Give Brits a break

As the season nears its close we await the confirmation of another two foreigners, the Chilean Pellegrini and the Portuguese Mourinho, to take charge at Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.They will replace fellow “outsiders” Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez…and so the fascination for foreign coaches in the Premier League continues. Having been in football as a player and manager for the best part of 45 years, I admit to being something of a traditionalist who believes that homegrown talent should be more in evidence in the managerial ranks. However, I do concede that, now that we have so many foreign players in the Premier League, having a multi-lingual non-Brit in charge does make some sense. We British can’t deny that, historically, we have been too lazy when it comes to learning other languages. A notable exception is England boss Roy Hodgson who is trilingual, at least. Mind you, how can anyone be expected to make sense of the FA’s previous national coach appointment, Fabio Capello – the Italian who couldn’t speak English! The FA aren’t renowned for common sense decisions, but that one really did take the biscuit.

While reluctantly conceding there is some validity in having a foreigner in charge at a multi-national Premier League club, I must say I can’t see why that is necessary outside the top division, where the average percentage of non-British players is much lower. And, frankly, I can’t imagine a man coming from abroad to take a Hartlepool or Rotherham through the divisions. As I said the other day, the appointment of David Moyes to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, one Scot for another, is a big fillip for British coaches and for the League Managers’ Association, who have long been campaigning for better representation for homegrown coaching talent.

 

Grin and bank it

Manchester City have made a mess of their sacking of Roberto Mancini, who deserves better treatment after delivering the FA Cup and a first league title in 44 years in his three and a half years in charge. It cannot be right that the rumour mill was churning at full pelt long before he was told of his fate. I admit that, after City’s shocking cup final display against Wigan, I am not shocked by Mancini’s sacking. But I am disappointed on his behalf and I know he will be bitterly upset at losing his job. After all, he was City’s most successful manager of the past few decades.

Okay, he may have made mistakes in the handling of some of his players. When he had the problem with Carlos Tevez not wanting to come off the bench in the Champions League last season, he came out and said the forward would never play for the club again. That left him exposed, especially as Tevez returned to play a crucial role in the last few matches of the season as City clinched the title. He upset keeper Joe Hart with criticism after the match at Real Madrid this season, got on the wrong side of skipper Vincent Kompany and did not handle Mario Balotelli well. Balotelli, who was sold to Milan this season, caused too many problems on the pitch for too long. So, maybe Mancini’s man management wasn’t the best. But he deserved better than this.

I sympathised early this season when he stated: “There is no respect for my position.” Lack of respect is a problem in society these days, not merely a problem confined to football. And football managerial sackings simply go with the territory, especially at this “galactico” level. Increasingly, the saying amongst top-flight managers these days is: “Grin and bank it.” That’s not to say that the huge compensation pay-out Mancini will surely get lessens the blow to his pride at losing the job he loved. Ironically, Manuel Pellegrini, the man tipped to succeed Mancini, suffered the same fate at Real Madrid a few years ago. With increasing foreign ownership of clubs, the tendency to fire managers after one, two or three years is increasing. When people come with “a five-year plan” it makes me laugh. As my “uncle” Jim Royle – of the TV comedy The Royle Family – would say: “My arse!” That is why it was so refreshing to see Manchester United not only appoint a Briton in David Moyes to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson but also to give him a six-year contract. United are one of only a few clubs who retain a traditional attitude to longevity and loyalty and I’m sure they will strive to give Moyes time to do the job. At the same time, I reckon Arsenal and Chelsea – though the Blues are soon to change manager themselves – will be looking at the upheaval at City and the switch over at United and thinking they have an opportunity to regain domination over their Manchester rivals.

 

 

City’s pace the key

For the sake of massive FA Cup final underdogs Wigan, I’d love to cite the “magic of the cup” and predict a victory for them against Manchester City today. But I just can’t see it happening. For me, Wigan’s defensive woes are going to cost them at Wembley this evening when their injury-hit back line is likely to face the pace and trickery of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.

City have the best defence in the Premier League and Wigan the joint worst. In a nutshell, Wigan’s problem is that their defenders, even when the first choice men are fit, are relatively slow. And Aguero is lightning fast, a player who is a slow defender’s worst nightmare and a man who could cause mayhem in the wide open spaces of Wembley. Obviously, until we see the team sheets, nothing is certain. But Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has an awful dilemma. Namely, does he risk a player or two who is not 100 per cent when he has two Premier League matches to come, matches which will decide if the club stays in the big-time. Scharner and captain Caldwell played in midweek and neither man is the quickest. Today, there is a doubt about Caldwell’s fitness, anyway.

Martinez reverted from two centre-backs to three late last season when Wigan staged a remarkable rescue act in the relegation zone. Today, he’s short of bodies and may have to rely on a holding midfielder in front of two central defenders to try to keep City’s attackers at bay. City, on the other hand, have failed to deliver the goals that might have retained the league title, despite the presence of Aguero, Tevez and Dzecko. They’ve drawn too many games when they were well on top. I think they’ve suffered in the absence of Nigel de Jong, their holding midfielder who left last summer. As a result, Yaya Toure, such ¬†an awesome, attacking presence last season, has been more subdued this campaign. Nevertheless, I expect City to win by 2-0, at least.

As for speculation regarding City manager Roberto Mancini, I have to say nothing surprises me. People I speak to at City say the owners are patient, people who would recognise a second-place finish in the league and an FA Cup win as a successful season. At the same time, very high demands go with the bigger jobs these days.