Mails on Pogba, Dyche, British coaching, Kenya and kids

Date published: Tuesday 31st October 2017 1:02

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Manchester United’s fun will return with Pogba
Damn, football again so soon? Lovely. A couple of thoughts re my beloved Manchester United.

Biased I may be, but I actually think our recent lack of “fun” football is more due to Pogba’s injury coinciding with a sudden loss of form by our link from midfield to attack Henrikh Mkhitaryan, rather than any huge tactical change from Jose. Even at the beginning of the season when we were smashing teams 4-0 like no one’s business we were still a counter attacking(long ball, whatever) team. Mkhi is clearly a confidence player, but short term I hope Mata gets a run as #10 to help remedy this.

The only game where we were rather defensive imo, is the Liverpool game, a game in which weirdly enough Jose picked what looked like the 3-4-1-2 that beat Spurs a week later, except Young was on the right wing(wtf) in a 4-4-1-1. If, as it seems, he’s learnt his lesson and we play 3-4-1-2 in big games and 4-2-3-1 in “little” ones we got this.


On Sean Dyche
Long long long time reader. First time writer. And I’m choosing a subject you’re not gonna like. Sean Dyche.

Football365, more than any other football website, believes English managers should stop moaning. Whatever the rights and wrongs of England easily having the fewest amount of homegrown managers on the continent in their top league, you are right in saying that the Premier League clubs naturally should look for the managers who will get the best results and not the British managers. That is the brutal capitalist system that you are surprisingly happy to accept and we are indeed stuck with it.

Now there are not an abundance of British managers available for top flight teams. Whether this is because they are all awful or whether their paths are blocked is not a question I want to comment on in this email. However, there aren’t many. Most of the British names put forward by desperate pundits are clearly not qualified or have far too many failures. David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Alan Curbishley, Phil Neville – not inspiring names. Sam Allardyce is, while a reasonable manager, a bit of a parody and not a particularly likeable chap.

Now, football365 clearly dislikes Sean Dyche because he once said something about being a dinosaur which was patently wrong. Football365 naturally now brings it up everyday. However, he is generally quite reasonable and quite reflective. I respect football365’s opinion that the best English managers will get their chance, even though I think they have a Sean Dyche blind spot.

Fact is – his achievements are extraordinary. He is 7th. Level on points with Liverpool. Ahead of the lauded by everyone (except Merson and Thommo – how can we forget) Marco Silva. I think Silva is great, however let’s face it, he has done it for considerably less time than Dyche. Dyche has managed all this with remarkably little cash, astounding organisation and excellent man management. He has done this consistently for a long time.

Like it or loathe it – Dyche should be a prime candidate for a better job and Everton at least should be the next step. As you say, the top clubs should go for who can do the best job, not if they are English/British. I dont want Sam Allardyce to be right in saying young homegrown managers have no place to go, but if Everton join Leicester in ignoring Dyche, he may sadly have a point.
Dave C (don’t say its about the style of football either – Claude Puel!)
(MC – This is a little unfair. I (Daniel – hi!) think that Dyche does deserve the Everton job. He has done an extraordinarily good job at Burnley. There are doubts about whether he can adapt his style for Everton, but still. What annoys me/us is the championing of British managers for vacancies solely because they are British, when foreign coaches could do a better job. Dyche has unfairly been brought into that argument, not least because he has made some silly things on BBC 5Live about it)


What about foreign managers getting chances?
1. Pep Guardiola was promoted from the B Team coach to become the Barcelona manager. He went on to win a gazillion trophies and having Messi in his team helped a lot. From there he went to Bayern and also enjoyed success. Now he’s right here in England leading our noisy neighbours at the top of the Premiership Table.

2. Zinedine Zidane, promoted from the under-23 role to become the Real Madrid Manager. Guided the club to back-to-back Champions League trophies. The man is a genius.

3. David Unsworth, promoted from the under-23 role and made caretaker manager while Everton look for a more *worthy* manager.

Huh? Well, that’s England for you. I’m yet to see a reserve team manager appointed on a full-time basis. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Johniec@m (Please don’t *edit*)
(MC – It’s almost as if Real Madrid and Barcelona’s B teams actually play in lower league, thus giving those managers experience of managing in senior football.)


A long, brilliant and balanced mail on British coaches and British coaching
I’ve read many articles on your fine website, over time, on the issue of English / British managers and their claims that they are not getting opportunities to manage in England. I feel these articles are closely linked to other articles / content discussing (and ridiculing) the British football lad lad, thigh slapping, top top football bloke, Reidy nitro-glycerine and urine cocktails, it-was-all-better-when-we-won-the-war mind-set which has prevailed in English football for a long time.

I agree that British football culture needs to become history along with the likes of Redknapp, Allardyce etc because, in my view, it has held our national game back for too long. The attitude has a weird complex about ‘foreigners’, is insular and has more than a faint whiff of xenophobia. It leads to an insular approach not as interested in taking on new ideas and opportunities as an open-minded mind-set would be. That is not to say, however, that all things which originate in Britain are bad nor that all things that originate abroad are automatically good. I think what’s being said is that if one puts the blinkers on then you aren’t looking at anything with fair analysis.

To my view, what’s interesting, is that there appears to be a new wave of British talent coming through. The catalyst appears to be Dan Ashworth and the system and approach that has been created at St. George’s Park. The signs of success are there in areas which are quicker and easier to make changes in -youth age groups (rather than the behemoths that are club’s first team squads). Gareth Southgate may have the charisma of a piece of chalk but his role appears to be as much overseeing the development of a number of coaches within the England set-up as it is managing the England team. In that sense he seems perfect – he’s intelligent, considered and appears to have totally bought into what the F.A. are trying to achieve.

And that’s where we get to the conversation about opportunities to enter into coaching. The biggest hurdle to the newer generation is money. As a viewer I think it is incredible that the top six clubs in England are managed by Guardiola, Mourinho, Poch, Conte, Klopp and Wenger. Possibly not since Italy in the early nineties(?) has the best managerial talent in the world been so concentrated in one division. Globally who would you add to the mix – Allegri, Simeone, Sampaoli, Tuchel, Heynckes – that’s about it. Add in bright young lights like Wagner, Howe, Silva and other talent like Benitez, Puel (and formerly Koeman) and you have a league that really sorts the global managerial talent from the wannabes.

Obviously it’s the money that leads to these coaches plying their trade in the Premier League. But the money creates two obstacles: First, clubs cannot make mistakes with their appointments, as the results could be catastrophic. Second, clubs can take the already proven greatest talent from anywhere in the world pretty much at the drop of the hat. I think, stripping aside the Gray / Keys / Allardyce ‘English’ attitude, in fairness that does create a slight issue for British managers getting opportunities.

Conte is now a world class manager in the Premier League but a swift glance at his Wikipedia page shows that he got a gig pretty quickly after deciding to try his hand at coaching at Arezzo in Serie B. And was then sacked, reinstated then relegated. After this he was given the keys to the Bari training ground (Serie B again) and got them promoted to Serie A as champions. He switched to Atalanta but resigned with them in 19th place in Serie A. He was given another job in Serie B with Siena whom he got promoted back to Serie A (not champions). His next stop was Juventus(!) and the rest we know. A glance over to Spain shows that both the big clubs have tended to promote from within in recent years. Guardiola, Vilanova, Enrique, Zidane. AC Milan have a recent litany of high-profile ex-players being given a shot based on nothing more than them saying that they think they can do a good job and they are famous ex-players.

On the one hand it is fair, with the examples I have chosen, to say that these individuals are obviously talented and that they put in some hard yards working their way through the systems of their respective clubs and in Conte’s case in Serie B. But the common theme is that they either had no experience of managing a super club or had a storied career prior to that. None of them had vast experience of winning high profile trophies before appointments to Juventus, Madrid and Barca respectively.

These events would appear to be far less likely in the Premier League. The closest we have in recent history is Moyes to Man U (huge amounts more prior experience than any of the examples I have highlighted, however) and, right now, the possible appointment of Unsworth at Everton (though Moshiri seems to like big / established names so will probably go for someone else).

Whilst it does Unsworth no favours to have the like of Allardyce crawling out the woodwork to say he should get the job because he’s English, I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to ask how managers breakthrough in England, if the like of Unsworth cannot get an opportunity to try.

He has, by the sound of it, put in the hard yards same as say, Enrique or Guardiola or Zidane did. He’s proven, as much as I know, he can do a good job with the lower teams within Everton football club. If he isn’t fit for purpose then why has a guy who has worked hard either been retained in the role or not been better trained?

If clubs cannot provide a proper pathway for coaches to graduate from within to the first-team (as Madrid and Barca seem to have figured out how to do) then young British managers are left with other options. I think it is fair to suggest they look to go abroad. Entirely plausible route and I have long said more British players and coaches should.

Dropping down to the Champ (or lower) is also a valid option. Both of these routes are tough, however, and can lead to taking a kicking. Your website only yesterday asked how many managers are successful first-time out. Very few seemed to be the answer. G Neville is a prime example of someone who had lots of potentially relevant experience, tried, and is now lost to coaching / managing forever. I hated him as a player but he probably could be a good manager. I think the English league structure is so cut-throat that anyone who fails once is forever negatively tainted (unlike Conte).

So what are the conclusions? Education has to be the best first step. Coach education and clubs need to develop systems so that when people like Unsworth get to the stage he’s at now they are actually good enough to take over. Second, there has to be rehabilitation for young managers when they take a kicking first time out.

To bring this email full circle I think this is where the England set-up and St. George’s Park might just offer some solutions. G Nev, for example, should be brought back into that environment given more education, experience, a chance to re-build confidence before being sent on his way to a Champ club or maybe lower level Prem club to try again. There is every reason to think that his career pathway might then look like Conte’s. It is still a reach to see him then being appointed by Man U but who knows – it might happen – it gives him a shot.

If we want a decent selection of managers to look after the great young English playing talent we appear to have at the moment then we need to also do what we can to assist prospective managerial candidates to learn, develop and get them back on their feet when they hit issues. It’s only common sense to recognise that the Premier League is a tough environment and contains some of the best in the world. A sensible conversation is to ask how we can equip players and managers alike to succeed in that environment.
Josh, AFC, Dubai


Don’t forget the slightly older kids
Just seen the NI squad called up for the World Cup qualifier playoff against Switzerland. I may well be biased but, man for man, I have to say I think the Swiss have the quality to beat NI, but they have definitely got what it takes to win that qualifier if we are not absolutely on our game.

This also ties in neatly with something else I was looking at today, namely the progress made by the Swiss U-17 side that won the U-17 world cup back in 2009. Clearly the young lions will not necessarily take the same route as these lot, but of that World Cup winning youth side, only these 4 are likely to feature in the Swiss squad for the playoff – Haris Seferovic, Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Pajtim Kasami

My memories of that tournament (based on limited coverage in Swiss media and, at that time, even more limited German language skills to make sense of it) were that the “hot prospects” were really expected to be Kasami, Rodriguez and Nassim Ben Khalifa (who was voted Silver Ball for 2nd best player of the tournament in 2009 – Golden Ball went to Nigeria’s Sani Emmanuel – nope, me either.)

To take one example of many, the Swiss keeper from that tournament, Benjamin Siegrist, won the Golden Glove in 2009, but spent 4 years at Villa (making zero appearances), with loan spells at Burton (no appearances), Cambridge United (3), Solihull Moors (12) and Wycombe (1), before finishing up at Vaduz where he is finally getting consistent time in the first team. He is yet to be capped for the national side but at 25, still young enough for a keeper.

My point is that in 2009, Switzerland was full of positivity about the young generation, and rightly so – it’s an exciting thing and I was delighted to see the England team lifting the World Cup trophy at any age group, it’s an incredible achievement that we should not downplay. However, in 2022, the players who won in India will be 21/22 years of age, and still only at the beginning of what we hope will be bright professional careers – we shouldn’t be expecting them to go and win the thing in Qatar, and if even half a dozen of them make the squad then that is still an excellent pipeline of talent coming through.

Right now all the talk is of Rhian Brewster, Phil Foden, Joel Latibeaudiere and Callum Hudson-Odoi – and with good reason as they have lit up this tournament with great performances. But I do think that while these could well be in the reckoning or even the probable squad, 2022 is much more likely to feature the likes of Ruben Loftus Cheek, James Ward-Prowse, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Gomez, and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Just because these lads are in slightly older age groups doesn’t make them any less part of the exciting future we are all hoping for.
Terry Hall-Furrer, Switzerland (The only certainty is that there will be double-barrelled names.)


A Kiwi West Ham fan complains
Being a West Ham fan in New Zealand, my interactions with fellow supporters is fairly limited. In fact I am fairly certain I am the only West Ham fan in my town. There was one guy, but he’s moved. So my words carry weight, as I am speaking on behalf of all West Ham fans in Blenheim.

I am sick of seeing Slaven Bilic approach every game with the same attitude to tactics. There is nothing wrong with a simple plan, but you cannot help but fault the simplicity to Slav’s tactics.
1- Begin the game by passing the ball around the back.
2- Eventually once the centrebacks grow tired of passing up to Noble before promptly getting the ball back, a centreback must attempt a 40 yard wonder pass.

That’s not even bad compared to what happens when the ball miraculously finds itself in the final third. The plan is simple. Spread it wide, and lump it in for Big Andy. Even if he is not on the field, and 5″8 Chicharito is instead.

I don’t expect West Ham to play like Man City. In fact, I love to see cross’s flying in towards a big target man, with a good physical midfield battle mixed in. The thing is for Bilic, his tactics are simply not working, producing some truly eye bleeding football. The club has a fantastic striker in Chicharito, yet Slav see’s fit to shoehorn him out on the wing to fit Big Andy in. And even in the last two games when Big Andy was dropped, the team plays like he’s still there. Cross after cross fires in only to get headed away, when Chicha clearly thrives with the ball at his feet.

What’s most frustrating about this scenario is the obvious talent in the squad that is not shining through. Hart is a decent keeper at the end of the day. Fonte was wanted by Man U not long ago. Reid, my fellow countryman, dominant previously is now doing a decent impersonation of the inexperienced dad who shows up to a kids vs parents game, who wears massive shinpads, gets nutmegged by a 7 year old before falling over in an embarrassed heap. Cresswell is an England international, and Zabaleta used to be one of the top fullbacks in the prem. And that’s just the defence.

I have copped a lot of stick from my mates about West Ham’s form. That doesn’t bother me. The results don’t bother me either. It is Slav’s tactical approach which is making me feel ill. But hey he didn’t lose in the two games the board gave him, so why not keep blind faith in him for the next seven months.

Just please, please tell me that West Ham fans on the other side of the world feel the same way I do, and I am not just a crazed lunatic exiled to the rugby hellhole of New Zealand.


Kenyan football: Buggered
Kenya had a repeat presidential election the previous week. The results were announced today and the incumbent won. Simply put, this is the end on Kenyan football and any sport worth speaking about.

I agree Kenyan football has been stale for along as I can recall. In the history of the continent we have only qualified once for the African Cup on Nations and well, we tell the stories of World Cup qualifications with a touch of depression.

The government that just won a second term, successfully bidded to host CHAN in January 2018. In september, The decision was made by the CAF “officials” that Kenya could not hold the competition. This followed the much publicised illusion that we were on track. This government told us that they were renovating and building a total of 9 stadia in the country. Several billion shillings later, it came to public attention that this was a joke, an insult to the taxpayers. Not only did we lose our chance to hold CHAN 2018, but we lost our first chance to participate in the competition as being the host nation but we lost our pride as a nation.

It is under this government that the Kenyan Premier League became an ugly political affair. Through a dubious process the chairman of Kenya Football Federation (KFF) promoted 2 teams to participate in the league in direct contravention of the Article 3 of Caf and Fifa Club Licensing guidelines and Fifa guidelines of promotion and regulation under sporting integrity. It took the High Court of Kenya to demote the two teams back to a lower tier and expose the corruption that underlined the KFF decision.

This not related to football but Kenya is known for being ruthless when it comes to athletics. But it is funny that during this same government’s tenure, Kenyan athletes, for the FIRST TIME, were found to have doped. Not once but in several occasions.

The Olympics Team that went to Rio, had more officials than participants. The Morale at the Team Kenya camp in Rio was at its lowest after weeks of problems including chaotic travel arrangements, inadequate training kit, questionable allocation of slots in the Olympic Village and doping-related bribery allegations against a top official.A veteran coach was expelled from the Olympic Games for impersonating an athlete. Millions of moneys got misappropriated and nobody was brought to book.

Unlucky for us sport savvies, we have another 5 years to endure this load of cr***p.
Elvince Ager (Nairobi)


An interesting place to end
Unsworth can change from being fat by losing weight (should he so wish).

On the other hand, no matter what he does, Joey Barton is and will always be a massive c*nt.
Neil, here there and everywhere.

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