Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Send for the clowns, Roman

If you want entertainment, said a former Welsh international and top flight manager go to the circus. He was commenting after a pretty turgid affair at Highbury which had seen his side, Stoke City, put 10 men behind the ball and said come and get us. Arsenal struggled but finally triumphed 2-0. It probably says a lot about that particular game that it was the full backs who scored that day, Kenny Sansom and John Hollins. Alan Durban, the man advising we look to the big top for our kicks, was making the point that he was not responsible for entertaining people. His job was to keep Stoke in the big time with what he had available. If he failed he was answerable to the board and fans of Stoke City, not the armchair viewer with pizza and remote close at hand.

As the news about Jose Mourinho sank in I recalled that game way back in 1980 and Durban’s post match comments. A manager is judged by results. If he is then surely Jose had a job for life. Certainly had he been managing in a different era I wouldn’t be writing this now. Leeds made no friends outside West Yorkshire as they rowed and scrapped their way to trophies in the late 90’s and early 70’s while at the same time Arsenal were no purists dream. Instead the neutral would purr over the football at Upton Park and Maine Road but those teams won nothing. Even Liverpool’s early success was achieved with mass defending and yawn inducing away performances.

Mourinho is a victim of the times and he can blame TV, Arsene Wenger and Manchester United. As his teams snarled their way to trophy after trophy Arsenal and United were playing expansive football that had the worldwide audience oohing and aahing. It was theatre at its most magical worthy of the Bolshoi while Chelsea, to carry with the stage analogy, was Punch and Judy on a wet summer’s day in Eastbourne. Chelsea’s money men looked at how Arsenal and United hogged the headlines despite his team’s success and felt something was missing. Roman wanted to be loved, he wanted the trophies and glory but he also wanted to feel all gooey inside and it wasn’t happening. Sexy football was the answer but it isn’t that simple marrying style and success and you wonder if even the arrival of Ronaldhino as was touted in the close season would have unleashed a team top heavy with destroyers like Makele and Essien. Ironic, Chelsea’s early success was built around Duff and Robben, both wide players, both blessed with skill, both sold.

Times have changed since Durban made his circus comment. TV has raised expectations, the amount of money has raised expectations and the new breed of money mogul, used to money buying whatever they want, have their own raised expectations. Winning is expected to be achieved with a swagger. I guess for the teams at the bottom where survival is a battle the result is still the alpha and omega. Alan Durban will recognize that at least hasn’t changed.

Will Roman be happy with a team winning the applause of the media and armchair critics yet winning no silverware? Playing beautiful football doesn’t expand the fan base as West Ham and Spurs have found over the years. It also doesn’t guarantee trophies as Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle showed us 10 years ago. Chelsea are not a world wide name now because of stepovers and one touch passing. Their shirts are seen round the world because of the trophies they have collected recently. People want to identify with winners, they claim bragging rights over their mates and they bask in the reflected glory of their adopted team thousands of miles away. Chelsea have stated they want to be the biggest club in the world, a ludicrous statement when you consider the headstart the likes of United, Real and Barca have over them. For them to be considered in that heady company they need sustained success over the next few years.


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