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Managerial Malarkey


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Robbie D may well wake up this morning to the prospect of a new dawn with the sun shining brightly through his Stamford Bridge office window, but on this forum there will still be plenty of doubters rubbing their eyes and asking themselves the only pertinent question of the day - is he really the right man for the job or not? After last night’s, albeit unconvincing, winning performance some Shed Enders might hint at a ‘yes’ vote, perhaps after a brief return to an old stomping ground and another grudging paragraph or two condemning AVB’s sacking, yet surely by now many more accept that Roman’s swift action was justified and they will, without going so far as to mark Robbie down as goods tainted by association, still hanker for a bigger name to headline the transitional cull to come.

‘What will THE Roman do?’ has to be an opening gambit in any discussion on this subject and, whilst he has always been portrayed as trigger-happy in his treatment of managers, clearly AVB wasn't sacked purely because of a dip in results. He had to go due to an apparent limited tactical appreciation, virtually no communication skills and only one plan when it came to the rebuilding of the team; to alienate the senior pros, thereby poisoning the dressing room. Despite this indictment, the cardinal sin was appointing him in the first place and Roman, having made the decision to hire a young manager to embellish the rejuvenation process, simply picked the wrong one.

More to the point, whilst we have taken our standard weekly dose of Media opprobrium ever since, the whole medicinal process seems strangely muted this time around, coming as it does in a season in which the only cleansed ’untouchables’ are an omnipotent Fergie and the lovable ’Appy ’Arry. Okay, perhaps Wenger will join them if he caps what one dozy Sky presenter called a ’sensational comeback season’ by securing third place in the Premiership, but you catch my overall drift and it’s as well you do because the rest of this post is all about perception of the change occurring and how it should ultimately influence the choice Chelsea make in the next close season of transition vamp. We have to take note of the managerial mood-swing currently affecting domestic football in this country and there is no better place to start than at an unmoveable, unchangeable, God only knows why, Old Trafford.

Strange as it may seem and to quote his own book title, I believe The Ferguson Effect on all matters Premiership is both harmful to his fellow coaches and, naturally enough, beneficial to none other than the man himself. The effect in question is the stupefying one his longevity has had on other clubs who week in, week out, pay homage to ManU’s continuity of management, knowing full well it is unattainable for themselves in a league dominated by one team continually feasting off of their subordination and insecurity. Challenge to this philosophy was almost non-existent until Arsene Wenger came along with something different in terms of fuelling and fare, but to this day it is uncertain as to whether rivalry with Arsenal was anything other than mere welcomingly close competition for a short while, a useful pretty face for English football to have around that never quite made it on the European catwalk - tells you everything you need to know about their current close-on-7-year ’know your place’ plight, doesn’t it?

Then came Jose, the so-called enemy of the game, an epithet of truth in as much as there is little doubt that any team he touches is never quite the same again. Want proof? Well, just look at the number of managers that have departed at each of the clubs he’s coached once he has gone - Benfica (10), Uniao Desportiva de Leira (16), Porto (7), Chelsea (7) Inter (5) - and we are naïve enough to think the only catalyst in our own long list of managerial casualties is Roman! Perhaps it is a case of can’t live with the Special One [for long] can’t live without him, but there is no denying his dark arts influence was a match for the Ferguson Effect and could easily be so again. Let’s face it, nobody else seems able to loosen the old boy’s icy grip on domestic events, even when he is forced to turn back to a gingerly Old Father Time to supplement his midfield in a crisis.

Sadly of late, it must also be said that money and a vastly superior squad can’t buy a seat above his at the top table either, or so it would appear. Roberto Mancini would surely attest to this, even with a handful of games to go this season, if he didn’t have to wait until winning the title was a mathematical impossibility, whereupon he too gets the push in a general direction away from the type of cosy continuity everyone [allegedly] craves. At precisely the moment he departs expect a smug Sir Alex to put on his serious head and tell every fawning journalist who cares to ask just how sad it is to see another Premiership manager go way before his time, bemoaning a lack of stability at the noisy neighbours gaff and saying how, in his view, long term managerial appointments are always best, but club chairmen and directors up and down the country continually fail recognise the fact.

And he’s right, of course, especially in the case of Liverpool, where Roy Hodgson got his marching orders well before he could get into a brisk trot on the training ground and now King Kenny’s game is all but up, even though his Carling Cup race was won on a technicality after breasting the tape with Cardiff‘s Malky Mackay. Heaven knows what the PFA’s Gordon Taylor will make of a Scouse icon being sacked - is it legal? - although the Media seem fully compliant with this anticipated outcome, providing further evidence that a new era of acceptance [of pretty much anything and anyone going without overblown effrontery] now exists, unless Chelsea is involved. Long may this new found realism prevail and even extend to us for at least long enough for there to be an ultimate general appreciation of why we sacked our last manager and why we’re appointing our new one, whoever he may be.

The present Premiership managerial pecking order may not be quite the same as it ever was, other than at the very top, but once Champions League matters are done and dusted, hopefully with old scores settled, it will be time for us to treat the problem of competing on the domestic front as the priority it most definitely is. Overcoming United domination on anything more than a one-off basis has proved beyond the scope of all but two coaches since the league’s inception, whatever the reason, no matter the opposition squad, wealth, power or perceived influence, so breaking down the barrier requires destructive weaponry. A Robbie D, a tried and tested tactician or an innovative genius? Well, I know which one I’d choose, but would he be the man to take on a seemingly impossible task in the very backyard of The Old Continuity Contemptible himself?


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