Mark Douglas: Pessimistic Greg Dyke is cutting his own throat

Greg Dyke clearly holds little hope that England can reach the latter stages of the World Cup as Mark Douglas discusses

Nick Potts/PA Wire Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke
Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke

Do you know what Noel Le Graet did when France lost the first leg of their World Cup play-off with a pretty pitiful performance in Ukraine?

The President of the French Football Federation went on the attack.

“I felt good mobilisation, confidence and reason to be optimistic. The France team will qualify on Tuesday.” You do not need me to fill in the gaps of what happened next.

Compare and contrast with Greg Dyke after England were pulled out of the World Cup draw alongside Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.

No words, just a cut-throat gesture which signalled exactly what he thought of the prospect of the Three Lions progressing out of an admittedly tortuous qualifying section.

Now Le Graet is no cheerleader for the French national team.

Google his name and see what comes up: admissions the Les Bleus are “regressing” and a pretty sparky clash with Christophe Dugarry live on the nation’s equivalent of Match of the Day.

Yet he set the tone for France’s remarkable recovery in Paris last month with words which left Didier Deschamps with little in the way of wriggle room.

Now it is doubtful if Le Graet’s words echoed around the dressing room before Yohan Cabaye and company stepped out at the Stade de France, but the boldness he illustrated was replicated on the pitch.

Dyke is symptomatic of the environment which surrounds the England team at the moment.

I don’t happen to think that England have a particularly good chance of skipping into the latter stages of the tournament out in Brazil, but that is based on a kind of resigned fatalism you adopt like a cloak when following the national side.

For the chairman of the Football Association to do the same is very worrying and speaks of the reduced expectations which rebound around the corridors of power at Wembley.

Sat next to Dyke, manager Roy Hodgson looked a little perturbed by his cut-throat gesture.

In truth, though, Hodgson was probably licking his lips at the way his boss responded – for it puts him in a no-lose situation as he heads into the biggest competition of his professional career.

Managers like reduced expectations for it makes their jobs easier. Knocked out in the group stages? Well, it was a difficult group.

Get any further than the first hurdle and it is a bonus.

Who knows, this time they might even put forward a second-round knock-out as some kind of triumph!

The problem with this kind of attitude is inevitably it seeps into the dressing room.

For all there is validity when a manager complains about a dire situation with injuries or wonders out loud if he will be backed in the transfer window, it is not exactly the sort of message that encourages a squad.

Look at Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland. For all he was on to something when he talked of a need for a revolution in mind and body on Wearside, the tone of his language and his demeanour merely sent already low confidence flat-lining at the Stadium of Light.

Gus Poyet, wisely, chose his words a bit more carefully after Saturday’s latest disappointment, but he made it clear the players need to inject a note of urgency into their performances.

As the FA’s main man, Dyke does not need to be banging the drum for England’s chances.

The bookmakers have pitched them at 33/1, a realistic assessment of where they sit in the running for a tournament whch will be fiendishly difficult for them to make an impression in.

To write their chances off at such an early stage is merely encouraging the sort of defeatism which appears to have taken root in our national game. Given his elevated position, he really should know better.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer