A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Good day to you all.

I am not a rugby fan. Actually, I sort of prefer league to union, but that’s by the by. But I took more than a passing interest in this year’s England team at the Rugby World Cup because, as we all recall, when England were chasing a certain person out of the squad and were seeking to start a new path, the name Stuart Lancaster was being thrown about as if he were some sort of all-seeing, all-knowing guru. The candle to lead England’s sporting managers away from the dark days of unharnessed, unhinged talents, and instead embrace culture, good environments, hard work and playing with pride in the shirt.

So, when we went back to the greatest coach of his generation after the Ashes whitewash, Peter Moores was seen as a man very much in the Stuart Lancaster guise. Oh we had it all…..

The England rugby team has evolved particularly well and it would be wrong not to look at the way they’ve done that. That kind of stuff, the Englishness, the legacy you want to leave behind of the culture we want to create. – Alastair Cook

“Lancaster has done a fantastic job. In a very short space of time, he has sorted out English rugby. He’s talked the language of teams that Paul Downton and I like very much.” – Giles Clarke

Paul Downton, while not having a quote to hand (and there not appearing to be an easy one to latch onto online, was certainly part of the gang that thought Stuart Lancaster was imitating the culture of the All Blacks, which Paul and his crowd proclaimed as the greatest sports team ever (based on longevity of dominance – I suppose Brazilian football is probably a bit too fancy dan for out Paul).

Lancaster, from this perspective, seemed no more inspirational than someone like Brendan Rodgers, who got his cards yesterday. There was lots of seeing off old faces, trying the wacky non-conformist and getting shot of them, and then churning out dull, boring teams in the main, that frustrated the life out of you. You can see talent there, but you couldn’t see leaders. You could see ability, but you didn’t see belief.

Rugby people seem to be rallying around Stuart – hey, we could be inside and outside rugby before you know it.How people like Lewis Moody (I’ve just watched his Kicca monologue) can sit there and say that we should maintain a coach because, and I paraphrase, other World Cup winning coaches hit rock bottom and then built a team up (honestly, I was laughing at this point) I don’t know. It’s this mentality that kills us. Somehow, someway, honest toilers will become world beaters because of culture and good environment. It isn’t about that. It never really has been.

We English rush to say someone is amazing before actually settling in for the long haul. I know it was a good couple of years ago, because I was still driving home from work in those days, when there were 5 Live Specials on the new and wonderful regime Lancaster had engendered. Other coaches were keen to tap his brain, follow his lead, share his knowledge. Yet, it has to be said, I was asking “what has he done?” At that time, a win in an Autumn International against New Zealand seemed to be it. Absolutely nothing to sniff at, in much the same way as smashing Germany 5-1 in Munich wasn’t for Sven. The test, like for Peter Moores and every England football coach, is the World Cup (or Euros / Ashes). Wait until they’ve been where it really matters and take it from there.

With the debate over Lancaster’s future, there doesn’t seem to be much past “he’s a nice guy, and he’s got to be given the chance to turn this around in 2019, which we’ve been long-term planning for with lots of young players in the wings.” Cricket fans have heard this for 18 months now. We spunked a World T20 and a World Cup behind nice guys in charge, who created a good environment, but seemed to be lacking that bit of something else. I’ve come to the conclusion, sadly, that to coach an England team, the one trait you must not have is being English.

Feel free to continue the rugby debate. I think it’s a no-brainer that Lancaster has to go, but then I’ll be accused of all sorts, so what-o.

In the cricket world, England are out in the UAE and recovered from a dodgy position with runs for Cook (cue the salivating from his One Direction like followers in the media), Root (we’re going to be up shit creek when he fails), Bairstow (good on him, a nice surprise) and Adil Rashid (this could be fun). The bowling tomorrow is going to be interesting, as Rashid can stake his claim with a decent performance.

There were all sorts at Cuttack where India made a right old balls up of their innings and South Africa won their second T20 game. Wonder if the locals are blaming the IPL in the same way we blame the County Championship? Then there was a bit of naughties with the crowd, which had the hand-wringers out on Twitter (as a Millwall fan, God I’m used to that old shite), and we’ll see a hastily lifted up carpet with the afters of all that swept neatly under it.

There’s a One Day Series in Zimbabwe going on, but I’m not exactly on board with it. Been pretty busy and not that engaged in cricket, which I know a number of you are also feeling at the moment. The latest edition of the Cricketer didn’t even raise the rage. Selfey rambled on about the late Brian Close, while Henderson wrote a rather odd article about Zafar Ansari in which he both seemed to criticise him for mentioning that with the likes of himself and Rashid in the team, along with Moeen, there was a more representative feel to the squad, and then going on about Zafar’s Double First and British Asian club sides not socialising. Or something like that.  Lovejoy’s little bro wrote a wonderful intro to a piece on Ben Stokes that was like FICJAM’s little bro. Simon Hughes banged on about pace bowling, berating coaches and experts who sought to change mechanics to allow bowlers to last, but hardly mentioning the crippling effing schedules these bowlers have! The whole magazine is going down the pan, and even Tim Wigmore’s effort on Zimbabwean cricket is not enough to save it!

Humourous point that may resonate only with me. Playing International Cricket Captain on the tablet and Surrey were struggling against Glamorgan. Only KP stood firm with a doughty 106. As he reached his hundred, Aggers commentary goes “and that’s his hundred. Solid rather than exciting.” See! SEE! Even the games are programmed to slag off my KP!

I’m going for a lie down.

Be back soon.