Picture the scene. It’s August at Wembley.
Having been knocked of the World Cup in Brazil after losing all three group games (including a hammering at the hands of Costa Rica) the FA meet in a dusty boardroom to discuss who will replace Roy Hodgson as England football manager.
Greg Dyke is sitting in a leather chair stroking a longhaired white cat with one hand, and an enormous bag (maybe it’s that one Bert Millichip used to use for FA Cup draws?) stuffed full of cash in the other.
“Right then folks. Who’s it to be?”
The room goes quiet.
Some bloke in a grey blazer finally speaks up: “What about Steve McLaren? He’s just won promotion with Derby, and apparently he’s learned an awful lot since we sacked him a few years ago”.
Dyke pauses. Surely he can’t be serious? He waits to gauge the response of his colleagues.
“I think it’s a good idea” says another grey suit “he took getting sacked last time extremely well and didn’t complain to the press one bit. We can rely on him”.
Dyke strokes his chin. He knows full well that most of the senior players in the England team at the time – respected professionals like Gerrard and Lampard as well as that rogue captain, John Terry – thought McLaren was out of his depth. His methods were, one might say, eccentric.
Another grey suit opens his mouth.
“Well, I happen to know Steve McLaren very well. He’s a really nice guy. What’s more, he used to be a goalkeeper like me, albeit not a very good one”.
Dyke still isn’t sure. Until taking his job at the FA he’d been out of football for a very long time. Maybe he’s out of touch with ordinary fans?
“Can’t we appoint someone who’s actually got some international experience? You know, someone with street cred; someone who can stand up to the Germans.”
“The problem” someone to the left of the cat says “is that nobody decent applied … only Stuart Pearce, Dario Gradi, Roy Hodgson himself, and some bloke called Pep Guardiola”.
“Pep Guardiola?” Dyke exclaims “that sounds great!”
But Dyke is stopped dead in his tracks by an old lady serving up the tea.
“Guardiola’s rubbish” she says “he’s a bloody foreigner with no experience of English football whatsoever. Who cares if he’s won European trophies galore? Steve McLaren has been there and done it … in Holland and the English lower leagues”.
“Fair enough” says Dyke confidently “Steve McLaren it is”
“But what if the fans don’t like it?” says the one man in the room with a colourful tie, nervously.
The room erupts in laughter.
“The fans? Those muppets?” says Dyke. “We’ll just tell them Steve has had a personality transplant and ditched that old umbrella. He’s a totally new man”
“They might not buy it, sir”
“Who cares?! We can always cover our arses by saying McLaren was the best applicant”
The room goes quite again.
“Erm, Greg … McLaren didn’t actually apply”
“Hmmm” says Dyke “Anyone got a problem with us headhunting a bloke we sacked not long ago?”
“Job done then. Anyone fancy another cheese scone?”