Little Englander (Part the First)
‘I’ve seen club owners make some daft decisions but Leicester City’s appointment of Claude Puel seems plain bizarre.’
It’s a strong start from Stanley Victor Collymore, who fills the entirety of his Mirror column with rage about possibly the most sensible, if conservative, managerial appointment in Premier League history. Leicester – a struggling team with short-term aspirations to be the best of the rest – have appointed an available manager who finished eighth in the Premier League last season and reached a League Cup final. If anything, it’s just too sodding sensible.
‘It’s baffled, saddened and angered me all in one go.’
Well that seems a tad extreme but we are listening…
‘Baffled because I’m struggling to find a reason why my old club would make such an underwhelming appointment that’s hardly going to inspire a dressing room filled with players who were Premier League champs just two seasons ago.’
Erm, because Leicester right now are a mid-to-lower-table Premier League side so do not have the pulling power to attract big names. Unless they are going to go back and appoint Claudio Ranieri, they are unlikely to attract a manager with experience of ‘inspiring a dressing room filled with players who were Premier League champs just two seasons ago’.
Talking of Claudio Ranieri, this was Collymore on the Italian just over two years ago when predicting Leicester would finish 17th: ‘I’m not convinced about ‘Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri. Pearson had the dressing room. The players believed in him. Ranieri has a job on his hands earning the same respect.’
It’s almost like Collymore absolutely cannot judge who would be a good motivator in the Premier League.
Anyway, we digress…
‘Saddened because I think Leicester fans would rightly have expected the club’s owners to be braver and more ambitious.’
We think we have covered this but here we go; Leicester’s owners probably wanted to be ‘braver and more ambitious’ but the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Thomas Tuchel were bizarrely unwilling to take a job with a Premier League club facing a possible relegation battle. Is there one emotion left, Stan?
‘And angered because once again English managers – and Sean Dyche in particular – appear to have been overlooked for a Frenchman who hardly pulled up any trees at Southampton and left St Mary’s having made little lasting impact.’
Ah, now we get there. You didn’t want Leicester to be ambitious at all; you just wanted them to appoint an English manager. Would appointing the manager who finished 16th in last season’s Premier League – although one who has done a fine job – really be a more ambitious move than appointing the manager who finished eighth? It doesn’t sound more ambitious.
‘It’s no wonder Leicester fans have reacted with surprise and bewilderment because it looks one of the oddest managerial marriages I’ve seen in recent years – it just makes no sense to me.
‘I played for Leicester under Martin O’Neill and they became the Fearless Foxes. To me, Puel looks a whimpering, crestfallen soul.
‘Welcome to the Faceless Foxes.’
‘Puel looks a whimpering, crestfallen soul.’ Seriously, that is your analysis? Absolutely nothing about his tactics or his really quite impressive CV; you are judging him on only two things: a) being a bit foreign and b) having a quite sad face.
If you are thinking at this point that Collymore has forgotten that Leicester won the Premier League under a foreign manager, then you would be wrong.
‘Even though they had an Italian boss in Claudio Ranieri, Leicester stunned the world by winning the Premier League in a very English way with a direct game.’
See. He is basically English.
‘Dyche has done a brilliant job at Burnley and this would have been a decent upgrade to a club prepared to spend money even though the owners seem trigger-happy.’
We don’t disagree, Stan. But it is possible to think Sean Dyche has done a brilliant job at Burnley without throwing your hands up in despair and claiming anglophobia because a club has appointed another manager who is equally if not more qualified to do the job.
‘He would have been a perfect fit for the Leicester but Sean’s just got one problem. He’s English.’
At this point it is worth pointing out that we don’t know – and neither does Stan – whether Dyche actually applied for the Leicester job. Maybe he didn’t want it? After all, Burnley are doing better in the Premier League. It’s also worth pointing out that the last manager appointed by Leicester was in fact English; we don’t think the club have a deep loathing of all things Albion.
‘Youngsters have grown up in this global football village and been gifted this beautiful Pep Guardiola way of doing things where even the goalies do Cruyff turns.
‘Guardiola serves up adventurous, trendy tapas but it’s plain old meat and two veg from guys like Big Sam and Pulis.
‘English or British basically means route one, kick and rush, can’t play, not good technically so we are stereotyping a whole group of managers.’
Says the man who wrote the words ‘very English way with a direct game’ just a few sentences before.
Oh and Sean Dyche’s Burnley do play the most long balls in the Premier League. That’s a pesky fact.
Mediawatch cannot say it was entirely unhappy to see Claude Puel begin his Leicester reign with a deserved 2-0 win over an Everton side coached by an Englishman. And when we say ‘not entirely unhappy’, we mean sodding ecstatic.
Little Englander (Part the Second)
Talk of Everton and their English manager brings us neatly to Phil Neville, who had already made us splutter with his insistence on Match of the Day 2 that his old mate Wayne Rooney should be playing in Everton’s midfield when he came up with this nonsense:
There's no candidate with more experience when it comes to Everton than David Unsworth.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) October 29, 2017
And if you are thinking that Neville spoke without thinking under the pressure of the TV cameras, then read what he said to BBC Sport journalist Chris Bevan when given time to think about his words:
‘I would love to see David Unsworth get the Everton job on a permanent basis and it riles me when I see him described as not having enough experience.’
Then you are going to hate this, Phil: He does not have enough experience. He has managed three senior games of football and won just one.
‘Unsworth has done the hard yards as a coach and has done a fantastic job with the Everton Under-23 side, where he has done everything that was asked of him.
‘He won the Premier League 2 title with them last season and has also produced a lot of the young players that are now playing for the Everton first team.
‘The next step now is for him to go and do that at first-team level in the Premier League and hopefully that is at Everton, because it seems the perfect match.’
We shall stop you there, Phil, because the ‘next step’ from managing an Under-23 side is not ‘first-team level in the Premier League’. Or at least it’s not to anybody not blessed with this staggeringly arrogant sense of entitlement. The ‘next step’ might be first-team management, but there are dozens of Football League clubs and literally hundreds of other clubs across Europe where a coach like Unsworth could cut his teeth before coveting the same role at a Premier League club.
‘If it is not at Everton, then Unsworth has to get that chance somewhere else – but where?’
We think we have already covered this, but let’s do this again – at any one of hundreds of professional football clubs? Maybe look at Kevin Nolan, currently top of League Two with Notts County. Or Kevin Davies, who has taken the manager’s job at National League side Southport. Or Jack Lester, who left the Under-23 job at Nottingham Forest to take up a role at Chesterfield. Did Unsworth apply for any of those jobs?
‘From an English coach’s perspective, we are not getting opportunities. We are seen as second-class citizens at the moment, and that has got to change.’
Oh Phil. Philly Philly Phil. Of the 92 clubs of the Premier League and Football League, 52 are managed by Englishmen. A further 14 are managed by non-English Brits and two more are managed by English-born ‘Irishmen’. It’s like South Africa under Apartheid; those in the majority are ‘second-class citizens’.
We are the 74%.
Little Englander (Part the Third)
Perhaps Phil Neville had seen Sam Allardyce on BeINSPORTS, who told a nodding Richard Keys and Andy Gray:
“I think you are almost deemed as second class because it is your country. It is a real shame that we are highly-educated, highly-talented coaches now with nowhere to go.
“The Premier League is the foreign league in England now. When you look across the owners, the managers and the coaches (and) the players, that is exactly what it is now.”
‘Nowhere to go’ presumably because it is illegal for English managers to work outside of England.
And we all know English clubs only make 74% of jobs available to those poor, disenfranchised British managers.
Phil yer boots
We must make a brief return to the ubiquitous Phil Neville, in the Daily Mail talking about young footballers and about how they should be playing for Premier League clubs. Of course, this is incredibly naive nonsense but when did that ever stop our fine pundits?
‘Look at Manchester City’s Phil Foden as an example. If he does not make it as an elite footballer, we should all pack in and say it’s never going to happen for a young English talent ever again. I look at him and can see James Rodriguez.
‘Foden, believe me, is a superstar in the making. It’s easy to say that after he scored two goals in a World Cup final and won player of the tournament but he has got the lot. People are talking about him being ready for the Premier League in six to eight months but look at him: he’s ready now.’
Yes, Manchester City – chasing the Premier League and Champions League – should definitely play the 17-year-old Foden ahead of David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne. That would absolutely be a sensible move for a manager under pressure to win major trophies.
‘What these lads have done for England only becomes good if they kick on when they return to their clubs: success, as I see it, is watching Everton’s Jonjoe Kenny and Dominic Calvert-Lewin start against Arsenal in the Premier League, not what they did against Venezuela in June.’
Everton lost that game 5-2; we’re not sure that counts as ‘success’, Phil.
‘Those two are at a club that will give them a platform. Southampton, Tottenham and Manchester United will do likewise but what about elsewhere?’
Manchester United? With their fine recent record of bringing through young players? The only member of the England Under-20 squad from Manchester United is now on loan at Shrewsbury Town. As for Tottenham, their Under-20 world champions are either on loan in the Championship or not even making the bench. Oh and Southampton did not have a single player in that Under-20 squad.
But Manchester City should definitely start a 17-year-old right now? Keep dreaming, Phil.
Time is running out so we are going to race through the utter craziness that is Garth Crooks’ team of the week on the BBC. Pick your favourite…
* ‘I just wish the Chelsea captain would tell Tiemoue Bakayoko to come to work suitably turned out. The time and effort it must take the Frenchman to manicure and dye his hair – it was blue this week, and I dread to think what colour it will be next week – could be far better spent either on the training pitch or perfecting his English.
‘The great Ruud Gullit said he spent most of the time sleeping off double training sessions and had no time for niceties when he was a player. That is clearly not the case for Bakayoko, who clearly has too much time on his hands and dye in his hair. And Azpilicueta should tell him so.’
You may remember that he had a similar problem with Paul Pogba’s ‘adolescent’ haircut in September. This is now bordering on unhealthy obsession.
* On Antonio Rudiger:
‘I’ve seen this lad play full-back for Chelsea and look a little unsure of himself.’
In training? ‘This lad’ has never started a game for Chelsea at full-back.
* ‘Fernandinho is a model professional; no flashy haircuts, and certainly no dye in his hair. He doesn’t come to work as though he’s auditioning for a modelling job on a Paris catwalk, or attract unnecessary attention to himself.’
He just can’t let it lie.
* On Sead Kolasinac:
‘To find yourself so far up the field in open play is one thing but having the composure to handle matters so effectively is something entirely different. If Wenger is free during the international break, perhaps Theresa May might ask the Arsenal manager if he could conduct the Brexit negotiations with European chief negotiator Michel Barnier.’
Seriously no idea. Something to do with hair?
* On Leicester’s new manager:
‘He needs to find out what his best team is very quickly and get serious about where they want to finish in the league. The rest is pretty straightforward after that.’
He really has got this management lark sorted. If only English coaches were not second-class citizens in their own country, maybe he would be in charge of Leicester City and 11 very sensible haircuts…
Recommended reading of the day
Gregg Bakowski on Thiago Motta.
Dean Jones on Phil Foden.
Sean Ingle on paying big money for managers.