If the decisions that Alan Curbishley and Kevin Keegan took earlier this season to leave their respective Premier League clubs doesn’t serve as good enough evidence to foreign owners that trying to get involved with matters on the pitch is a terrible idea, then the future hopes of some of England’s top-flight teams are in shatters.
When two of the country’s most respected managers walk away from jobs at the clubs they love so much then you know something is wrong. Curbishley and Keegan have such affection for West Ham and Newcastle respectively that just resigning out of the blue was never an option. There had to be something or someone that had caused such shock exists. And there was.
In both cases the reason for departure was how the club was being run at board level, and more specifically how the board were attempting to run the football side of things. At West Ham Curbishly said publicly towards the end of the summer’s transfer window that no more of the club’s players would be sold, only for Anton Ferdinand to be shipped out against his wishes days after making the statement. It was not his choice to see him go; in fact it had nothing to do with him at all. The decision was made by the executives of the club who sit upstairs mulling over finances and revenue most of the time.
And the circumstances were almost identical at Newcastle, where Keegan left because he discovered that on the final day of the transfer window several of his first-team players were offered for sale by the club’s board. Keegan spent a few days discussing the situation with Newcastle’s hierarchy before coming to the decision to resign with immediate effect. Once again a man who was steering a club in the right direction was forced to leave because stupid board members and executives above him were trying to do jobs they were not supposed to even think about.
Football is not their area of specialism so trying to invade the club’s on-the-pitch matters with their absurd ideas just simply doesn’t work. They employ a manager and coaching staff to work in that field, and to work with the players and pick the team, so with that the job of deciding which players come in and out of the club should rest with them as well. They are the football people, they have played the game professionally and they know what they are doing, so leave it to them. If businessmen from upstairs are signing players and then presenting them to the manager all of a sudden then what are they supposed to do? The individual who is responsible for training the players should have the choice as to which players he is training. This is the manager. It should not be somebody who does not know the ins and outs of Premier League football, like the board members at Upton Park and St James Park.
Yet despite the sufficient evidence provided by managers like Curbishley and Keegan, and many before them, that interfering with their jobs is almost suicidal, owners will continue to come and buy clubs and attempt to get involved with football matters. Doing this has a track-record of failing miserably, and even Chelsea were victims of this when Roman Abramovich tried to meddle with Jose Mourinho’s job, only for the gifted Portuguese manager to walk out on the Stamford Bridge outfit. They suffered and mourned, and so will many clubs in the future if the current predicament remains. Why rich businessmen from abroad continue to do this is beyond most people that follow the Premier League. It sometimes makes you wonder how they became so wealthy when they come and do such stupid things.
One example, however, of a foreign owner taking charge of a top-flight club in England and proving wonderfully successful is that of the American Randy Lerner at Aston Villa. He has injected money into the club but has not stuck his nose into matters on the pitch. He never talks to the media, and remains out of the spotlight, so much so that people often forget he is such a high-profile figure. Lerner does things so simply but so effectively and that is what makes him such a great owner. He does not seek attention, and he knows that he is never going to be the most important person at the club, like some owners think they are. Randy Lerner should be the role model for wannabe Premier League owners, when currently everybody wants to be the next Roman Abramovich and get stuck into the football side of things.
Things need to chance at the top of the hierarchy if clubs are function properly in the future. Let’s hope there are plenty of Lerners out there, ready to mirror Randy’s masterful running of Aston Villa.