[The] captaincy should be viewed as a reward for services rendered, not the kind of decision upon which a team’s fortunes can be made or broken. Give it to Hyypia, because he’s given us back a sense of self-respect in defence. Give it to Owen because he’s a genuinely world class player. Give it to Gerrard because he’s Scouse. Give it to Carragher because he’s our longest serving player, and Scouse. But don’t give it to someone because they’re not a goalie or a winger or young or ineffectual in the tackle. To do so just wouldn’t be football.
When asked what was the biggest difficulty faced by any government, Harold Macmillan was supposed to have said “Events, dear boy, events”. Disappointingly it now looks like he probably never said it at all, but when the legend is better than the truth, print the legend (a quote I always ascribed to Samuel Goldwyn, but can’t find a reference for now on Google). And even if he didn’t say it Macmillan’s ‘comment’ still rings true for all manner of professions, not least journalism. So when De Paper announced that John Mullane had quit the Waterford team ‘indefinitely‘, the focus of the article was on how he had been overlooked for the captaincy. This nugget of information was offered up apropos of nothing, but the implication was clear – Mullane had flounced off in a huff over yet another snub.
Alas for the man who had Ger Loughnane buried while still very much alive, the truth about John Mullane has proven to be much more mundane, i.e. that he’s taken some time out from the regular panel to spend more time with his young family. In case you think I’m being unduly mean on John Fogarty, who did point out that Mullane only played two League matches last year, you only have to see how HoganStand.com put much greater emphasis on that fact to see how Fogarty was being economical with the actualité. This isn’t a case of being wise after the event. It’s a case of needing to wait until the event happens before commenting on it.
There is a broader context to this latest example of hacks putting legs on a story, one that has been put into stark contrast by the shenanigans engulfing the English FA. As noted in the article linked above . . . whaddya mean you haven’t read it?! Ahem. As noted in the article linked above, the English take the issue of captaincy way too seriously. They invest a mystical power in the armband, reasoning – not that there’s any ‘reason’ to it – that the wrong man can transmit his negative waves throughout the entire team while the right man can use the power of the armband to lift his teammates up where they belong, verily even unto where the eagles fly on a mountain high. It’s utter tosh, but it’s an attitude that seems to have even gotten to Fabio Capello. Okay, his prime reason for walking away now was that he knew he had little hope of whipping the team into being contenders for Euro 2012 and now he can walk away before the xenophobic crap – “wop a disgrace”, anyone? – hits the fan in the smouldering central European summer heart. But if Capello has any knowledge of English soccer history he would know that when Don Revie jacked it in because things weren’t working out he was pilloried forever for his treachery. Incredibly Capello can now claim to have walked away on an issue of principle and not have anyone laugh in his face, and all because disputes about the captaincy in England are treated with the reverence of the pronouncements of 12th century Archbishops of Canterbury.
Yet for all of that scoffing at such nonsense, it seems to have infected our supposedly Anglophobic selves. Suggestions that John Mullane is upset that he didn’t get the captaincy are endlessly recycled because no one is likely to say that he couldn’t give a monkeys about such a modest bauble. Worse still, you have to wonder why he isn’t getting it. The link between the captaincy and the county champions was severed by Justin McCarthy several years ago, the eminently sensible logic of such an action being to give it to someone who is bound to be in the team rather than being faced with the dilemma of trying to ram a player in just because he’s the man nominated by the county champions. Only Michael Walsh and Tony Browne approach John Mullane’s standing in the team in terms of ability and longevity, and they’ve each had it in the past. At the very least Buggin’s turn should have seen the captaincy fall on Mullane. The fact that he didn’t get it gives the impression that Michael Ryan is concerned about Mullane’s past ‘reputation’, exactly the sort of thing that exercises our neighbours across the water. As always in Irish life, we can cheerfully blame all our woes on baleful influence of the Brits.