The Premier League close season managerial changes have so far been more noteworthy than any player moves. The immediate post-season sackings of Kenny Dalglish and Alex McLeish from Liverpool and Villa respectively were hardly shocking. They did however kick off a chain of moves which say a lot about those concerned and the clubs involved. McLeish’s P45 in particular was not only the most predictable tax office filing of the year, but also had specific interest for Newcastle fans. His immediate replacement at Villa, Paul Lambert, was himself replaced at Norwich by Chris Hughton, possibly the unluckiest managerial sacking at Newcastle ever. Hughton in turn was replaced at Birmingham by ex-Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark, also unfortunate to be sacked by Huddersfield. Kenny Dalglish had spent the season defending the indefensible in terms of both behaviour and performance. When he was summoned to meet with Liverpool’s American owner immediately after the close of the season it was possibly the least appreciated Atlantic Crossing since my last visit to a second hand record store. The transatlantic boot having been applied to his behind, a recruitment process took place which appeared from the outside to be anything but planned. Swansea’s Brendan Rogers had initially passed up the chance to speak to Liverpool without having been shortlisted first but eventually took over when other avenues led nowhere.
Lambert forced through his move when Norwich tried to rebuff Villa. Remember this was only a few days after publicly ordering Grant Holt to stay when the striker requested a transfer. Loyalty appears to be a one-way street for Lambert, something he demands from everyone around him while keeping an eye out for the main chance on his own behalf. After a difficult start to life as a manager at Livingston, Wycombe took a chance on him. After catching the eye there with a cup run he left after less than two years to move up a division to League One Colchester. Less than a year later he moved again to Norwich. Following two successive promotions and an impressive first Premier League season Villa came calling. His record so far has been undeniably good, but he runs the risk of becoming another Steve Bruce. Bruce blazed a trail through the lower divisions, taking advantage of a reputation as an up-and-coming talent to swap clubs repeatedly when he perceived there to be advantage in it. The downside for him is that now his reputation has taken a few blows, many clubs are wary of taking on someone who will be off somewhere richer or more glamourous at the first hint of success. What is the benefit of taking a chance on someone who either fails or leaves immediately he attracts attention? While Lambert continues to impress he won’t care, but he should be wary of moving on too soon without achievement.
The most interesting thing about the whole set of moves was the reaction of clubs to their manager being approached. Swansea and their chairman were lauded for being ‘classy’, in standing aside and allowing Rogers to up sticks when the mood took Liverpool to ask him. Contrast that with Wigan’s Dave Whelan, widely derided as the nightmare chairman to end them all, who argued, refused to give in, and generally made life anything but easy for both Liverpool and Villa when they were reported to be interested in his manager Roberto Martinez. Look what happened to the managers of those clubs. The annoying embarrassment of a chairman retained the services of his manager, the respected honourable man of his word lost those of his.
Which of Swansea’s and Wigan’s fans do you think were happier? I know which type of chairman and owner I’d rather have in charge at my club, and I know which we’ve got at Newcastle in Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias. I won’t go over ancient history but we all know mistakes were made, mistakes which prevent some, many even, from ever approving of their tenure. Even those who refuse to give credit for successes of the Ashley regime such as the improved financial situation must surely recognise that those in charge of the club drive a hard bargain, whether buying or selling. They might say that Ashley only acts as if he’s spending his own money because he is spending his own money, but either way that cussed refusal to do anyone else a favour acts in the interest of our club. The job of an owner or chairman is not to curry favour with fans of other clubs. Another season like last would mean someone showing interest in Alan Pardew, but it’s a certainty that only after kicking and screaming by the club would he be prised away, and that is something I have no difficulty in approving of.
Author: Mark Brophy
Website: http://markbrophy.wordpress.com/ for a back catalogue of Mark’s writing.
Follow Mark on Twitter @mark_brophy
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