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It is a great pity that Bill Sweetenham has recently signed a new four-year deal that will keep him as British swimming's performance director until the Beijing Olympics, because in this new Woodwardian world, the straight-talking Aussie would have been the perfect man to take over from Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle United and administer some home truths.

It's a scene to conjure with: “Listen here Kieron [Dyer], you might be God's gift to Geordie women and SUV salesmen, but this is a football club and it's not run for your benefit.

“We're here to win and if I decide that you best serve that aim by cleaning the dunnies, then you will ask for permission to fetch your toothbrush. So buckle down or you'll be training with the under-11s until they've taught you how to behave.”

Sadly, that conversation will never happen.

However, because Sir Clive Woodward's ambition extends as laterally as his rugby thinking now the RFU has accepted his resignation it is not as unthinkable as it would have been last week.

I fear, however, that the fate awaiting brave Sir Clive, will be that of sporting oddity, a sort of freak show for the ever inquisitive public and ever judgmental media.

Which is not to say that he couldn't be successful. There are many similarities between football and rugby and many elements of Woodward's approach to sports management and his administrative skill-set that will suit the round ball game. Among them is a willingness to introduce continually new ideas and theories, something that could bring a breath of fresh air to any club game enough to take him on.

Another is a hard line approach to form and reputation. If you're not playing well enough, you're not playing, as Lawrence Dallaglio found out more than once. Had Woodward been in charge of England at Euro 2004, David Beckham would have been lucky to make it past the first group game never mind survive to the quarter-final.

Nor would Woodward's lack of football coaching experience necessarily stand in his way. He is an intelligent, thick-skinned, free-thinking innovator and it is not difficult to imagine why his friend Rupert Lowe is considering taking him on at St Mary's. But what do this imaginative pair think they can achieve?

Over his seven years in charge, Woodward has had the best that money can buy.

The national team is rugby's financial powerhouse and the World Cup success was achieved with the aid of every advantage that money could buy him over smaller, poorer nations. Southampton, comparatively, are the footballing equivalent of rugby's Georgia. Woodward will not have the best players, and should he ever unearth one, that player will leave, like Alan Shearer once did. Southampton may start out happy to fund his faddish ways, but how quickly will they put up with it if results do not go their way? The moment things go wrong there will be an obvious target for their dissatisfaction and derision and in football patience is measured in matches not months.

And that is the major difference between the two sports: the levels of, first expectation, and then scrutiny. When Woodward was taken on by the RFU he had two years to get things right, and when he and England failed at the 1999 World Cup he was given another four.

Six years is a long time for one manager to survive in the cauldron of international rugby, but in the revolving-door world of the Premiership it would be a long time for three.

Woodward is a remarkable man who has achieved extraordinary things, but his biggest challenge is now ahead of him.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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