The world cup is upon us. Rejoice! Let the hope build, only to kill you as England scrape through their group and then lose 2-0 to Columbia.
I hope that doesn’t happen, as I really quite like Gareth Southgate and I would like him to do well. But naturally, this got me thinking about how the education secretaries of recent years would fare as England manager.
This isn’t as ridiculous a comparison as it sounds; England managers are subjected to a barrage of media scrutiny, not unlike politicians. Since 2010, we’ve had 4 of each. That’s all the convincing I need to have a stab at deciding how each of the education secretaries of recent years would do taking this England squad into the world cup.
Confession: before I started writing this, I had Michael Gove down as the sort of politician who would say “I love Henry Kane!” when, nervously sweating, he tries to come up with a credible answer to ‘his favourite England player’ to show he is in touch with the Common Everyman Voter.
However, he seems to actually like football, at least a bit. He’s a QPR fan, and once made a comment in the commons comparing his ministerial team to then-Arsenal midfielders Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil – which is weird, sure, but technically a reference to the beautiful game. So Michael, if you’re reading: I apologise. I had you down all wrong.
But, more importantly, I think his actual liking and knowledge of football is inconsequential. If made manager, he would lose the dressing room the second Dele Alli found the video of him falling over and shared it on the squad whatsapp group. They would make fun of him so much. Sorry Michael.
Verdict: knocked out at group stage. The players need a manager they respect.
Nicky Morgan, it’s fair to say, was made education secretary to steady the ship after Michael Gove proved to be a little contentious amongst the teaching profession. She said all the right things at union conferences and it remained quiet-ish until the white paper that proposed full academisation of every school that subsequently had to be u-turned on.
A perceived safe pair of hands at first - following a bit of a wildcard character - that eventually suffers an embarrassing exit? Hodgson at Euro 2016 all over. So:
Verdict: through the group stages, but knocked out to a plucky underdog like Iceland.
Justine Greening has, as far as I can tell, said very little about football in her time as a politician. She once urged ministers to “stop kicking around student finance like a political football”, so we can ascertain that she knows the basic tenet of how the game is played (with the feet).
But she also revived the grammar school expansion debate under her tenure, which in education circles is not the most unanimously popular of policies – it’s seen by some as damaging to social mobility. For her hypothetical managerial career, this could point to the old adage of not good giving young players equal opportunities to break through.
Since England’s oldest world cup squad since 1950 belong to 2010’s Fabio Capello led squad, (featuring a 39 year old David James!) Greening is our Capello. Give the youth a chance, Grapello!
Damian Hinds is relatively new to this role, which limits what we know about him as a potential England manager. Is he a Hoddle? Is he a Göran Eriksson? An Allardyce? We just don’t know yet (though I’d bet he isn’t an Allardyce. Dude doesn’t look like he can handle a pint of wine).
Hinds has recently pledged to simplify the accountability system. In my mind, this makes him the anti-Capello. The infamous Capello Index would have no place in a clear and simple school accountability system. Then again, he’s also pledged a new £50 million grammar school fund. We’ve just said being pro-grammar schools is a very Capello move!
Hinds is therefore an unknown quantity - an enigma.
Verdict: unknown. He could win the thing, or oversee stale draws to Tunisia and Panama before a crushing defeat to Belgium. There are some things that man wasn’t meant to know. Damian Hinds as England manager is one of those things.
Thanks for reading. Join us next week where we assess whether Ofsted’s Sean Harford could put a shift in at left wing-back.