Byline: DAVID MELLOR
AS I contemplate the Football Association's pathetic handling of Sven- Goran Eriksson's encounter with the " fake sheikh", Winston Churchill's description of a contemporary springs to mind: "He has all of the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire." And so do the FA. Loyalty, forbearance, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, all of these supposedly good things they bring into disrepute by failing yet again to call the slippery Swede to account.
What are they so afraid of ? What if they had done what Wigan's Dave Whelan recommended and sacked him. Would it have been so awful?
Would we all have woken up to the news, and thought, that's the end of our World Cup dreams? I wouldn't and nor, I suspect, would most of you.
The FA are probably afraid of having to pay up his handsome contract, but even that's a false fear, reflecting football's habitual unfamiliarity with the laws of the land.
If removed either now or in the summer, Sven would be obliged to " mitigate his loss". Which means if he takes on another job he would have to knock his new salary off any claim against the FA.
Personally, I'm grateful to the fake sheikh, Mr Mazher Mahmood, who I met once at Wimbledon, thankfully that time safely attired in blazers, flannels and an old school tie.
He has forced us to face up one more time to the ineptitude of the FA.
Whatever possessed them to give Sven permission to go to Dubai in the first place, ostensibly to look at a proposed training centre? Sadly it was probably to give him something to occupy his time in a job, which, though it pays a king's ransom, is plainly not a fulltime occupation.
And when they were betrayed yet again, what have they done about it?
Nothing. As one commentator said this week, they just went and hid behind the sofa.
We should, however, be grateful for small mercies; the miracle is that the thought of Sven managing at Aston Villa didn't stampede them into giving the Swede a [pounds sterling]10million-a-year deal through to 2050.
It isn't criminal for Sven to be thinking of his future. And he'd do us all a favour if he left after Germany. But the timing is all wrong. Right now he should have room for only one thought in his head - England winning the World Cup. Everything else can wait.
But thanks again to the fake sheikh, that's not how it is at all. Sven, it seems, is thinking as always of himself and, like a dog following a bitch on heat, he's chasing the money.
Money still brings out the passion that England and its football team no longer seems to. We're just a milch cow for him.
So, I revisit the point. If this weekend the FA were trying to lure Sam Allardyce away from Bolton, or Terry Venables out of retirement, to take us to Germany, would that really have been such a bad thing?
I, for one, don't think so. But, as always, the FA funked it.
No need for ref to give Robben red *FRIENDS of referee Chris Foy, whose dismissal of Arjen Robben for going to Chelsea fans after scoring a decisive goal ruined a good contest, say he had no choice. I disagree.
Referees have always had the discretion to give a yellow-carded player a warning for a further offence that might, if the slate had been clean, have led to a yellow, in order to avoid a harsh sending-off. And while I can see the safety reasons for keeping the players on the pitch and away from the crowd, in this case it was a grotesque overreaction to a happy incident, which simply rewarded Chelsea's travelling fans for an awful journey to the North East to watch the bottom club in action. "I was only obeying orders" is a defence that doesn't wash.
Theo deal will shut Arsene up SHOULD be sorry if Chelsea miss out on Theo Walcott, but there's a silver lining to this cloud - it's got to mark the end of Arsene Wenger's whinges.
I mean if Theo comes in, Wenger will have spent more than [pounds sterling]20million in the New Year sales. …