Question: When is an “open” training session not an “open” training session?
Answer: When you are in Japan.
It was clearly a case of when in Japan, do as the French do last week when Philippe Troussier decided he would leave more than 200 reporters out in the car park scratching their privates for no better reason than having got out of bed on the wrong side.
I could be wrong, of course. Perhaps the missus burned his croissants or le chat peed on his shag-pile. (Try saying that after half a bottle of Beaujolais.) Neither constitutes a valid excuse.
There must be a clinical term for this sort of behavior and it is not called “World Cup pressure.”
Forgive me, but getting paid scrillions of yen to coach Japan at a World Cup taking place on home soil and with nobody actually expecting you to WIN anything sounds like a cushy little number.
So why has Troussier been walking around with a face like a wet weekend recently? Surely, he can’t be worried about Thursday’s friendly against Ukraine in Osaka!
Even without Japan’s European-based players and injured trio Ryuzo Morioka, Hiroshi Nanami and Toshihiro Hattori, the Japanese should cope comfortably with a Ukraine side missing AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov of Tottenham.
And defeat in Poland on March 27 would hardly be a disgrace so Troussier might want to pull up a beanbag and have a large Pernod and coke or nine.
I mean, his suitcases are already packed and he is talking of managing an English club team after the World Cup. So he should just get himself a neat haircut and concentrate on flashing his pearly whites for the cameras this summer because he is going to be on the telly A LOT. Lucky us.
Hang on, hang on. What was that about England, you say? Arsenal fans can relax. There will be no “Troussier-for-Wenger Swap Shocker” on the back page of The Sun.
Troussier has admitted that he does not want the pressure of managing a Premier League side and, besides, Arsenal would never be that silly.
“Arsene’s hair is getting grayer every day,” Troussier told a French newspaper recently. Well spotted.
So could we be seeing Troussier sporting a sheepskin coat as the new manager of Leyton Orient or, perhaps, Rushden and Diamonds next season? It is a mouthwatering prospect.
Imagine Troussier trying to crack the whip on some derelict training ground on the outskirts of Coventry with a bunch of former shelf-stackers staring back at him blankly wondering what on earth he means by a “flat back three.”
Troussier: “You. You with the skinhead. What do you do in a two-on-two situation?”
Defender: “I just clobbers the geezer with the ball, dun’ I?”
Defender: “Are you taking the piss or what, mate?” (And on it would go until the player was back on a YOP scheme or Troussier was in intensive care — probably the latter.)
Clearly, it is safer for Troussier to have training ground bust-ups with the likes of Atsushi Yanagisawa than with Rushden and Diamonds striker (and Lennox Lewis lookalike) Onandi Lowe.
But that is not the point. It is self-defeating for Troussier to be involved in any kind of confrontation with Japan players or the media here for the simple fact that he will never convince them that there is method in his madness — even if he leads his side into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
Don’t forget Troussier guided Japan to a second Asian Cup triumph in Lebanon in 2000, then took the co-hosts to the final of the Confederations Cup on home soil last June.
Japan beat Cameroon (2-0), Paraguay (2-0) and drew with Brazil (0-0) and Nigeria (2-2) in 2001 and Troussier was given very little credit by the Japanese press.
Yet as soon as the Japanese lose, Troussier is invited to commit “Harry Carry” on TV moments after the final whistle and then routinely compared to a turnip, radish or some other root vegetable in the newspapers the next morning.
That Japan only lost 1-0 to France in the Confederations Cup final meant little to the domestic media.
It was the handbag swinging between Troussier and Hidetoshi Nakata on the eve of the final in Yokohama that gave Japanese sports hacks the hump, as they say at Southend.
Never mind that it was Nakata who chose to return to Italy for AS Roma’s title run-in instead of play against France. Troussier, who was understandably naffed off by Nakata’s departure, was still cast as the bad guy.
“Incroy-bloody-able” it may be, Philippe, but that is how it works in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Frankly, how you have lasted 3 1/2 years in Japan is a mystery to me, especially as you were having “clear-the-air” talks with the Japan Football Association almost weekly in 1999.
But I am sure I speak for most members fo the “Roast Beef Mafia” as Troussier likes to call us English hacks, when I say that he will be missed after the World Cup. A bit of a drama queen he may be, but he has never been dull.
* * *
Footnote: Congratulations to the Japanese for deciding — although not yet officially, of course — to go for the no-fly zone option after government ministers read this column on March 5. You know it makes sense, Lodders.
(“The Bald Truth” would like to state for the record that no payment was received for passing on this handy hint to the Japanese transport ministry.)
(Er, at least not by The Bald One: sports editor)
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5