Football manager don’t like criticism, nor are they happy to take it in their strides too often. After all they’re surrounded by a high-pressure environment where every onlooker, pundit and fan believe they could do a better job, a rather annoying situation to contend with, it has to be said.
However, at times, criticism is fully justified, particularly when it’s expressed constructively and without an agenda as Gary Lineker did on Tuesday night after witnessing England’s “woeful” performance against Ukraine.
It’s not the first time the former England captain sticks the boot in as far as the national team is concerned, after describing Roy Hodgson’s men as “stuck in the Dark Ages” following a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland in May.
Roy Hodgson has fired back to the Match of the Day host claiming that he was puzzled by Lineker’s decision to criticise England so explicitly, particularly as the former Fulham manager considered a draw against Ukraine a very positive result – Hodgson obviously loves turgid 0-0 draws, as he described the stalemate between United and Chelsea as the outstanding game of the season so far.
Leaving aside Hodgson’s excuses regarding the number of absentees – seven, but only Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Glen Johnson would have been granted a starting spot – and his need to cast a second glance to other team’s records – the England manager claimed that none of the other teams in Group H had won in Ukraine, when Montenegro did so in October – it’s hard to disagree with Lineker.
However, it’s a lot harder to agree with the former Spurs striker’s decision to backtrack on his comments – he was, as a tabloid rather unimaginatively put it, “on the retweet” – with a series of tweets claiming Hodgson and England have his full support.
Considering that England did not play another game after Lineker launched his attack, it’s hard to fathom what prompted such a turnaround from the former England captain. Was it Roy Hodgson’s reaction? Or was it a case of Lineker not wanting to rub the FA the wrong way?
Whatever it was, Lineker missed a trick here. He’s paid to be a TV pundit and those who sit through the weekly procession that is Match of the Day would much rather him being outspoken, rather than simply toeing the party line.
The BBC’s show has come under intense criticism for its lack to provide hindsight and opinionated views, which is exactly what Lineker did when he lambasted England’s approach in May and on Tuesday.
Furthermore, if Lineker wants his criticism to be taken seriously he should not be scared to take on the FA nor to upset Roy Hodgson for, after all, football managers don’t take critics well.
But that does not mean they should be exempt from the treatment.