United and Liverpool “Back on track”
After big recent wins against Stoke and Wigan – those bastions of consistency – the general consensus amongst the pundits is that Manchester United and Liverpool are “back on track” after defeats at Turf Moor and White Hart Lane. Just one problem with that though: I thought it was “too early” to judge the respective title challenges of teams at the top. If it’s “too soon” to prove if Tottenham and Manchester City can keep up their impressive form, surely it’s equally soon to judge if United and Liverpool’s defeats are just blips.
“One swallow doesn’t make a summer”, and obviously if the punditocracy are anything to go by, “early wins don’t necessarily mean a title charge”. Fine, but surely, by the same token, one good win shouldn’t get you back on track. In fact, it’s the opening week of the season: There aren’t any tracks. There’s simply no track to get back on. These two clubs could challenge for the title, or they could both get relegated. We just don’t know. Surely it’s time for those who are paid to pass judgements on football to pass judgements on football: Not to make bland generalisations, or say pathetic clichés for no other reason than how the respective teams did the previous year. Players age, leave, lose form, lose pace, lose confidence and lose inspiration over the summer break, so how do these people know that Team A will continue on a certain path, while not knowing which way Team B will go?
If you want to make a prediction for how a team will do this season, go ahead and do it – but do it for everyone, or don’t do it at all. Most of the people who say, with absolute certainty, that Manchester United and Liverpool will build on their good recent results say, with a straight face, that it’s “too early” to judge the prospective chances of other teams. You seem to have had enough time to judge other teams looking at the Champions League places… so why not judge the rest?
Maybe (probably) I’m overreacting to a throwaway remark, but there has to be a reason why these people be so hypocritical:
Anyone know what it is?
Gianluca Nani shows Curbs’ folly
When Alan Curbishley left Upton Park early last season, it was because he wasn’t having “the final say” in transfer policy. Fans, pundits, fellow managers leapt to his defence, saying that’s “not how we do it in England”, a “Technical Director has no place in the English game” and that it “may be how they do it on the continent” with an arrogant, patronising tone that made Gianluca Nani, like Damien Comolli look like the increasing number of Big Bad Wolves ruining everything for the manager who wasn’t “allowed” to decide who comes and goes.
Harry Redknapp, a man who seems to view Technical Directors with a suspicion only usually left for criminals and spies, replaced Juande Ramos and Comolli at Tottenham – he’s done a decent job so far – leaving Pompey in the lurch. This man, after an earlier altercation with Avram Grant and Vladimir Zajec during his first spell at Fratton Park, insisted on having “total control” of transfers and transfer policy. Essentially, to quote The Smiths “Please, please, please, let me get what I want.”
So, Peter Storrie and Alexander Gaydamak let Harry do what he liked in the transfer market – after a 49% increase in wages over a summer, a financial crisis and all of their good players having to be sold to raise cash for interest payments from the loans taken out to finance the deals, Portsmouth are in a perilous position, willing to beg for any buyer to come in. Obviously Harry couldn’t control the World’s banks (don’t even think about it) but he could’ve controlled his spending. He didn’t, and now the club is in desperate trouble. Surely Portsmouth could’ve hired a technical director – like it or lump it, Harry – to prevent things getting out of hand like they are now? Maybe Harry has learned his lessons from his time at Portsmouth… but the signings of Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch – all for well over £10m each – show that he probably hasn’t. Will Spurs go the same way as Pompey?
A similar story down the road at West Ham, where Alan Curbishley, in an ultimately successful attempt to keep the club in the Premier League and consolidate that position went, for the want of a better word, crazy in the transfer market – £72,000-a-week for Lucas Neill, who turned down a move to Liverpool because of the wage drop, £80,000-a-week for Freddie Ljungberg, £90,000 a week for Keiron Dyer, an astonishing £100,000-a-week allegedly for Craig Bellamy – was subsequently told to slash the wage budget by director Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, and ultimately quit, because – you’ll like this – he didn’t like George McCartney being sold for £7m. With the Icelandic banks having gone into meltdown, West Ham had to cut costs and raise money.
In fact they still do.
Yet twelve months on, Gianluca Nani and Gianfranco Zola in tandem have done a terrific job, bettering Curbishley’s 10th place finish – and, better still, done it a £40m profit. With the sales (mostly to Sunderland) of Anton Ferdinand, McCartney, the slashing of the remarkable wage bill etc, they have shown that, with a coach willing to co-operate, you can make a roaring success of the Technical Director position in English football. And while every player, if a good offer comes in, is still up for sale – the nous of Gianluca Nani, and the coaching talent of Zola means that West Ham will probably get a good deal out of it. On and off the pitch.