Reade all about it
Sam Allardyce’s seemingly imminent appointment as England manager has certainly split opinion. There are his advocates, the ones who yearn for an Englishman to lead the national team, tighten the defence and bring back the ‘English spirit’. There are his opponents, who claim his style is archaic and at odds with the FA’s demand for possession-based football. There are those who realise that England could appoint a hybrid of Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Pep Guardiola and Alan Pardew, and still exit a major tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Brian Reade feels that Big Sam’s ascension would be evidence of ‘the FA’s small vision for the future of English football’. He would be ‘ideal if boring fans to death is the aim’. Crikey.
‘The point about possible new England boss Allardyce is he sees the big target-man not as an alternative but a necessity,’ he writes in the Daily Mirror.
‘Ideally, if you have one, as the focal-point of play, ahead of two defensive midfielders, three busy grafters and a fox in the box feeding off his knock-downs. Especially at set-plays, the executions of which are drilled into players like SAS operations.’
Is Reade claiming that Jermain Defoe, the ‘focal point’ of Allardyce’s current Sunderland attack, is a ‘big target-man’? That’s 5ft 7½ ins Jermain Defoe.
‘That is what his cheerleaders mean when they say he’ll bring a much-needed “identity” to England’s play, while instilling “the passion” that will make them “die for the shirt.”
‘But the FA knew all that when they turned him down 10 years ago, on the grounds that his philosophy had had its day.
‘They echoed it when they unveiled a blueprint in 2014 decreeing that England sides at every level must play a game based on intelligent possession.
‘So what happened to make them undergo such a radical reappraisal of Allardyce’s talents?’
Euro 2016. Euro 2016 happened. Losing to Iceland happened. Roy Hodgson happened.
‘Perhaps they want a straight-talking, old-school guy to knock these cocky millionaires into shape.
‘Someone whose name will douse all fan expectation, who is used to guiding teams to 17th (which is roughly where England are in the world).’
Mediawatch is not Sam Allardyce’s biggest fan, but let’s review the evidence here:
The 61-year-old has finished eleven seasons as a Premier League manager at Bolton, Blackburn, West Ham and Sunderland. Only twice, including this most recent season, has he finished 17th.
He has finished eighth and tenth just as often, and has finished as high as sixth.
He was also sacked by Bolton in April 2007, two games before the end of a season in which they finished seventh.
He left Newcastle after six months in the 2007/08 season, where they finished 12th.
His average final position in Premier League seasons is 12th.
Conclusion: To characterise Allardyce as a manager ‘who is used to guiding teams to 17th’ is unfair.
I believes in miracles
As biased as the reporting above is, you can always rely on The Sun to provide balance.
‘When we were putting together his autobiography last summer, Allardyce continued to cling to the belief his day might come,’ writes Shaun Custis.
‘He admitted it was a long shot, he was out of the game and even thinking about retirement having just left West Ham.
‘Fast forward to this July and he is hot property, having miraculously saved Sunderland from relegation.’
Sunderland were five points from safety with 30 games remaining when Allardyce was appointed Dick Advocaat’s replacement last October. They survived by two points – a seven-point swing over seven months is hardly turning water into wine, is it?
Castles and Kingdoms
Jorge Mendes has been quiet recently, hasn’t he? The super-agent once dominated the football scene, but Mino Raiola is making a mockery of him as the summer transfer window presses ahead.
Mediawatch can now reveal why the incredibly influential Portuguese, agent of Jose Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and many more, has cut a more muted figure in recent weeks; he is ghostwriting a column for the Daily Record. And his pen name is Duncan Castles.
For those who don’t know, the love story between Castles and Mourinho is one for the ages. The former reports frequent exclusives on the latter, from transfer updates to more menial managerial on-goings. They are so closely intertwined, in fact, that Castles is currently writing a four-part series titled ‘PROJECT MOURINHO’. The second edition is awfully cute.
‘There are two things Manchester United supporters need to know about Jose Mourinho’s attitude to his new job,’ he begins. ‘First, if United had offered him a six-year contract he would have signed it.
‘He is in the Premier League for the long term, and in his mind there is no better club to be at long-term than United.’
Is this the same Mourinho who once pledged to “build a team for the next ten years” midway through his most recent term at Chelsea? How did that work out?
Castles then explains how, contrary to reports, it was Mourinho who turned down the chance to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, not the club who rejected him.
‘At the personal invite of Sir Alex Ferguson, he’d been asked to succeed the Scot as Manchester United manager. Kept studiously secret by both sides, negotiations with the club were so advanced that plans had been made for Mourinho and his family to have use of a helicopter, so his children could live and study in London, while he coached in Manchester.
‘Mourinho chose Chelsea, leaving his friend Ferguson to swap a carefully planned succession for the famously scrambled appointment of David Moyes; out shopping with his wife when he received the phone call to meet his fellow Scot. From a purely sporting perspective, though, the Portuguese’s decision seemed strange.’
Ah, that ‘famously scrambled appointment’ of Moyes, which was announced on May 9, 2013 – two games before the end of the season.
Some may remember that, while Mourinho won a Premier League title at Stamford Bridge, his reign ended with the club battling relegation. Was it his fault? Not in the world of Castles.
‘It was not hard for close friends to predict that Abramovich would never be satisfied; that eventually the dysfunctional nature of the club would engulf another coach. That Mourinho took the job regardless, that he managed to build a title-winning side, is a mark of his qualities as a leader.’
And what was Mourinho’s sacking in December, with the club 16th, one point above the relegation zone, ‘a mark’ of? But still, it really, really wasn’t his fault.
‘There is desire to put many at Chelsea in their place for their failure to support his requests to improve an obviously imbalanced squad and restructure a backroom staff not fully of his own choosing after he brought the Premier League back to the club.’
It must have been Chelsea’s ‘failure to support his requests’ that forced Mourinho to oversee nine defeats in his first 16 league games at the club last season. And Mourinho’s reaction at their failure to ‘restructure a backroom staff’ in line with his wishes must have been to insult Eva Carneiro for doing her job. That is presumably the ‘dysfunction’ referred to earlier.
Castles can barely hide his excitement as he discusses Mourinho renewing his rivalry with an old adversary at Manchester City.
‘Unlike Guardiola, who spent a part of last season nervously trying to find out if United would hire Mourinho, he looks forward to going head-to-head with a man he tactically and mentally bested in Spain.’
Jose Mourinho’s record as Real Madrid manager against Guardiola’s Barcelona: Played 11 Won 2 Drew 4 Lost 5.
Jose Mourinho’s overall head-to-head record against Guardiola-managed sides: Played 16 Won 3 Drew 6 Lost 7.
Here is Jose Mourinho in Nov 2010, 'tactically and mentally besting' Pep Guardiola (overseeing a 5-0 defeat). pic.twitter.com/1WXFFXRS1n
— Football365 (@F365) July 14, 2016
‘In much the same way as he objects to the lazy characterisations of him as a manager who does not promote young players, succeeds only through spending, or depends on defensive tactics, Mourinho does not regard himself as a short-term coach,’ adds MourinhoCastles.
A reminder that Mourinho, in defending himself against ‘the lazy characterisation of him as a manager who does not promote young players,’ recently included a 20-year-old Arjen Robben on a list of youngsters he had used throughout his career; Robben had played more than 100 senior games before joining Chelsea. Also included were ten players who had played just ten minutes each under the Portuguese, and three who had featured for a single minute under his management.
‘In 2004, he left FC Porto after claiming back-to-back Portuguese Primiera Ligas, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League; an exit that was more or less inevitable.
‘Leaving Internazionale for Madrid, after rolling another European Cup into an unprecedented Italian treble, was also understandable
‘Abramovich twice terminated Mourinho’s employment at Chelsea, yet his first stay at Stamford Bridge was just seven months shorter than Guardiola’s longest period in charge of one club. Oddly, the Catalan is rarely criticized for alleged short-termism.’
Unnecessary digs at a managerial rival, ‘debunking myths’ over promoting youth and shifting the blame on to anyone and everyone else. Castles’ Record column reads like a Mourinho press conference. He will be ever so proud.
Antonio Conte oversaw his first training session at Chelsea on Wednesday. The nation’s newspapers appear keen to convey him as a dictator of sorts.
‘Antonio Conte’s first day at Chelsea offered a taste of what’s to come for the Stamford Bridge squad with two intense training sessions…The former Italy boss earned a reputation for hard graft and meticulous preparation on the training ground during his time at Juventus’ – Daily Mail.
‘Antonio Conte began his Chelsea revolution yesterday – in typical Italian fashion. Conte made it an entertaining session for the cameras with his wild-eyed gesticulations’ – The Sun.
The Metro, as they often do, go the extra mile. ‘First pics: Chelsea players feel wrath of Antonio Conte in first training session,’ reads the headline to their story.
‘Antonio Conte gave his Chelsea players a taste of what’s to come in his first training session as the club’s new manager.
‘The Italian authoritarian had no hesitation in barking orders at his well-paid superstars and ordering them what to do at the club’s Cobham training ground.
‘John Terry, who came close to leaving the club this summer, was among those on the end of Conte’s orders with the club captain pictured being ordered around by the former Italy coach.’
For ‘barking orders’, ‘ordering them what to do’ and ‘ordering around’ his new players, read ‘coaching them’.
‘Conte is famed for a strict style of management that has wielded results with the Italian national side and brought titles to Juventus,’ ends the piece.
‘Have Manchester United accidentally revealed Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s squad numbers?’ ask The Metro. Bailly was pictured in a No 6 bib in training, while Mkhitaryan was wearing 22. According to the story, they ‘appear to have been assigned their new squad numbers’.
Such news will have surprised Manchester United, who stated ‘it is also important to state that the squad numbers worn are not permanent’ in their own story on Bailly and Mkhitaryan’s first training session. If that was not enough, the pictures tweeted from the official United account included the following disclaimer: ‘(NB: Squad number not final)’
‘Have Manchester United accidentally revealed Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s squad numbers?’
Starlets in their eyes
While the Daily Mail deserve credit for picking two ‘Premier League starlets’ looking to make this their breakthrough season – particularly as similar lists, such as one from FourFourTwo, named Alex Iwobi (21 appearances for Arsenal last season), Jonny Williams (has played 69 games for Crystal Palace, and is 22), and Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City’s third-top goalscorer last season) – Mediawatch must take umbrage with one thing: How can 22-year-old Jack Stephens be described as a Southampton ‘starlet’?
Recommended reading of the day
Owen Gibson on Sam Allardyce.
Raphael Honigstein on Joachim Low.
Matt Gault on Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.