Managerial mayhem

So, David Moyes made his first appearance at Manchester United on Monday, nearly six weeks before his official start date to succeed the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. I predicted more than a week ago that Moyes would meet his new players before July 1st – many of them weren’t there on Monday but be sure he will see them all very soon – as he gets set to fill the biggest shoes in football management. David’s challenge at Old Trafford got me thinking about the ever-increasing pressure on top-flight managers. United will give their new man every possible chance to settle in and put his mark on team affairs. But that won’t be the case at many other Premier League clubs, where impatience and unrealistic expectation means the managerial casualty rate will go on rising.

Ferguson managed United for twenty-six and a half years, a feat that will never be matched. Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal 17 years and David was at Everton 11 years. If anyone survives five years at any other Premier League club he will do well. A few poor results bring pressure from the fans, often fuelled by the media, and, unfortunately, club chairmen react. A big problem is that expectations become totally unrealistic. Rarely does a club outside of the top four or five win anything, yet this season Wigan claimed the FA Cup and Swansea the League Cup and both will play in Europe next season. Now, the fans of every team will expect their club to emulate these two unlikely trophy winners. In fact, these days, the biggest ‘mistake’ a manager at one of the fringe top-flight clubs can make is to raise expectation levels by winning something! It simply brings more pressure to do so again. I experienced the problem when I went to Everton in 1994 – after a 12-year stint at Oldham, by the way – and took the club from bottom to sixth, won the FA Cup and the Charity Shield and we went into the next season as outside favourite for the title. But a cruel list of injuries torpedoed our progress and I was bitterly disappointed to lose the job I had always craved.

Although David has left Everton in great shape, having finished above city rivals Liverpool in the table, it pains me to say that Liverpool, because of stronger financial backing, might have a better chance than Everton of gatecrashing the Platinum Five – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – than Everton. David, I’m sure, will be given the full six years of his United contract to stamp his authority at Old Trafford and I hope that his successor at Goodison Park will get similar loyalty. The sad fact is that, in this ‘instant’ world in which we live, few clubs seem to have learned the lesson from Ferguson’s reign: namely, the longer he was there, the more United were successful. The majority of top-line bosses are now nomads. When Mourinho returns to Chelsea it will be his seventh job since 2,000. Ancelotti, who is expected to succeed him at Real Madrid, will be taking up his sixth post since 1995. And what about Luis Felipe Scolari, manager of Brazil, who has had no less than 23 jobs! As I said, we’ll never see the likes of Ferguson again.

 

 

Arsenal must pay the price

Arsenal go to Newcastle on Sunday for their final Premier League fixture, when a point will be enough to clinch Champions League qualification – and what a massively important outcome that would be for the Gunners. The word is that manager Arsene Wenger will have up to £70m to spend in the transfer market this summer, provided he maintains his annual success in qualifying for Europe’s top competition. It follows that, if Wenger spends big on top-drawer names, he will also have to pay top wages and that’s something Arsenal haven’t done. At least, not in comparison to the Manchester Uniteds, Manchester Citys and Chelseas of this world. I think that is what the Gunners will have to do if they are to end their recent trophy-less seasons and take on the Big Three.

Arsenal is one of the best-run clubs in the world and, in Wenger, they have a manager who has consistently produced teams that play exciting, fluid football. Wenger’s teams get behind the opposition, get to the byline so often. I often think how happy I would have been to be the centre-forward. If you could put Alan Shearer in to the teams Wenger has produced, he would have smashed every scoring record. The problem has been that Wenger has lost a lot of top class players in recent years, men who have gone to other clubs where they have often doubled their wages. And, because Wenger has been unable to compete in the pay stakes, his replacements have too often not been of similar quality. I am an admirer of Wenger, who goes on producing inspirational – if not always functional – teams, despite this financial handicap and I believe that, if the board backs him with hard cash, Arsenal will be a serious threat next season. Put it this way, if they are serious about trying to lure Wayne Rooney, from Manchester United, they will have to increase their current top pay packet of £100,000 a week to £250,000. Crazy, I know. But that is football at the highest level in the modern era. It will also be interesting to see if Tottenham, who are also knocking on the door for that final Champions League place, reassess their wages policy in a bid to make the step up to the top four.