Chris Lakey: You can rely on grassroots football for a sense of reality
I can hardly keep up. The domestic season has finally ended, but the managerial merry-go-round is already putting its players' equivalent to shame.
From the Bernabeu to Trafford Park, the times are a changing.
Zinedine Zidane has upped and left Real Madrid less than a week after winning the Champions League, again: presumably it’s ‘walking on the moon’ syndrome... what else can he achieve with Real?
But it’s in England where the changes are coming thick and fast.
In the 1997-98 season there were a grand total of eight managerial changes in the top flight. A decade later there were 11.
This season I make it 18 changes in the Premier League - at Watford, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Palace again, Leicester, Everton, West Ham, West Brom, Swansea, Stoke, Watford, Southampton, West Brom, Arsenal, Everton (Sam Allardyce again), West Ham, Swansea and Stoke.
Plus there are questions marks over Antonio Conte at Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs (see Zidane, above).
Then there are countless other changes in the Championship and Leagues One and Two. The Championship list includes Ipswich, of course, with Mick McCarthy replaced by Paul Hurst - and if any Norwich City fan who posts on a message board saying they don’t give a monkey’s about what’s happening at Portman Road, then consider that there are others who do (moan over).
It all makes me wonder whether or not we should have managerial transfer windows as we do with players. The turnover of managers is so ridiculous that only the brave or foolhardy dare take on the poisoned chalice. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard... what on earth are you thinking of? You both had cushy numbers in the media (and they were both very good on BT), but you have chosen to manage clubs with such high expectancy levels that only winning your respective championships will satisfy your supporters. Good luck with that one.
Chopping and changing mid-season is risky, but then clubs find themselves lured by something many of the rest of us don’t see. Take Everton and Marco Silva for example. Silva has had half a season at two clubs: one (Hull) he couldn’t save from relegation, the other (Watford) were doing well until last November when he allowed the first talk of him going to Everton to effect the team and they won five points from a possible 30... good enough to get him sacked in January with the blame falling on Everton’s interest.
Presumably Everton believe he can do a job, but that English CV is pretty average.
Club owners have huge responsibility to get it right, but presumably Everton’s fans can at least erase from their memory the day the club announced Allardyce was taking over. And here’s the rub: Allardyce put £6m in his sky rocket courtesy of the Goodison hierarchy to add to the other millions he has received in pay-offs.
Reports suggest if Conte leaves Chelsea it will cost Roman Abramovich, of no fixed abode, £17m.
It truly is a mad, mad, world at the top. Which brings me to the reality of football, and the grassroots game. Locally we have seen a few movements: Ian Culverhouse departed King’s Lynn Town, to emerge this week at Grantham, which is a shame, not for Grantham, but because some of us were convinced he’d go on to somewhere noticeably higher up the footballing ladder.
Dale Brooks’ extremely hot and uncomfortable seat at Lowestoft Town has been filled by Jamie Godbold and Andy Reynolds, which is certain to win over a few local fans who were (and probably still are) wary of what the future holds at Love Lane.
And then there’s the vacancy they left behind, at Trafford Park, Wroxham, which has been filled by Jordan Southgate with ex-Canaries defender and all-round nice bloke Adam Drury as his assistant.
Drury’s no fool: no mega budgets at Wroxham, no weekly press conferences and awkward questions. Just lots of hard work doing the things managers and their assistants should do: teaching young players how to play good football, how to represent their club and the people breathing down their necks on the touchline during matches. Players who clean their own boots, have day jobs, bills that aren’t always easy to pay - and won’t be that much easier when they pick up whatever salary they get from Wroxham. Players who will be just as delighted if they win the Eastern Counties League or the Norfolk Senior Cup as Ronaldo was when he played second fiddle to Gareth Bale a week ago.
Local pride. Local honour. Local football. Welcome back to reality.
What’s on the agenda?
One of the bonuses of the World Cup is when a TV company decides to show some decent stuff about the tournament’s history.
The aptly-named History Channel is doing just that, and while I can do without staying up until the early watching experts get their knickers in a twist as they try to compare Pele with Maradona, I was delighted to catch One Night In Turn, the 2010 documentary which followed England’s 1990 World Cup campaign.
It was a story of a team which, trailed by football hooligans, went from being almost despised because of it, to restoring some national pride for a country still living in the shadow of Heysel and Hillsborough. The journey ended at the semi-final stage as they lost to West Germany on penalties in Turin and Gazza cried because, had they won, he would have missed the final. When Chris Waddle’s penalty flew over the bar, Gazza cried again.
Two things spring to mind: I always have this perception of Lothar Matthaus as an arrogant midfielder, bags of quality, but little in the way of humanity. But Matthaus was the first to console Waddle after his miss. The other West Germany players were celebrating, but Matthaus spent quite some time with the England man.
One Night In Turin (adapted from Pete Davies’ eye-witness account All Played Out), had some terrific footage (although the close-ups of feet and footballs was added later, quite unnecessarily). There was a lot of footage of players relaxing by the pool, which they seemed to do a lot of, and a lot of very honest, relaxed interviews with the manager, Bobby Robson.
Which leads to the second point: this was an England squad at odds with some of the written media - the red tops. Gascoigne had been arrested after an incident near a pub just before England flew to Italy, so that was legitimate, but other stuff wasn’t. Robson had been hounded by sections of the media for ages and it didn’t stop just because of the World Cup. Robson railed against the media, players refused interviews, Steve McMahon stood in front of the TV cameras and ripped up a newspaper.
It was great stuff... wonder what the red tops have in story for us this time?