athletics contributes nothing to the running or upkeep of the London Stadium, yet each time the seats are reconfigured for a summer meeting it costs the taxpayer £4million.

It was hoped there would be respite in 2022, by which time the upgraded Alexander Stadium in Birmingham will be open for the Commonwealth Games. It is being expanded to hold 40,000 with work due for completion in winter 2021 at a cost of roughly £70m. Still, at least £4m will be saved, annually.

West Ham should be free to buy the London Stadium when the Alexander Stadium is finished

Not so, apparently. British Athletics have intimated that they still intend to host yearly meetings in London, so £4m conversion costs will continue to be incurred. Yet attendances for these events — the Anniversary Games, harking back to one glorious night in 2012 — dwindle.

British Athletics gave this year’s gate as 40,000 across two nights, but this includes many guests. By way of comparison, West Ham get 19,000 for their fans’ fun day. Once the Alexander Stadium is completed, that should be the home of British Athletics. West Ham would then be free to buy the London Stadium, take it off the Government’s bill, and truly make it home.

Box office? Kyrgios is a brattish twerp 

Who knows what Nick Kyrgios — the world’s most tiresome sportsman — has in store for the US Open next week. Swearing? Spitting? Abusing the umpire? Tanking? Maybe a row with an obvious superior? It’s all on the table. Great tennis? Unlikely.

Kyrgios is indulged by the myth he is box office. Yet what is entertaining about watching a player squander his potential? Where is the fun in hearing him abuse better men, who are not in the position to answer back, let alone climb down from the umpire’s chair and confront this brattish little twerp with the home truths he deserves?

If Kyrgios stopped acting up he would have to play properly. And if he treated his sport and his talent with respect, he might find out he’s not as good as his giant ego believes. Kyrgios calls out Novak Djokovic, Kyrgios calls out Rafael Nadal. Who cares? What matters is the result and Kyrgios has won only a single match against the big four.

What is entertaining about watching a player like Nick Kyrgios squander his potential?

He has played Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray — never Djokovic — on seven occasions in slams and achieved a lone victory over Nadal at Wimbledon five years ago. Murray has faced him down across all four slam events and Kyrgios won a solitary set in 13. He lost in straight sets to Federer at the US Open and his most recent meeting with Nadal, this summer, ended in four.

In the biggest competitions, Kyrgios is ordinary. He has played in 25 slams and never gone deeper than two quarter-finals: 13 times exiting in rounds one, two or qualifying; seven times in round three.

So, if your idea of fun is lousy tennis played with a raging, inexplicable sense of entitlement, Kyrgios may well be your idea of a superstar. For most, he’s a crashing bore.

Pogba’s ego blamed… but it’s Ole who looked a mug 

Rather handy for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that reports leaked of his fury behind closed doors, following Manchester United’s penalty fiasco at Wolves on Monday. Until that point, he was beginning to look a bit soft.

Solskjaer’s appeal was always, in part, that he was not Jose Mourinho. He was not dark, he was not seething beneath the surface, he was not manipulative. He was a bona fide, straight-talking Manchester United hero, with a smile, a cheery, upbeat demeanour and a helpful hotline to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Yet at Molineux he looked a mug. How can any team of ambition not know who their penalty-taker is, prior to kick-off — certainly now football is governed by VAR? How can Solskjaer not have made it clear that Marcus Rashford’s execution is superior and preferred right now?

Yes, there is the matter of Paul Pogba’s ego. That a man who had missed three of his last eight should even enter into discussion with Rashford — no matter who won the penalty — says much of his flaws as a team player. Yet Solskjaer invited that ego to overwhelm the moment if he did not make clear before the game that Rashford was now the go-to penalty-taker. By all means name a reserve in case Rashford is unavailable, but that should be the matter closed. Instead, Pogba talked the younger man out of it, and missed, and Solskjaer then had the unenviable task of defending him.

Later it emerged that, privately, Solskjaer came over all masterful and took Pogba off future penalty duties. He also has the support of the team. It all sounds rather convenient, protecting the image of the manager, again placing the blame on Pogba. Ultimately, though, it is Solskjaer’s job to manage, particularly the high-maintenance players in high-maintenance situations. All evidence suggests that did not happen on Monday until it was much too late.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s failure to name a penalty taker left him looking like a mug on Monday

If there was anything positive about Manchester City’s disallowed goal last weekend, it was the sight of all those playing at being the only grown-up in the village being exposed as imposters, the former referees and many hipsters who sneeringly told critics that if they had just paid attention in the summer they would know that the VAR verdict was correct.

Delightfully, it turns out they don’t know the handball rule either. Kevin De Bruyne, the Manchester City player who complained most bitterly, was smugly concluded to be an ignoramus by people who had as smart a take on it as Ian Holloway. 

De Bruyne’s only mistake was in completely accepting the official explanation for why Gabriel Jesus’s goal was disallowed, when it was wrong and based on a bogus interpretation.

De Bruyne was informed that any handball in the build-up to a goal is an offence, when the rule actually states: ‘It is an offence if a player gains possession/control of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm and then creates a goalscoring opportunity.’

Yet Aymeric Laporte in no way gained control or possession from his glancing deflection, and when the ball ended up with Jesus, he still had to beat several Tottenham players to score. So it isn’t the law that is an a**, but VAR as applied in this country. The fault, as ever, is human. We are told the kinks in VAR will settle down but for that to happen common sense must prevail. There is scant evidence of it so far.

Kevin De Bruyne was informed that any handball in the build-up to a goal is an offence

It is hard to believe Zinedine Zidane has gone from trying to force Gareth Bale out of Real Madrid to making him part of his first-team plans. More likely, Bale is on borrowed time until Eden Hazard is fit.

Yet he performed well against Celta Vigo and looks to have played his way into the squad, at least. These are the only terms on which staying with Madrid makes sense. He is far too good and, at 30, too young to slip into Chinese backwaters or play for a team beyond the elite. Yet Zidane must continue giving him a chance. An even worse option than mid-table or points east would be to sit, unused and unloved, in the stand.

Oliver proud to be Irish, until he’s not

Oliver Norwood is the captain of Sheffield United in the Premier League. That is a lot of responsibility and a huge amount of commitment is required. Sheffield United will not survive this season without getting the most out of every member of Chris Wilder’s squad and Norwood is huge for them. It is his first season as a Premier League footballer and the immediate casualty is his international career. This week, after 57 caps, he called it a day with Northern Ireland.

Michael O’Neill, his manager, said he was making a huge mistake. Former player Jim Magilton believes he will regret it. David Healy, now manager of Linfield, added that the decision beggars belief. ‘He could play international football at the same time,’ Healy insisted. ‘Steven Davis has done it, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Craig Cathcart. Even back in the day players like Neil Lennon, Steve Lomas and Keith Gillespie did both. I did it myself.’

Notice anything about that list? All of the players mentioned are from Northern Ireland. Davis, Evans, McAuley, Cathcart, Lennon, Gillespie and Healy were born there. Lomas was born in Hanover, Germany, but only because his father was in the army. By the age of two, he lived in Coleraine. Norwood is from Burnley. 

Central midfielder Oliver Norwood is the captain of Sheffield United in the Premier League

He played for England at Under 16 and Under 17 level, and then reappeared in Northern Ireland’s teams from Under 19, and has remained with the country ever since. He qualifies through his grandfather and has been a loyal mainstay of O’Neill’s team. 

Yet last season Norwood made himself unavailable for the first four European Championship qualifiers — and now this. The problem with allowing players to switch nationalities is that it makes international football a jacket that can be tried for size and discarded when it doesn’t suit. 

No doubt Norwood felt very proud to be Northern Irish — right up until the moment he felt prouder to play in the Premier League.

Four games in and still no wins for new Anderlecht boss Vincent Kompany. After a defeat at home to Oostende on the opening day and a draw with Mouscron and Mechelen, Saturday brought a 4-2 defeat at Kortrijk, with the player-coach at fault for three goals.

Kompany is an Anderlecht legend and will no doubt be given time in his first job, but carry on like this and a television studio and Super Sunday cannot be far away. 

Nobody watches Belgian football over here anyway. It will be as if it never happened.

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