Johnson Out – Please Let Rob Andrew Follow Him…

17 11 2011

So England’s dire performance in the World Cup last month has taken its toll and the first casualty amongst the coaches has gone. Martin Johnson, England legend and dignified as always stepped down from his position as England Manager citing the fact that England’s world cup results have made it impossible for him to continue.

We, as England fans, feel mixed emotions about this. True the Compulsive Hooker had been calling for him to be moved aside almost ever since the inception of this blog (here and here to give you two examples). We had always felt that he wasn’t the right man for the job and as such feel this is the right thing to have done albeit belatedly, but, we do still feel  for Johnson.

The honesty and straight talking nature of the man himself – his frustration palpable to see when asked about the latest yellow card, innumerable penalties that lost a game or the inability of his team to combine into a decent rugby unit – combined with the apparently inept RFU and the betrayal of trust in him by such established players as Mike Tindall means that we do have some sympathy.

Obviously his wasn’t an easy job made harder by some of the idiots around him. However, the fact remains that his appointment was a flawed one – more subject to a popular vote from the media it seemed than any logical reasoning. We have always felt that the head coach/manager – call him what you will – should above all be a brilliant selector. Someone who can spot talent, nurture it and develop it. This was something that Clive Woodward was brilliant at, often plucking players from near obscurity or others who were unfashionable and turning them into world beaters. Johnson’s stubbornness over certain players – the names of Borthwick, Hape and Tindall spring to mind – is well known and undoubtedly held England back at various points over the last three years.

Yet, having said all that, every so often Martin Johnson’s England team clicked and produced excellent displays of rugby (remember the 34-10 demolition of France in 2009, the 35-18 win over Australia a year later just after winning down under too) and each time there was the hope that England had turned a corner but sadly this never happened. Jonno has gone, England are once more in a state of flux and the England fans lot is no better than at any point over the last 8 years.

For us though, much of the blame of the last 6 years should rest fairly and squarely on Rob Andrew’s shoulders. Andrew has presided over the hiring and firing of three coaches (although to be fair he didn’t hire Andy Robinson) and each time he has handled it ineptly. The firing of Brian Ashton in particular was a disgrace. We are informed by the people over at wikipedia that his nickname is ‘squeaky’ which seems about right – currently he is ‘standing firm’ and we would not be surprised to find him still in control in 3 years time. Nothing sticks to him.

For England moving forward we believe the there should be a clear out from top to bottom of the coaching staff – and unfortunately for Andrew that includes him, the man who employs those coaching staff. He has to take responsibility for the last 6 years. He came into the role as the Elite Perfomance Director and we would suggest that some of England’s performances (a country with more resources and players than almost every other) have been less than elite. Quite apart from the man management issues, it’s time for him to go.

There is however no reason to be all doom and gloom as there are some very bright young players in the England set up; Tom Wood, Ashton, Lawes, Dan Cole to name but a few and with the U20 sides being so strong too there is no reason to think that come 2015, England won’t have a reasonable chance. Out with the old, Tindall, Hape, Moody etc and in with the new.

We do realise of course it is very easy to sit here and criticise but the honest truth is that England should be doing better and we as England fans are not happy to see such mediocrity game in, game out.



Rob Andrew Steele’s Himself For Exit

11 01 2011

Good news emerging from the RFU over the past few days as new CEO, John Steele, looks to streamline the RFU structure and notably either remove, or at the very least reposition, Rob Andrew’s role. If any of you can remember that far back, this is something that we have been calling for since practically our first blog piece was ever published on this website.

It is of course true that no one man is to blame for the travails of English rugby, yet, it is equally true, that some have more influence than others. As the man with just about the most direct influence on the English game, Rob Andrew has for too long been unwilling to take responsibility despite, up until Steele’s assumption of ultimate accountability, being the man with the job. In fact, he has rarely even acknowledged failure of any sort as a succession of coaches have led England through the last few years in rugby’s no man’s land. What really grated was the inane comments to the press and the assertion, given throughout his tenure, that England were rebuilding and there was nothing wrong with the England set up as well as his handling of Brian Ashton’s dismissal. It does appear though that finally we will not have to listen to this rubbish much longer he will be shifted sideways and down or out altogether.

The much mooted replacements appear to be either Jake White or Clive Woodward – both in their times highly successful coaches and world cup winners and both surely would perform better than Andrew. We don’t feel particularly strongly either way although it would appear that Clive Woodward’s CV, given his work in a similar role in Athletics, has the better claim and, given some residual loyalty due to his coaching days with England, we would pick him.

Jim Mallinder was also a name quoted as potentially being a candidate for the role although pleasingly he yesterday ruled himself out by saying he is looking for the ‘right role with England’. Mallinder is an excellent coach and we hope one day that he might get Johnson’s job. Every team he coaches usually plays an attractive style of rugby and he has done good things with Northampton so in the long term he is an excellent candidate for the managers role.

Whoever is picked this is a massive year for English rugby with the World Cup coming up and so it is important that Steele makes the right choice. With England playing better rugby and Rob Andrew being shown the door we are feeling more positive about things than we have done for some time.

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Some Added Steele

8 10 2010

There appears to finally be some evidence of strong leadership emerging from the RFU over the past few days. John Steele, ex Northampton Heineken Cup winning coach and fly-half, has taken over from Francis Baron as Chief Executive of the RFU and has indicated that English rugby – with particular reference to Team England – is in for a real shake up.

The core message appears to be that he is not happy with England’s current position of 6th in the world rankings and that things have to change. What is different to Francis Baron’s interpretation of the job is that he has indicated a willingness to make tough decisions with regard to the positions of Head Coach Martin Johnson and his cohorts. Baron on the other hand let Rob Andrew take responsibility in his role as Elite Director of Rugby for the coaching staff (and therefore ultimately England’s performance) – a situation that has lead to a a succession of fiasco’s and wrong decisions.

To be fair to Baron in many ways he did a brilliant job for English rugby and it has been his financial nous that ensured English rugby is in such a position of strength – at least economically. That England should be languishing amongst the lower reaches of the senior nations is obviously not good enough and therefore it is a positive step to find someone willing to put the rugby first in charge.

With Steele willing to take responsibility, importantly indicating a willingness to change things pre-world cup should the performances this Autumn not meet the required levels, perhaps England fans can look forward to a period of renewed prosperity over the coming years. The question this raises is one that England fans have been asking for some time – what therefore is Rob Andrew’s role?

Super Clive to the Rescue

24 03 2010

Hallelujah! Some rugby god somewhere is apparently in the process of solving English rugby problems detailed in the article ‘Rob Andrew’s Madness’.

The Times has led its rugby news today with a piece entitled “Woodward lined up as Andrew’s replacement”, in which the following can be found.

‘Speculation is mounting that Rob Andrew’s future as the Rugby Football Union’s director of elite rugby is on the line — and that Sir Clive Woodward could be sounded out as a possible replacement.

After another disappointing RBS Six Nations Championship campaign, Andrew’s position is under intense scrutiny. One source told The Times last night that in the aftermath of Francis Baron’s decision to step down as chief executive: “I understand Andrew is next on the list.” ‘

If this were to happen, the Compulsive Hooker would be willing to suspend our campaign to have Martin Johnson replaced by an experienced coach, as the Woodward-Johnson partnership has worked before and it is possible it could work again. With Woodward’s experienced hand guiding Johnson, perhaps we could see a genuine England improvement.

Alternatively Woodward arriving could see a swift exit for Johnson as Woodward seeks to imprint his image on the set up. Either way we can’t see how his arrival can be any worse for England!

So Clive, only one tiny request – come to our rescue, save England and help restore all of our faith.

For the full Times Online article click here.

Rob Andrew’s Madness

19 03 2010

“England are on the way back, no question about that”.

This piece of wisdom comes from the RFU’s Director of Elite Rugby, Rob Andrew. For those of you who don’t know, Rob Andrew is the man to whom Martin Johnson reports, and consequently the only man who can save English rugby from this mess.

At the time of Andrew’s appointment there were many people who questioned the decision, as Clive Woodward, the only other candidate for the job was felt to have the better qualifications. With the obvious benefits of hindsight taken into account, these people are surely now justified in telling everyone ‘I told you so’.

Any England fan will be only too accustomed to the ridiculous PR and positive gloss put on each and every woeful performance of recent times. Brutal honesty is rare, with only Lewis Moody and Mark Cueto of recent times admitting the truth. To a degree this attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the English rugby nation is fair enough, it is only natural to attempt to sell your own worth after all. Yet when the big boss is trying it too, it becomes obvious that English rugby is not in the right hands.

The Compulsive Hooker had been clinging onto the (already unlikely) hope that Rob Andrew would possess the strength of mind and character to admit his error in appointing Martin Johnson. Appointed as the legendary figure within the game who could inspire his average charges to great things, Johnson has proved that he is unable to do so. Andrew’s claim that progress is being made suggests that even if England lose to France heavily on Saturday, his job is safe for the foreseeable future.

Woodward has been criticised over the years for being autocratic, impulsive and someone who over complicates matters. Yet this type of attitude is perhaps what England need right now, someone unafraid to make the necessary decision and with the confidence to remove even a legend like Johnson.

For the second week in the row, the Compulsive Hooker finds ourselves in the terrible position of wanting England to lose so that change occurs, Rob Andrew permitting or not.

Some Questions

14 03 2010

It is hard to write this piece without it descending into a diatribe of epic proportions against England and particularly the England management. Nevertheless, we will try and provide a few opinions as objectively as possible regarding the game we have just watched.

Ending in a draw, which to our eyes seemed a fair result considering the sheer inadequacies present on both sides, it underlined the shortcomings mentioned ad nauseam in previous articles on this site. To a large degree we are willing to exempt the players from blame; not totally you understand as there is far too much experience within the team and poor execution in the game to do so, but on the whole we feel they are handicapped by poor selection and an atrocious game plan from the England management.

Before we go any further, and to attempt to stem the flow of negativity straining to unleash itself from our fingertips, let us have a look at Scotland. On the whole, Andy Robinson, will be relatively pleased with a draw although this still leaves Scotland likely wooden spoon winners. Yet this was a game that Scotland could, and possibly should have won. There were definite positives in several key areas; the 6,7,8 combo continues to impress with Beattie in particular vying with Jamie Heaslip for the title of the best number 8 in the home nations, and out wide Scotland again showed intent and variation. Unfortunately the final pass went astray too often for them to be truly effective but importantly the desire was there.

Despite results not going their way, Scotland have improved over these past 4 games. They remain hamstrung by a small player base which means they are always going to be a smaller nation, yet under Andy Robinson they have showed more structure and played more rugby. We hope that the Scottish board sticks with him as with a bit more luck and certainly a little more nous the results in this tournament could have been quite different. It was interesting to see the Scottish full back punching the ball into touch once Toby Flood’s attempted drop goal has been charged down, willing this time to settle for the draw. Lessons have clearly been learnt from the Wales game.

And so, back to England.

There are two overriding emotions present here at the Compulsive Hooker so let us deal with them one at a time. Firstly frustration. Here is a list of things in England’s favour which in theory should mean England should not be in this current malaise.

  • England are blessed with one of the largest player bases of any senior test match rugby nation.
  • Even despite the recent economic downturn, the financial status of the RFU and most English clubs has remained healthy.
  • The facilities available throughout these clubs and at headquarters remain some of the best in the world.
  • The wealth of the clubs has been able to ensure that the majority of the star players stay in England and are not tempted overseas for more lucrative rewards creating a player drain. The recent strength of the Euro and the wage caps imposed in the UK, has made this a greater challenge than before, yet France is hardly far away….
  • The ability to attract foreign talent for the financial reasons above. This of course can be argued both ways, but really and truly the standard of the Guiness Premiership would not be half as good as it is without many of these players playing. (There are some exceptions to this rule but not many).

Yet despite all these compelling reasons (and we are positive there are many more) why England should, from a support point of view be one of the best teams in the world, yet come to naught when you look at results.

The second emotion is puzzlement. To explain this we have composed a list of questions below which go some way to elucidating this feeling. (In no particular order….)

  • Where has Riki Flutey disappeared to? We know he’s a good player (3rd test of the Lions tour, France and Wales matches in last years 6 Nations are all examples of his abilities), yet in the last 3 games he has been extraordinarily innocuous and totally invisible. Did he touch the ball before the 57th minute today? We missed it if so….
  • Steve Borthwick? Really?
  • Louis Deacon? And Steve Borthwick? Together?
  • Will Steve Borthwick ever fail to use the adjective ‘fantastic’ in relation to another dreary England performance? We haven’t seen the post match interviews with him but we’d be willing to bet he said the word somewhere….
  • Delon Armitage? Which dastardly character has stolen his mojo?
  • Why the aversion to exciting and dynamic young players? (Dan Coles excepted). Ben Foden, Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs? It’s as if they have been put on the bench as a token gesture to appease the angry press and near to rioting fans but nothing more.
  • Why does Jonny stand so deep? Is it really the game plan ‘so lay off him’, as Johnson told the media earlier in the tournament, or was he simply protecting his talisman?
  • What does Rob Andrew do for his exorbitant wages? (This is a very interesting point and one which we will tackle at some point in the near future).
  • Does Rob Andrew possess big enough ‘cahones’ to sack the man he appointed to be England’s saviour?
  • Will Martin Johnson admit defeat and resign, therefore saving him the trouble?
  • Who can sack Rob Andrew? Why won’t whoever it is that can do so?
  • Where has Mark Cueto’s pace gone?
  • Where can we apply to join the England back room team? It’s well paid, amazing job security with almost no performance related targets to hit and on top of that masses of great England gear…..
  • Above all, England have good players. We know this. But why, oh why, can they not play rugby together?!?!
  • Etc
  • Etc

There are many, many more questions where these came from. There are also answers to many of them, but somehow the men to whom all these frustrations and performance issues come back to, appear to be supremely oblivious to the either the problems, solutions or both.

Please Johnno! We loved you as a player and as a fearsome man of iron; but please don’t ruin your reputation or tarnish our still (but only just) pure adoration for you. It’s time to get out whilst you still can…..

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