It’s safe to say that over the last 30 years we have had a right mish-mash of managers (or should I say…Head Coach). At the present time there is a certain amount of goodwill for Steve McClaren, more so than for Alan Pardew when he arrived, but that might be to do with the alternatives at the respective times ie: Chris Hughton and John Carver.
For what it’s worth I always thought that Alan Pardew was just average (there were better and there were worse around) and I have the feeling Stevie M may be the same.
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Their popularity is wrapped up more in their relationship with Ashley than with their managing and coaching abilities – Pardew clearly was in his pocket, we have yet to see if McClaren is. If McClaren proves to be a complete lackey, then his popularity will dive to a par with Pardew.
However, a new manager got me thinking about our previous ones and their effect on the club – the point being; is it to do with their abilities, or is it to do with just timing and when they got the job.
Alex Ferguson was touted as a great manager but got lucky originally with the ‘kids’ team, then he was given oodles of money to spend, Mourinho has always been handed pots of cash (his best achievement was still with Porto so many years ago), whilst Wenger is in my opinion the best of all the ‘top’ managers because he has unearthed gems and had a proper playing style, which was and still is a pleasure to watch. Yes he has spent, but nothing like the other ‘top’ teams. Reluctant as I am to agree with anything Fat Sam says, but managing Real Madrid is relatively straight forward.
Which brings us to our managers (Head Coach), of which in my watching life time there has been 33 changes and if timing was crucial in their success:
Stand out managers on the good side are Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby, both surely streets ahead of the rest.
I cannot bring myself to say any evil for these two – both have given me thrill after thrill in my watching lifetime. However, it is fair to say that their success was based very much on man-management and this in turn was based on an enthusiasm for the game that none of the others were able to capture. Both also spent a fair bit of money but Keegan only got his after the first year or two (1st stint). However, he generally signed quality, Bobby’s hit rate was also good.
Both were good tactically (despite what the critics say about Keegan) but they were no Wenger…to be fair we have never had anyone with real tactical nous of that standard. But how they stood out was man-management and the ability to spot good players.
Timing was key however for both: Keegan enjoyed the fruits of the early Sir John days and Bobby enjoyed a very positive if sometimes misguided chairman.
Make them Head Coach under Ashley (as he did with Keegan), or in the austerity days of Westwood and Gordon McKeag, and they would struggle to be a success.
At the other end of the scale were the small timers of Richard Dinnis and John Carver, so out of their depth it became embarrassing. I would have added Glenn Roeder to this but his results were ok, although I cannot help but feel that Shearer was running the club at that stage.
However, for truly bad managers who were given money and support, just look at Souness and Allardyce. In my opinion these two (and Gordon Lee many decades earlier) were the worst we ever had, principally because they both had money to spend. Allardyce criminally squandered money when Ashley did splash the cash and produced a dreadful team, whilst Souness (as McGarry did earlier) just wanted to pick a fight with everyone. – notably N’Zogbia, Robert and Bellamy (all talented and all would have been/or were a success under Sir Bobby or Keegan). The timing was right for these two managers but what a cock-up they made of it.
Dalglish and Gullit could have made decent managers but Dalglish had to follow Keegan and was partly doomed as a result. He also never had the money so was working with players who had worshipped Keegan.
He also tried to change the style and for a reason that may not have been his fault, made some bizarre signings. Gullit came across a resentful Shearer who had seen his mate Dalglish sacked and in many ways humiliated and vilified. It is a truism that taking on Shearer was not going to work. Timing was bad for both of these.
The rest are largely forgotten: Ardiles had no chance (no money at all to spend) and in many ways Hughton was the same. Yes Hughton did get us promoted but I wonder how much this was the ‘strong characters’ in the team who did the job. Both were popular but doomed to failure.
Arthur Cox is rightly popular but how much he owed to Keegan the player, Beardsley the player and Waddle the player…similar with Willie McFaul and Paul Gascoigne. To a minor extent these last two were mini Fergusons – they ‘received’ some great players who enhanced the manager, their timing was everything. But you could never say they were great managers.
Other managers like Jim Smith, Joe Kinnear, Jack Charlton and dare I say, Alan Pardew, left only bad memories, if all for different reasons (Smith play-off defeat, Kinnear foul mouthed, Charlton making Beardsley a left-back, Pardew for being Ashley’s voice piece).
They all probably could and should have done better but their timing in the job (ie: little money or board positivity) meant that they were never going to be more than average managers.
Which brings us back to McClaren, how is his timing?
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