Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Managing at the wrong end

This is going to be a bit of a ramble so forgive, let's just see where we end up.

Inspiration came from a glance at the lower end of the Premier league table and the blokes who managed these clubs.

Being bottom of course we have Derby County, now managed by Paul Jewell after they somewhat oddly sacked Billy Davies who had promoted them in the first place. Is Paul Jewell the right man to save Derby County? Of course not. I couldn't save them this season but I'd have been a lot cheaper.

But why appoint Jewell? As a manager he has hardly set the world alight has he? Relegated with Bradford City, sacked from struggling Sheffield Wednesday, he did get promotion with Wigan and he did well to keep them in the Premier League. But, given the lack of money and a lousy postcode he was never going to bring in the quality that would have enabled Wigan to be anything other than a team making up the numbers in the bottom half of the table.

Fulham sacked Lawrie Sanchez and brought in Roy Hodgson. Woo woo. Hodgson has some 30 years managerial experience, including spells with Bristol City and Blackburn Rovers, he was a very successful manager in Sweden and also managed the Swiss and Finnish national teams. A journeyman manager, it seems his path to save Fulham from relegation is to sign journeymen players. If he does it he will be a hero of course but is he ever going to make Fulham into a top 10 side?

Steve Coppell was long considered one of English football's most promising managers but that was a long time back. Four spells at Crystal Palace and 33 days at Manchester City consigned him to the status of also ran. He has done a job at Reading but after 24 years in management success looks to have eluded him.

I did laugh when Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, described Steve Bruce as one of the best English managers in the game. 10 months at Sheffield United, 18 months at Huddersfield, six weeks in his first spell at Wigan, five months at Crystal Palace, Bruce won nothing more than a game of scrabble on the team bus going home after a long away game. Things changed at Birmingham where in six years he did win a couple of promotions, hence Whelan's hype I guess.

Then we have Gary Megson and his impressive resume. Norwich, 7 months. Blackpool 12 months. Stockport two years. Stoke, four months. West Brom four years whoopie doo! Notts Forest 13 months, Leicester five weeks. He has won promotion twice...that's it.

As a chairman looking through tose respective cv's you can't help but feel underwhelmed. Five managers, five ENGLISH managers, condemned to struggling in the lower half of the table perhaps with a promotion campaign or two to lift the dross. A vicious circle. No big club in England is prepared to take a risk on a young manager. They settle for middling clubs who just can't compete with the big boys money wise. They get relegated, move on, get relegated, move on and before you know it that have experience by the bucket load but a resume no top club would look at twice.

Even Newcastle United went for safe 'bubbly' Kevin Keegan knowing that his enthusiasim would at least paper over some of the cracks at the club.

It is unlikely that an English manager will win a trophy this season. Redknapp, everyone's favourite Londoner, at Portsmouth, Southgate at 'Boro and Curbishley at West Ham are playing for scraps, paying inflated prices for players not good enough for the big clubs, in effect for survival.

But I do wonder. How would your Fergie's, Wenger's and Rafa's get on at clubs where the funds are harder to come by. Could Wenger for example keep Derby up this season? Could Mourinho make Wigan the pioneers of sexy football? Of course they wouldn't want to. The best gravitate towards the best and the rest feed off the scraps.

This is football 2008.

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