I think it’s fair to say that as a Toon fan my patience has been tested over the last 3 or 4 weeks.
I think it was probably a huge victory of optimism over common sense that made any of us believe that Rafa was staying, something that I would expect from us, the fans, but how on earth did his departure catch Charnley and Ashley by surprise? Surely you’d think they had the information required to come to the “Rafa is leaving” conclusion a bit earlier in the game?
You know, clues like Rafa saying, “I’m leaving?”.
I suspect that instead of improving the conditions for Rafa, Ashley may even have tried to make things more difficult by trying to remove him completely from the decision making chain when it comes to transfers.
This move towards putting a head coach back in again, rather than a manager, shows a determination from Ashley to follow what is not only considered the “European” model of running a club, but also the “modern” model. Who’d have believed that Ashley was actually ahead of his time on this?
Arsene Wenger was generally considered the last of the traditional managers in the Premiere League, having control over all aspects of the playing squad and off-field activities, and along with that other great EPL legend, Sir Alex Ferguson, no-one can deny they did a superb job.
However, these days good managers are few and far between.
So is this new trend a bad thing? Does it automatically spell doom and despondency for a team when they appoint a Head Coach instead of a manager?
Last season 15 Premier League teams ran their operations with a Technical Director responsible for transfers, and the coach, or manager only responsible for team performance.
While for some reason we seem to look down on this set-up as the brain fart of an owner who has no idea how to run a club, most of those team’s players weren’t eating Christmas dinner, frantically thumbing though the Exchange & Mart trying to figure out what they could get for a two year old Bentley GT Convertible.
In case you are in any doubt about that statement, with Rafa Benitez, considered one of the best modern day managers around, we struggled against teams where the Head Coach didn’t actually have full say on which players came into their respective clubs.
Yes – I’m sure you’re all shouting “It’s Ashley’s fault” and there’s no doubt that he has contributed big time to where we now find ourselves. If there’s a sale on the horizon, great, but if there’s not, we need to get over it, and get on with it.
If you have still managed to come up with an excuse for appointing a manager rather than a Head Coach, take a look at this years European Cup last 16. The Head Coach system seems to have worked well for every one of them, by definition the best teams in European.
The problem with Kevin Keegan’s brief return as Head Coach wasn’t down to the fact that he had to deal with a Technical Director selecting the players that were coming in, as much as who that Technical Director was.
In successful teams there has to be a good relationship between the Technical Director and the Head Coach – a requirement that was sadly lacking at SJP – and the Head Coach has to have a flexibility that ensures that he can set up a team to the players’ strengths rather than making them bow to his preferred style. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s relevant here. If Pardew had been in charge when Shearer was signed, he’d have played him in goal.
While doing research for a previous article I noticed that since the latest wad of procedures were introduced by the Premier League and the FA, a number of clubs have been sold in either September or October. As nobody in their right mind would deliberately set out to buy a club after the transfer window has closed, hence having no influence over the performance of their investment until January, I’d have to assume that this is because the “fit and proper”, and other required processes take longer than the buyers expect.
For this reason I’m optimistic that a sale is still possible, and even likely. I personally think (OK, hope) that Bruce has come in as a temp until a sale goes through. Taking the selection of players out of Bruce’s hands would leave his successor with a squad of a more generic nature not selected to fit in with Bruce’s playbook.
Bruce’s inability to identify decent players to bring in has probably contributed to his extended travels down Mediocre Street.
Another reason for this unwarranted optimism is that having witnessed the financial benefit of having a top end tactician like Rafa on board why on earth would Ashley even consider “yo-yo” Bruce, a relegation specialist, as a replacement?
One day Big Mike’s scoffing Wagyu Kobe steaks with a bottle of ‘87 Chateau Lafite, then the next he’s washing spam fritters down with a can of Vimto . It makes no sense.
It would be interesting to know what the “boot” clause is in Bruce’s contract.
I can just imagine Ashley convincing Bruce to take the job.
“If you stay up and finish mid table you’ll be on the same package as Rafa got”.
“Aye, but what if you sell the club?”
“Don’t worry Bruce, I’ll look after you. I got one of the girls down the office to put a few quid on you winning the sack race!”
One thing that always bugged me about manager selection for our national team was that the powers that be thought because a manager had won trophies with clubs he could do the same for England. It never seemed to occur to them that the dynamics were completely different. Gareth Southgate, for example, can’t get half way through an international competition and go out and and spend 80 million on a new German striker. The ultimate Head Coach has pictures of the World Cup on his CV having made the best of what was available to him, and essentially his Technical Director is his country’s Immigration Department.
If Ashley was planning for a long stay he would have gone for someone who has managed at International level or at least a coach from the continent where they are used to the model.
You never know, maybe removing the pressure of worrying about transfers and contracts, and allowing him to concentrate solely on getting the best out of his squad will turn Bruce into a half decent Head Coach?
To paraphrase Rafa. “Well at least a better one than three of the others.”
Personally, regardless of the manager, the team and all these “phantom” buyers that Ashley keeps wheeling out, I’m looking forward to the new season kicking off so we can concentrate on whinging about something tangible, rather than having to just make stuff up. The Titanic hasn’t even left Southampton yet and we’re already complaining about the band.