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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 August, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Could or would Woodward?
By Tom Fordyce

Sir Clive Woodward to take over from Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager of the England football team?

It sounds like the most ridiculous sports story of the year. But could it happen? And would such a switch actually work?

THE RUMOUR

Newspaper reports on Tuesday claimed that Woodward would gain "elite work experience" at a Premiership club early in 2005, with the aim of eventually landing a major role with the England team.

Clive Woodward

Woodward was spotted in the crowd at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as managerless Southampton took on Chelsea.

Woodward has sat with Saints chairman Rupert Lowe at two other Premiership matches this season, and also spent time with the Southampton youth academy last week.

Then, after the 48-year-old's meeting on Wednesday with Rugby Football Union boss Francis Baron, came the bombshell - Woodward said he would be resigning.

HOW IT COULD WORK

Woodward is not a hands-on manager of the old school.

He is a facilitator, a man who looks at the overall system around a team and then works out which people and resources are needed to improve it.

As such, his lack of direct football experience might not be the barrier that it would first appear to be.

In October 2003 he told cricket magazine Wisden: "I could do in cricket what I've done in rugby.

"If the policy of ensuring that every conceivable aspect of the game is analysed by an expert works in rugby, why shouldn't it work in cricket?"

Woodward is obsessed with detail, perfectly willing to try things that might draw media or public derision if he thinks they will improve his team even fractionally. Hence the peripheral vision coach he employed with England before the World Cup.

If Woodward moved into football, do not expect to see him in the dug-out at matches or in the middle of the action on the training pitch.

Sir Clive Woodward
Woodward is contracted to the RFU until 2007

Just as he has Andy Robinson to run coaching sessions with England, so he would be likely to employ a team of coaches underneath him if he moved into football.

Former England prop Jeff Probyn says, "From a player's point of view, Clive isn't a great motivator. He doesn't take part in any training exercise.

"What he is very, very good at is identifying areas of weakness and then appointing people to fill that void.

"He provides the best facilities and the right coaching options to challenge those weaknesses.

"The skills Clive has shown with the England team are definitely transferable."

Woodward analyses every aspect of his team's preparation to see if there is any way he can boost their match-winning potential.

By way of example, he was present for England's Euro 2004 warm-up match against Japan, a game that finished 1-1, and could not believe that the England players were not then given the chance to practice a penalty shoot-out in a match scenario.

His reasoning? They would probably have to do it at some stage in the forthcoming tournament - and practising in a noisy, packed stadium would have been the ideal preparation.

THE PROBLEMS

Woodward knows rugby inside out. But the methods that have served him so well in union might not be so instantly adaptable to football.

To actually manage in the Premiership, he would need a Uefa licence.

To even play the role of a director of football, he would need an intimate knowledge of his new sport so that he could appoint the right coaches to work under him.

Then there is the cost.

Most clubs operate with one manager and a couple of subsidiary coaches. The Woodward approach, despite his protestations, would break the usual financial structure of a Premier league club.

Then there is the question of whether Woodward would enjoy going from managing a national side to looking after a club side, as he would have to do initially if he were to switch sports.

He is hardly short of challenges in rugby. He is in charge of the Lions tour to New Zealand next summer, where he will come up against his old rival Graham Henry.

Rugby players respect Woodward and listen to what he says. Footballers, particularly high-profile ones, are unlikely to show the same levels of deference to a man who has never played their game professionally, let alone managed in it before.

Woodward's move looks increasingly likely to happen. But Eriksson need not have sleepless nights about it quite yet.





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