The Reuters global sports blog
Johnno loves England too much to see them keep losing
Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst discovered that winning a World Cup as a player is no guarantee of success as a manager and Martin Johnson is beginning to feel the heat after a torrid first year at Twickenham.
His appointment as England “manager” was always going to be a risk, and one that he publicly accepted. Despite having absolutely no coaching experience Johnson was held in such high esteem by everyone in the game that it was felt by the RFU that his very presence would bring stability to the team.
The idea was that “Jonnho” would act as some sort of facilitator, and, as Clive Woodward did during England’s most successful period ever, leave the coaching to others.
Former head coach Brian Ashton, sacked after reaching the World Cup final and achieving England’s best Six Nations performance for five years, will no doubt be looking on and wondering just what progress has been made.
Attack coach Brian Smith has been added to the set-up and, as a man know for his inventive approach as a player and club coach, he must be stupendously disappointed with what England have served up under his tenure.
Forwards coach John Wells and defensive coach Mike Ford have been around for years, while scrum specialist Graham Rowntree admits he has been learning on the job after his rapid promotion through the ranks.
Johnson said he was frustrated by the amount of possession England kicked away against Australia and, particularly, Argentina, but surely the coaches influenced that tactic?
The backs would not have continually hoisted ineffective up and unders had Johnson and Smith sent them out with instructions to run the ball instead and many observers have said that England played as if they were waiting for instructions from the sidelines and terrified of making a mistake, let alone a decision.
The performance against Argentina was one of their worst for years and even Johnson had no complaints about the crowd booing his team off at halftime.
The 2003 World Cup-winning captain has had very little Press criticism despite winning only six of his 13 games and copping some record defeats along the way but that will not last for ever.
“Fortress Twickenham” has instead become somewhere for the Tri-Nations teams to fill their boots and with the All Blacks next in town on Saturday there seems little prospect of any immediate change.
The RFU have said Johnson is their man up to the 2011 World Cup and he is unlikely to be sacked anytime soon but that does not rule out the prospect of him making the decision for them.
As a player the mighty lock was the last man to walk away from a challenge but his love of England comes well ahead of his ego and if he feels that the team would do better without him he would surely have non qualms about stepping down.
It would be desperately sad to seem him go as it just feels right to have him around the England set-up but something is not working at the moment and something needs to change quickly if they are going to turn things round to become World Cup contenders in two years.
PHOTO: England’s coach Martin Johnson looks to the sky before the Argentina game at Twickenham, November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez