March 11 2014 Latest news:
Friday, May 11, 2012
Whenever one of the many awards for football people are handed out it creates a storm of indignity.
It doesn’t help when some are decided and presented with half the season to go. Fortunately, the sensible ones leave it until the last moment.
City fans will find out who their player of the season is after the match on Sunday.
Paul Lambert won’t pick up any of the many domestic awards, but there are plenty of observers who believe he should in line to complete a remarkable hat-trick at a national level.
The City boss has been awarded consecutive divisional manager of the season awards for his exploits in taking City from the depths of League One to the lofty heights of the Premier League.
To make it a hat-trick he has to beat a whole host of Premier League managers, many of whom will have claims that he simply cannot match.
Much does depend on the criteria for selecting manager of the season.
Do you look at what a manager has achieved, without taking into account other circumstances? If that is the case, then presumably Roberto Mancini or, less likely, Sir Alex Ferguson will be the obvious choice: you win the Premier League, you must be the best, surely.
The fact that Roy Hodgson won it last year for his exploits with Fulham, and David Moyes won it in 2003, 2005 and 2009 – the only major title he has won with Everton – suggests that is not the case.
Fair enough. So how far do you extend the criteria? Do you look at the background to each manager’s season?
Does Mancini lose points because he’s had a fortune to spend on buying the best players around?
And does Lambert get brownie points because he’s had much less to spend? Is there a formula somewhere where the amount of money spent is divided by the number of points won to come up with a manager’s league table?
Perhaps you could factor in the length of time spent in the top flight, at which point Lambert, Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers and Neil Warnock and Mark Hughes – formerly and currently managers of QPR, might be able to score a few more points.
Then there are previous seasons: Newcastle, for example, have hit great new heights under Alan Pardew this season so their positional coefficient (I’ve made that up) has risen.
Once again, Lambert, Rodgers and Warnock/Hughes can rake in the points – after all, when was the last time Mancini took a side from one place off the bottom of League One into the Premier League without skipping a beat?
And when was the last time Fergie prepared his side for a league game away to Yeovil?
Some of these guys have never seen the inside of a Football League programme – I don’t deride them for that nor does it take away from their achievements. Unless your name is Steve Kean, there is hardly a football manager in the land who hasn’t been given credit from his club’s supporters for managing in one of the toughest occupations around. The pressure is immense: what other job (politics aside) would you go to work, stand in the pouring rain and have 15,000 people shouting from the rooftops at you, telling you how awful you were at your job and what a disgrace you were to your profession?
Some avoid it by having the sort of disposable income that their colleagues can only dream of. Others get around by dint of their talent. Which is where Lambert, Rodgers and Pardew come in.
Pardew is a contender because he has re-energised an English footballing institution, and in style. Newcastle have, at times, played excellent football; it’s unpredictable, which makes it thrilling and, for the fans, a bit nerve-racking at times too.
Pardew hasn’t been universally loved outside of the clubs he’s been at – maybe inside them too – but he has a decent pedigree and has defied the critics who said the Newcastle job was too big for him. His southern accent has been accepted in Geordieland.
Pardew has had to work under tighter financial constraints than some of his predecessors, but we mustn’t forget that he paid £9m for Papiss Demba Cisse; that may be peanuts to Manchester City but to some other managers it’s a squad.
Which is where Lambert comes in. Transfer fees are rarely made public, so we guess. And we have guessed that every time a City team runs out you’re looking at, what, £8m worth of players, give or take a million or two.
Add in the fact that three years ago we were still shaking our heads at that appalling final-day performance at Charlton which nailed City into a League One coffin for a season and you can see why people are starting to talk about Lambert. He has transformed the team, the club – and the rate of progress has been so quick that he has had to rebuild at a near impossible rate to keep up with City’s increasing high standing in the football ladder. I say standing, but that’s one thing he has never done: there has been a constant forward motion in less than three years. Not one manager in the Premier League has done that.
If you take into consideration where Norwich City were three years ago, then Lambert is arguably the only contender – that’s how phenomenal it has been.
Rodgers did a superb job in bringing Swansea up through the play-offs last season and there is no doubt that his side play good football, which has caught the eye and impressed the ex-footballers who populate the world of punditry.
Rodgers is media friendly, a good talker. Lambert doesn’t hide the fact that he’d rather not have media duties. It’s all about the football. If availability and affability are criteria – and you can bet there are many who believe they are – then Rodgers wins this one hands down.
Swansea are 12th, City 13th, only goal difference dividing them. Their seasons have been brilliant, as have their managers. Swansea are open, fluent, attacking ... and a little bit predictable. Perhaps lacking a Plan B. City have entertained, a mix of thrills and spills, but containing the right ingredients: passion, a team ethic – and a will to win.
Pardew, Lambert, Rodgers – it should be between those three. Just depends what the rules are.