Hodgson and Garber suffer naivete attacks

By Paul Gardner

Two recent examples of important soccer guys doing things they shouldn’t be doing -- guys who should certainly know better.

First: Roy Hodgson, the coach of England. There are several rather surprising things about this story. They begin with the difficult-to-take-in fact that Hodgson uses public transport. Here we have Hodgson, an employee of the English Football Association -- which is assuredly the sort of organization that provides limo service for its senior members -- traveling on a London tube (read subway) train on his way to watch Arsenal play Olympiakos in a Champions League game.

He is recognized. A little group of fans and groupies gathers around him and Hodgson politely answers their questions. Some of the fans take photos.

Hodgson talks about the England team. He is asked about Rio Ferdinand’s chances of playing for England. He replies candidly -- “I very much doubt it. He hasn't played for England for quite a while. I have to say it is over for him and England. It has got to be the end of the road. He is pushing 34 and hasn't played for England for a long, long time.”

Well, that’s the way the papers had it the following morning. Hodgson had a different version -- “One guy said: 'Is Rio in the next squad?' and I think I might have said: ‘I don't think so.’ It's a mistake and I need to apologize for that. This is one of the hazards I suppose of traveling on tube trains when you go up to London.” Yet another version came from another passenger, who told the BBC that Hodgson replied “Well, he's 34 now so I think we are going to look to the future.”

Hodgson was hardly revealing anything surprising. Ferdinand has not been a regular starter for England for well over a year. But Hodgson was severely embarrassed and felt obliged to make a massive apology to Ferdinand.

Hodgson -- who really does carry a Mr. Nice Guy image -- will know better in future about talking with fans, and about traveling on tube trains for that matter.

But for a man in the highly sophisticated job of trying to manage England, it is his naivete that astonishes. What else could he have expected? That no one would notice him? He is regularly on TV, his photo appears all the time in the newspapers. Is he unaware that mobile phones these days take photos, never mind videos?

Second: Don Garber, Commissioner of MLS. The scene -- again -- is London. Not a tube train, but a conference hall where Garber has been invited to address the “Leaders of Football” on the intricacies of the MLS single-entity system. Adjusting to his London audience -- and one wonders why that has to be done? -- he later is seen practically swooning over the thought of David Beckham -- “David has been a great, great ambassador for our league and people like him, people love watching him, ESPN SportsCenter loves showing his highlights ...” and so rather pukingly on into a series of “love” situations -- Garber would love to see Beckham maintain his presence MLS, doesn’t matter as what, any sort of position will do (as long as it’s top of the line, presumably) -- “We would love to have a continued relationship with David in any capacity that he and his family would like.” Right, so that includes Posh in the setup. An ownership position? “He has the opportunity to be part of an ownership group. My guess is he's probably going to pursue that.”

Fair enough, I suppose. Beckham has been around MLS for quite a while now, so for Garber to talk of him in familiar terms is appropriate -- despite the irritating aura of schoolboy adulation that always seeps through when DG talks about DB.

Very different were the remarks that Garber then went on to make about another English player, Frank Lampard. Having announced that he didn’t think many people in the USA “really know who he [Lampard] is,” Garber went on to effusively praise Lampard as “a great player, he has a great history with the sport." Garber then announced, on behalf of all the MLS clubs (which are supposed to make their own decisions in these matters) that “If he decides he wants to play in Major League Soccer, I'm sure any club would be happy to have him on their roster.” He then blandly admits that he’s not aware of any MLS club showing interest in Lampard.

So he begins to promote Lampard, even getting down to signing-on details, as he states that “Frank would probably fall in the 'Designated Player' category,” ... probably?

No, I do not think that the MLS commissioner should be out there recommending players for his clubs to sign. At least, I do not think he should do it in such a curiously biased way. Why Lampard? Quite recently, Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero was available for signing by a foreign club (he has gone to Australia). Del Piero, a player with tremendous attacking skills, with flair and style -- but I don’t recall Garber encouraging his MLS clubs to get out there and sign him.

In fact, I don’t think I can ever recall Garber doing this before. Certainly I’ve never heard him say that he’d adopt illegal recruiting methods -- “I'll go into the locker room and see if I can chat him [Lampard] up. . .”

OK, that was said jokingly, but Garber’s eagerness to promote Lampard interests me, because I have on a number of occasions suggested to Garber that he should use his office to do exactly that sort of thing. That he should, in short, play a prominent role in directing clubs to the type of players the league needs to make it a league with teams that play exciting, attacking soccer. That is an aim that Garber himself has affirmed.

But Garber has always resolutely opposed the suggestion, telling me that he would be killed by the media if he started telling clubs which players to sign.

Whether or not I agree with that notion is now irrelevant, as Garber has evidently changed his mind. And, wouldn’t you know, he picks a 34-year-old English player to boot, one who, he says, is not well-known in the USA. If Garber is correct, if Lampard is not well-known in the USA, one of the reasons could be that he is a player almost totally lacking in any sort of charisma. Not quite the sort of player that Garber, if he’s going to get into player-selection, should be recommending. Lampard, to put it mildly, is no Del Piero.

11 comments about "Hodgson and Garber suffer naivete attacks".
  1. Jogo Bonito, October 13, 2012 at 1:39 a.m.

    The Garber story just reinforces the theory that Garber is just another American that feels comfortable supporting and admiring certain types of people - namely white people. The it's just a preference thing I think. It's the same reason many Americans will vote for Mitt Romney. They will vote for him despite the fact that his very policies might completely screw themselves over. They will believe his and the corporate-controlled white media's lies just because they're more comfortable with his type of guy over another kind of guy. Garber knew nothing about soccer before the Anglophiles over at MLS educated him. Some of those MLS bigwigs may not be white guys but the admire the successful white guys so they are basically self-hating non white guys. Del Piero? He's just not "white" enough. I know we signed Valderama, Etcherverry, Henry, Blanco and Marquez, but they would much rather be hanging with their man-crushes like Beckham or Robbie Keane or Lothar Matthaus or some Finnish or Norweigen defender.

  2. Emilio AlHaq, October 13, 2012 at 3:54 a.m.

    Gardner, the inaccuracies in your blogs really are atrocious. I have previously identified that you manipulate quotes and give opinions without justifying them with facts. Now it seems you can’t even get the name of a conference right - it is Leaders IN Football not Leaders ‘of’ Football. As someone who actually attended the conference I can tell you that there was a reason Garber spoke about Lampard – he was asked about him. Plain and simple. The conference is hosted at Stamford Bridge, London. For the uneducated on this forum – the majority – it is the home of Chelsea Football Club. Lampard has made 567 appearances for Chelsea and scored 188 goals from central midfield. Mourinho referred to him as the “best professional ever.” His career is coming to an end so what better way to extend it by moving across the water and playing in a league where the poor standard would allow Lampard to play until he is 40.

  3. David Mont, October 13, 2012 at 7:45 a.m.

    Nice, a couple of jerks here decided that they had to start insulting people and/or bring their racist views into the open.

  4. Gus Keri, October 13, 2012 at 10:39 a.m.

    This is funny, Paul. You said: "Garber has always resolutely opposed the suggestion, telling me that he would be killed by the media if he started telling clubs which players to sign." Isn't that exactly what you are doing? Killing him for just talking about Lampard?

  5. Gus Keri, October 13, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.

    Jogo Bonito, this is nonsense. MLS signed and promoted so many good players from many different ethnicities and backgrounds. And may I remind you that, 4 years ago, the American people elected a black man over a white man?

  6. Gak Foodsource, October 13, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.

    Garber is and always wil be a marketing guy. He loves Beckham for the same reason HM, Pepsi, and adidas love him. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, my problem with Garber is that marketing isnt just one idea he has in his head - its the only idea he has in his head. MLS, and US soccer, have fundamental problems in how we develop players and who has access to quality training. How does marketing solve that problem? I wish Gatber and everyone else in US soccer would stop worrying about david beckham and start worrying about whether 10 year olds across the US are in the right type of soccer environments that can produce magic.

  7. Futbol Genio, October 14, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.

    NOTORIETY is good for MLS, but it is critically important that we water our own flowers/Am. players with opportunity & wages, so we don't become like England....where its players can never win major tourneys. We have rook for all, but let's educate our kids & guarantee them 8 field spots, like España.

  8. Bill Anderson, October 15, 2012 at 12:47 p.m.

    Jogo Bonito, the ability to find a racist under every rock is a beginning point for a debate, but it sounds like it is the end of your voyage of self-discovery. I would reccomend you open yourself up to more wisdom and less rhetoric, unless you are only making a fool of yourself for "pot stirring" purposes only.

  9. Bill Anderson, October 15, 2012 at 12:53 p.m.

    Paul Gardner, your articles are redundant. We all get that you hate the English influence on American soccer. I agree to a large extent, but you are ignoring a couple of large facts about the Garber comments. Don Garber was speaking in London, England. The talking points would be about English players for marketing purposes when he is there. If he were in Mexico City, I am quite sure he would be extolling the virtues of Rafa Marquez and the contributions of Qhuatemoc Blanco to the MLS. To fit your agenda, you ignored some pretty important context.

  10. Ramon Creager, October 15, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.

    Well, if Garber had to talk up a Brit, at least he picked a good one. Lampard is not the shining example of the English Game. He is more (gasp) continental in his approach to playing a high midfield position. Like a Cesc, or David Silva, or Cazorla. Maybe not quite as good as those three, but good nonetheless. The English game needs more English like him. Someday, I hope, MLS will be able to attract players like this while they're still in their prime.

  11. Jack Niner, October 16, 2012 at 3 p.m.

    English Football - Oh dear God - Who decided to bring it to America!? I agree with Mr Anderson - When your in Rome do as the Roman's, even if they are the English.

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