Mediawatch extra: Robbie Savage on Giggs

Date published: Saturday 8th October 2016 12:52 - Sarah Winterburn

Now we don’t normally do Mediawatch on weekends. It’s too time-consuming and there’s generally only one of us trying to do everything. So it’s nice that Robbie Savage (recently crowned by you as Britain’s worst pundit) has written something that has compelled us to break the habit of a lifetime…on an international weekend when we have more time to spare. Thank you. We print the entirety of Savage’s column from the Daily Mirror right here, with just a few observations…

‘It makes me despair if Ryan Giggs missed out on becoming Swansea City’s new manager because his job interview was allegedly not up to scratch.’

As opening gambits go, that’s a cracker. Robbie Savage ‘despairs’ that a man has not got a job for which he is not qualified because he gave – and we quote the Daily Mail here – an ‘underwhelming interview‘. While others ‘despair’ at world poverty or the destruction of the NHS, Savage ‘despairs’ at an employer rejecting a candidate on the strength of an interview. Presumably, the Mirror, BBC and BT Sport do not interview their ‘experts’.

‘Giggs lost out to former United States coach Bob Bradley in the race to succeed Francesco Guidolin at the Liberty Stadium.

‘That’s Swansea’s call, and good luck to Bradley, but what kind of message does that send young British managers trying to make their way in the game?’

It probably tells them that having 35 years of experience in football management across the world (and crucially, giving an apparently excellent interview) is worth more to some employers than nationality. Which should be excellent news if they ever decide to work outside of English football.

‘Giggs played nearly 1,000 games for Manchester United spread over 24 years. What he doesn’t know about the Premier League, and what Swansea need to do if they want to stay in it, probably isn’t worth knowing.’

Let’s take the latter point first: Ryan Giggs has never played in a relegation battle. Bob Bradley (an actual football manager) took over Stabaek in the Norwegian league in 2014 just after they were promoted and were primed for a relegation battle; they finished ninth.

Giggs clearly ‘knows about’ the Premier League but he has managed only four games. Would you rather have your complex heart surgery done by a foreign doctor with thousands of similar operations under his belt or a British nurse who has assisted at nearly 1000 procedures spread over 24 years? If you answer the latter, then congratulations for you are Theresa May and you are the most powerful woman in Britain.

We also look forward to Savage making the case for players like David James and Emile Heskey to be given jobs as Premier League managers; after all, they have played an awful lot of games.

‘I was not present at Giggs’ interview, so I don’t know the reasons why he missed the boat.

‘But if he didn’t tick enough boxes because there was no power-point presentation, or he hadn’t completed some human resources online module, football is going mad.’

So ‘I have no idea what happened but if this mental thing happened, then that is mental’. Right.

Let’s take a diversion into Rory Smith’s excellent piece about Bradley’s appointment for the New York Times.

He writes that Swansea ‘asked each candidate for a detailed explanation of how, precisely, he might set the team up for his first game in charge, at Arsenal on Oct. 15’. On Bradley, Smith writes: ‘As he quietly went through the strengths and weaknesses of Swansea’s players, describing his hypothetical tactics, it became absolutely plain that no matter where he has been, he has always had his eye on the Premier League.’

Apparently Swansea ‘were particularly unconvinced by the contender who could offer only the platitude that to come out of a slump that has taken the club to 17th in the Premier League standings, Swansea’s players simply needed to work harder, to run more’.

Now we’re not saying that was Giggs, but it’s clear from Smith’s detailed knowledge of the proceedings that Giggs did not miss out ‘because there was no power-point presentation, or he hadn’t completed some human resources online module’ or any other outdated idea of job interviews held by a man who has probably never had a job interview.

‘Surely Giggs’ experience at Old Trafford and his knowledge of the terrain at Premier League level – where he operated all his career – is worth a punt?’

Yes, because a team gearing up for a Premier League relegation battle should definitely be taking a ‘punt’.

‘Surely his two years as Louis van Gaal’s assistant, another season as player-coach under David Moyes and his month as caretaker when Moyes was sacked in 2014, counts for something?’

So we all agree that David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were failures at Manchester United, but their assistant was entirely blameless? We take it Robbie Savage will be making a similar case for Rui Faria – regardless of what happens at Manchester United – should he decide to try his hand at Premier League management, even if (especially if) he gives an ‘underwhelming’ interview.

‘When Swansea players are sat in the dressing room under new management next Saturday, hoping to get something against Arsenal, would they be more inspired by Giggs – who played 50 games against the Gunners alone in his career – or Premier League virgin Bradley?’

I don’t know Robbie, should we ask the Arsenal players who played under ‘Premier League virgin’ Arsene Wenger, the Chelsea players who listened to ‘Premier League virgin’ Jose Mourinho, the Liverpool footballers inspired by ‘Premier League virgin’ Rafa Benitez or even Manchester United legends like Bryan Robson who did okay under ‘English Football League virgin’ Alex Ferguson?

We would rather hope that the Swansea players will have been listening to the tactics and motivational words of Bradley over the last ten days so will go into that dressing room needing something more than “well, when I played Arsenal”…

‘I know who would make me run through more brick walls.’

We know we would like to see you try.

‘This is nothing personal against Bradley. He may turn out to be an inspired appointment and I hope I am wrong about him.

‘I was wrong about Claudio Ranieri, who took Leicester to the title last season, and I was wrong when Southampton got rid of Nigel Adkins and replaced him with Mauricio Pochettino, who was an unknown quantity in England at the time.’

So Savage admits he was wrong about the two managers who finished first and third in the Premier League last season, but still ‘despairs’ that another manager has been appointed on the strength of his experience and knowledge ahead of a man he knows? “I was wrong about these two other similar situations but I am still adamant that I am right about this one,” is really quite a special kind of ignorance. This is nothing personal against Savage but that is b***ocks.

‘But for every Pochettino and Ranieri, there have been a dozen dud appointments from abroad, like Pepe Mel at West Brom, Remi Garde at Aston Villa, Stale Solbakken at Wolves… the list could fill a phone directory.’

Let’s take these one by one, if we must. Pepe Mel was employed because good old British manager and Premier League stalwart Steve Clarke had won nine of his last 41 league games as West Brom manager to take the Baggies into a relegation battle. West Brom survived under Mel – just – and then they appointed another Brit (Alan Irvine) who was amongst the worst in the competition’s history.

Remi Garde was employed by Aston Villa because, quite frankly, good old British manager and Premier League stalwart Tim Sherwood had been an unmitigated disaster.

Stale Solbakken was employed by Wolves (in the Championship) because English coach Terry Connor was bafflingly promoted from being an assistant under a failed regime and Wolves won none of their final 13 Premier League games and were relegated. Solbakken was sacked and replaced by Savage’s fellow countryman and Premier League stalwart Dean Saunders, who was much, much worse.

We could list other another dozen dud appointments from Britain, but the England game is on at 5pm and we would like a little rest first.

‘Tottenham have landed on their feet with Pochettino, but in the last 20 years alone they have got their fingers burned by shopping overseas for managers and coming up with Jacques Santini, Christian Gross and Juande Ramos.’

They didn’t ‘land on their feet’; they probably interviewed him. And yes, Santini, Gross and Ramos were poor appointments, but so was Tim Sherwood. And the two Tottenham managers with the best win percentage over the last 20 years are Andre Villas-Boas and Mauricio Pochettino. Would Spurs fans swap Pochettino for Ryan Giggs? They would laugh so hard at the question that wee would come out.

‘It’s ridiculous if managers are being appointed on how well they perform at interview instead of their knowledge of the terrain, their football philosophy and their contacts in the game.’

Notice how Savage does not suggest that experience as a manager or, you know, tactics, should have any influence on whether a manager is appointed. It’s how many games you have played and who you know. And whether you believe in wingers and sh*t. As for interviews? Ridiculous.

‘Look, Giggs has no divine right to stroll into a big Premier League club and expect the manager’s job at the drop of a hat.’

Except, well, apparently he does.

‘But his rejection by Swansea is another kick in the teeth for aspiring young British managers because Bradley’s arrival blocks another route to the top for home-grown coaches.’

No, it blocks another route to the top for Ryan Giggs. It’s almost like he might have to find another way. Or get better at interviews.

‘What is the point of senior players going on courses and taking their coaching badges, in the hope of forging a career in management, if there are no jobs for them at the end of the rainbow?’

This is going to shock you to your very core, but there are more than 20 football clubs. There are hundreds of clubs in British football and literally thousands across the world.

‘Some people say Giggs should prove himself by earning a crust at a lower division club before he takes on one of the big jobs in English football, but I’m not having that.

‘Why would the most decorated player in Premier League history want to prove himself on a wet Tuesday night at Yeovil as manager of Grimsby or Mansfield? What experience does he have of League Two football?’

The clue here is in the word ‘player’. And playing football is not synonymous with managing – just ask rather excellent football managers Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger. Or rather excellent footballers Bryan Robson and Paul Ince. So if Giggs wants to prove himself as a manager – rather than a player – then surely the best way to do that is to, well, manage. Yes, we know, Robbie’s ‘not having that’. Which of course makes all arguments moot.

Why would the most decorated player in Premier League history not want to prove himself on a wet Tuesday night at Yeovil as manager of Grimsby or Mansfield? What experience does he have of football management?

‘If, say, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard decide to venture into management, please don’t tell me they need to polish up their power-point presentation skills or prove themselves at Notts County or Plymouth first.’

We suspect that any potential employers would judge each of those former players and prospective managers on their merits rather than simply making a generalisation and believing that the fate of their clubs should be handed to a man largely because has kicked a ball very well and very often.

‘I’m not sayng they should necessarily be catapulted straight into the hot-seat at Old Trafford, Anfield or Stamford Bridge on a whim, but there are some big clubs in the Championship where they could cut their teeth.’

Hmmm. So now the Championship is fine? But those players don’t have knowledge of that ‘terrain’. What experience does Paul Scholes have of Championship football? And we are very much enjoying the idea that a Championship club – because obviously big Championship clubs are under no pressure at all – should allow a big-name player to practise on them.

‘And to those who say Gary Neville was a failure at Valencia, I say this: He still has a fantastic football brain.’

And to those who say Gary Neville has a fantastic football brain, we say this: That’s not always enough.

‘As a pundit, we already know Neville has excellent communication skills when he is armed with a gadget – but he never stood a chance at Valencia because he didn’t know the language and he wasn’t up to speed with the politics of the club behind the scenes.’

And as a pundit, we already know Giggs is quietly spoken, lacking in insight and monotonal to the point where everybody, including him, is in danger of losing consciousness. On that evidence, he was never going to whelm in an interview.

‘Giggs didn’t miss out at Swansea because he didn’t understand the culture of the Premier League – but his frustration will be felt all the way down the food chain.’

Sorry but this makes no sense. Not in a ‘you are massively ignorant and wrong’ kind of way like the rest of the column, but in a literal sense; that is a complete non-sequitur.

‘I fear it means bright young managers, like Gary Rowett at Birmingham, face an even longer haul to reach the top because the path up the mountain is even more blocked.

‘And that cannot be good for English football in the long run.’

It’s funny you mention Gary Rowett, because he is an excellent example of a young British manager who started his managerial career in League Two and – through his success as a very good manager – earned a move to a big Championship club, where he is doing a stellar job. Should he continue to do well at Birmingham as a manager, he may well eventually reach the Premier League. He’s only 43 so there is time.

If I were football manager Gary Rowett, you know what would really p*** me off; somebody getting that Premier League job first, without any managerial experience whatsoever, just because they were a better footballer.

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