A Fascinating Season On Premier League Benches

Whilst the quality hasn't always been sky high, John Nicholson believes that the fascinating coming and going has more than made up for things. Suppositions have been challenged...

Last Updated: 05/05/14 at 10:39 Post Comment

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It's been a lot of fun in the Premier League this season. Not so much on the pitch, where there have been up to 11 sides who you'd rather wrap your head in carpet than expose your delicate eyes to. For all that the football has sometimes been thrilling, a lot of it has been, whisper it quietly, utter dross, as anyone who witnessed Chelsea playing Norwich and Arsenal playing West Brom yesterday could attest.

I've found the managerial shenanigans to be where the real fun of the 2013-14 season has been, primarily because so many of the more idiotic notions fed to us by the media about managers were exploded as myths and bigotries.

What fun David 'everyone thought he was the right man for the job' Moyes has given us all by running a decent side into the dirt while sporting an expression so fearful you'd have though the devil had appeared before him. Then Ryan came forward in a suit and within one game was vaunted as The Next Big Thing and then one game later, quietly forgotten about like a holiday romance. Hilarious.

Then there's been Brendan with his motivational speaker aphorisms (I bet he loves the word aphorism), his twinkling Celtic eyes and his unexpected weight loss which has only made his head look even more potato-shaped.

We've witnessed the Jose roadshow flopping when push came to shove, featuring the now rather dumpy-looking Portuguese appearing utterly knackered, dressed in the underclass uniform of white tracksuit (though thankfully without the inclination to put his hands down the front of them - a low-life speciality for reasons I can never work out).

Then there was Timothy fackin' Sherwood, my son. A proper football man who knows the club and a gift from Cockney central casting who has been nothing if not great value since he replaced the cerebral and distinctly non-proper football man, Andre Villas-Boas. Of course, his appointment made almost no difference to Spurs' results, even though Tim is the only man to wear a gilet who is not shopping in Waitrose.

Big Sam's sides play football you'd rather eat your own buttocks than witness and he continues to be a comedy villain to the extent that his own fans booed him. Don't they know he's a proper football man through and through? The look of arrogant delight on his face suggested being booed was the best thing that had happened to him in his career.

Manuel Pellegrini annoyed journalists by giving little away about anything and affecting disinterest in anything written about him or his side. There's nothing the press hate more than being ignored. Good on him.

At Everton Martinez delighted all of us by proving that having a manager in place for 11 years could actually be a hindrance and not the asset we're forever told it is, turning Everton into a side we wanted to watch play football. Listening to pundits trying to balance saying Everton have improved massively under a foreigner while trying not to say Moyes had been stifling the club with joyless, negative football has been a joy.

At Southampton, Pochettino has taken his side to a top-half finish whilst being anonymous to the broad mainstream of football watchers and in the face of a media who largely wanted him to fail due to not being a proper football Man, unlike his predecessor. He's also developed a lot of good English talent - something that is supposed to be the preserve of a British manager who knows the club. Turns out that's not true.

Then there was Alan Pardew, whose comedy acts of violence-lite have thrilled us all season long. Blessed with a face that permanently seems to say 'I'm-trying-to-be-polite-but-I'm-really-bloody-annoyed' and hated largely for being a southerner as well as for being worn like a glove puppet by the owner, he now appears to be getting paid merely to be a hate sink. Even the press don't seem to like him much. Fair play to him for that.

Tony Pulis, on the other hand, has evidently become utterly brilliant and no longer looks like a manic, competitive dad on the touchline of your local school pitch but a wise old owl. Fascinating how these changes to reputation happen. I could have sworn he's the same bloke doing the same thing. Mark Hughes could have done with a similar rejuvenation but he's spent all season looking slightly bored and still narked by his demotion from 'good young British manager' (he is still referred to as a young manager occasionally despite being greyer than a very grey thing) to 'Who? Mark Hughes? Is he manager of Stoke now? Oh.'

His erstwhile United team-mate Steve Bruce continues to wear the dazed expression of man who, by accidentally fiddling with a strange machine in his shed in 1904, has now found himself inexplicably in the 21st century.

West Brom 'went foreign' and you should never do that, not unless you want Glenn Hoddle to grimace, incorrectly use a tense and misplace a verb. Sadly for Pepe Mel's critics, but to the delight of the rest of us, West Brom have stayed up.

The same can't be said of Cardiff, who would definitely have stayed up if they'd only left Malky MacKay in charge, he who suffered the ignominy of being a proper football man shafted by an evil foreign owner who really should just have bought the club and then left Malky to do what he wanted with all his money.

Worse still, Vincent Tan then went foreign. Well, half foreign. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer being an honorary Englishman due to speaking the lingo with a Mancunian lilt, not being swarthy and smiling nicely. The delicious unspoken irony is that if he was still manager of Molde, we all know he'd have been touted as a Manchester United manager - due to being a man who knows the club (and can wear a suit with the best of them). But Cardiff has now stained him like beetroot on a white suit.

Fulham have had 32 managers this season and all of them have found a side too bad to stay up, Sometimes when you're cack you're just cack and there's nothing you can do about it, except at Sunderland apparently.

Paolo Di Canio began to the season amusing us all with his genuine fury about unimportant things and have ended with Gus Poyet - a man who, most amusingly, had already started to get his excuses for relegation in early - looking as surprised as the rest of us at their escape through the goal of a wardrobe on wheels, Connor Wickham.

It has been a fantastic season of turbulence and trauma on the bench, a season where so many default notions have been challenged. Virtually the only place this hasn't been true is at Arsenal, who are still stuck with the same bloke doing the same old shtick old year after year, seemingly mistaking paralysis for stability. He's even abandoned the ludicrous sleeping bag coat, which for a while was the most entertaining thing about Arsene. Now all we've got is that old classic - the constipated rocking back and forth with arms wrapped around himself.

While many others are giving us some new material, Wenger is still recycling the old hits on the oldies circuit but they no longer thrill like they once did; the new tunes are just no match for the old ones. Shame really.

Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com

Bolak - I've told Barry that if Russ doesn't get you through the play-offs then I'm just a phone call away......
- tasty

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lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'


e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on


urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
Saints' Schneiderlin stalemate

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