Well it’s just a pot-pourri of names being thrown around at the moment to replace Sam Allardyce at Newcastle. Reports today suggested that Sam was sad but quite phlegmatic about his situation. I suppose a £6m pay-off for failing to deliver, creates a feeling of quiet mellowness. So who’s going to be next to sup from the poisoned chalice?
My good friend Mike, a fellow Man U man, suggests that Newc U are nowhere near as big a club as they think they are and that their expectations are always wildly excessive. This creates a myth that few can ever live up to. Let’s face it they’ve tried some bloody highly-regarded managers who have simply buckled either quickly or, as in the sad case of Sir Bobby ever so slowly. Let’s face it Dalgleish, Gullitt and to a lesser extent Souness were high profile winners and their reputations have been almost destroyed by the failure to lead Newcastle to the promised land. Robson was their best appointment by a mile in terms of logic and experience and heart but his appointment was probably 7 years too late. Ultimately he was unable to control the egos of a dozen or so prima donnas for whom he became a benign old tosser. Keegan interestingly was the messiah choice but most unlikely in that he had no experience of management and had actually been put of the scene for 7 or 8 years playing golf in Spain. But he had an affinity with the club and the fans that was undeniably deep and strong. It was this empathy with the fans which created the incredible support which drew the sponsors and created the wealth to finance the fantasy football. It was his bad luck to come up against Alex Ferguson at his belligerent and determined best and, let’s face it, a bloody fantastic Man U side.
So what are the lessons from all that? Well that affinity with the town and the region and the people does matter I guess. I’ve been hearing a lot about the ethos of Newc Utd in the media today. But it’s hard to define isn’t it and whatever it is, Sam never understood it. Mike Ashley’s been talking about the critical importance of an experienced manager at the helm. Well, Dalgleish et al were as proven as they come but that in itself wasn’t the answer. So he’s apparently sounded out Harry Redknapp possibly in tandem with his son Jamie. It would be a dream team down south I guess. Harry and all his family live down in the Poole region – would he really be happy uprooting them all to Wallsend or living in a hotel on the Quayside 5 nights a week just for this job? I doubt it but use of the private jet may just sway it.
Anyway wasn’t Keegan the exception that proved the rule about experience? Well the contemporay equivalent is Shearer. Revered on Tyneside as a local goal scoring legend – in fact the club’s leading scorer of all time after he surpassed Jackie Milburn’s total in his final season. He’s been taking his badges (but hasn’t as yet completed them) and has a simple , lucrative career as a media pundit probably guaranteed for the next 10 years. He might fancy the notion but he shows no appetite to me for the cut and thrust of basic hard-nosed cynical management like a Ferguson. He’d be there doing it if he did. Plus the one time I met with him, he didn’t strike me as in the same universe as the urbane, intelligent Wenger/Capello etc. He could be tempted if he had a wise counsellor like a Robson (probably too frail) or Venables or Keegan which is what the fans woudl see as the ultimate dream team I’m sure but I’m convinced it’s a recipe for medium term failure. But it would be a blast. No doubt about that. It might cost Ashley another £100m in spending money too. I can’t see it – I don’t think Shearer’s got the desire within him …yet.
Not long after Sam was appointed came Sven’s appointment at Man City. I expressed the view at the time rather cheekily I guess that perhaps the two would have been better appointed to the other’s jobs. Sam is not a Lancastrian but he suits the NW. Played at Bolton, managed at Blackpool and Bolton etc; a move upwards to the money bags role at Man C would have suited him better I thought especially tackling Sir Alex as top cock fighter in the city. At Newcastle he was isolated in a one team town and the centre of all attention. he just didn’t like it. Conversely I bet Sven hates sharing the limelight in Manchester (and it’s a great town but it’s not Rome is it?). I think he’s done a brilliantly pragmatic job building a very good team with a lot of money at City. He’s shown his true skills and exploited his fantastic contacts. But what if this Thai fella’s money runs out or gets sequestrated or something? City were virtually bust before he came in and they’ll be bust again if he gets expelled or whatever. Newcastle ought to always have generous transfer funds and in a one-horse town I reckon Sven could have been a real hot shot. He could have handled the expectation and he’s a real big name on the world stage – that would have appealed to that Geordie sense of self-importance which so antagonises my friend Mike. But I doubt it’s going to happen. It would suit them though if the Thai deal went down in flames which could happen at any time.
So who’s left? Internationally they’re talking Mourinho, Jol, Klinsmann, Lippi and Hiddink. I’m sure it’s no way for Jose. Jol would love it but what’s he delivered beyond EUFA cup qualification? Maybe that’s all they want. I just don’t know if the other two would fancy it or whether they meet the owner’s Premiership experience criteria.
Other likely candidates in the English football scene appear to include Mark Hughes and David Moyes. I think they’d both deserve the chance and would be great choices but something tells me that without a sophisticated urbane exterior or charismatic personalities to dazzle the audience, they’d both wilt like Sam under the sun lamp. The big revelation earlier today was Steve McClaren declaring on Talksport radio that he’s ready to get back to work and is ‘prepared’ for any offers that may come in. The McQuiff at Newcastle – now that would be a hoot.
What about outsiders eg Jewell, Coppell or absolute no-hoper and League 2 manager Paul Ince. Coppell no chance but Jewell would be tough enough and full of fun but his teams play crap football. And so it comes to Ince, who I think might just be the answer; head-strong, opinionated, no-nonsense, chip on his shoulder but inspirational, thick-skinned and hungry. The world’s against him and he doesn’t give a sh8t. He’s like a young Ferguson with a black feistiness to me. And I think he’s going to be huge if he gets the chance. I don’t especially like him buy who gives a frig? He’ll attract players no problem like Robson did at Boro. And he might just attract a few who Robson couldn’t entice. No experience of the Premiership? Yep good point. I’d suggest he brings in a few guys on affordable retainers to help and advise him – his ex-England boss Hoddle maybe and/or gnarled old local lad Jack Charlton. And my master-stroke, if he could handle it, to help with morale and youth development Paul Gascoigne. A team of promise, vitality, ambition, energy, empathy and gritty determination. Ince could emerge as his own man in a season’s time, fully capable of leading New U back into serious contention I reckon.
Don’t know what you think out there. It’ll probably end up with Jol in charge and an £8m pay-off in two years time with NU in the bottom half of the Premiership and search on for manager number 9 in 10 years (and Shearer still trying to pass his badges).