Not Totally To Blame

When you are down in sport sometimes it feels as if you cannot go any lower, only to discover that there is still a darker depth you failed to see. David Moyes is no doubt feeling that way as every day after his sacking at Manchester United he suffers more ridicule and more betrayal.

When he took over he knew the task he faced. When he took over he no doubt knew that Manchester United’s share price had to perform at a certain level just as  the team on the park had to.

Sir Alex Ferguson was a unique manager just as Brian Clough was during his time at the top. Both were managers of the like we will never see again. The reason being the game has changed. Clough would have been 79 last month had he still been alive. Ferguson will be 73 this year. These two men played in a very different era and moved into management at a time when the Manager ran the football club. Both, because of their success, got away with things that manager’s today would find themselves up in front of Human Resources for industrial bullying. It is funny though, how both managed to get the best out of players, many playing their best football under each man. Both also even if disliked, commanded respect.

The truth is David Moyes was never going to be allowed to act or run the club the way Sir Alex Ferguson did; he probably would not have wanted to, and would not know how. Moyes is 22 years younger than the man he replaced, when he started out on his playing career with Celtic in 1980 Sir Alex had been a manager for six years.  Sir Alex had been a manager for 40 years when he stepped aside last year after 26 years at Manchester United. David Moyes had 18 years experience by comparison; only twelve of those in top flight football. Sir Alex moved to Manchester United after 12 years as a manager. He was fortunate that after one season at St Mirren he found the club promoted to the restructured Scottish First Division. Promotion the following season took them to the Premier League, soon after he moved to Aberdeen and led them to the Scottish title and smashed the stranglehold of Rangers and Celtic; something few managers have managed since. All at a time when Clough was winning with unfashionable Nottingham Forest across the border. All unlikely to ever happen again.

There will never be another Ferguson, and there will never be a manager allowed to run a club the way he was allowed to. As one British tabloid wrote “It was draconian management but it worked.”

As more and more stories of discontent start to come out of Old Trafford, something that was unheard of in the past half a century, it appears to highlight once again that when players are earning a great deal more than the coach, you are heading into dangerous territory. One thing that is clear is that with the ‘Ferguson pressure’ off the players relaxed. Respect has to be earned of that there can be no doubt, but the players need to ask themselves would they have behaved the same way under Sir Alex? If the answer is “no” then they have let the club and the fans down, as well as the manager.

This is not to say that Moyes is without fault, but some of the stories the press have dredged up seem nothing more than mud raking.

It has been reported that when Shinji Kagawa arrived so late for the flight to Munich this month he was fast-tracked through departures by United’s security staff, apparently “he did so with a fixed smile on his face hinting that he really did not care.” How do we know that to be the case? Could it simply have been a smile of embarrassment?

Then there is the tale of the game against Olympiakos in Athens. Moyes was arguing with the fourth official when a cry of ‘Send him off,’ came from among the substitutes. ‘We would be better off without him.’ Disgraceful behaviour in any so called “team.” Was the player punished? Will we ever know? Does that player deserve to wear the famed colours of Manchester United again? Such conduct drags down the name and the standards set by this great club.

We now hear that on the flight home after that game Moyes was seen reading a management self-help guide called “Good to Great.” Needless to say it prompted sniggers from the players, and many say that that was the moment all respect evaporated.  The players reaction is predictable, but what is wrong with someone wanting to improve themselves, or looking for ways to do things better? Would the reaction have been the same if he had been reading Jonathan Wilson’s excellent “Inverting the Pyramid,” a book that looks at the evolution of football tactics and formations from the games early days to the modern 4-5-1 formation? Would that have shown he did not know anything about football tactics?

The fact is many coaches call in experts in key areas to improve their own knowledge and also to gain a different perspective of things. Most of the top coaches are always reading various books to try and improve the way they do things. Sadly Moyes maybe chose the wrong environment in which to do so.

There is no doubt Moyes knows himself that he got some things wrong. No doubt second time around he would do things a little differently. The sad thing is after 26 years of Ferguson many people were set in their ways, they did not want to change, and he maybe pushed too hard to stamp his own mark and met with opposition. He was undoubtedly naive, and at times too trusting in whom he spoke to.

One thing that never happened at Old Trafford in the past was leaks to the media. This season they have been rife. That cannot be solely Moyes’ fault and the club needs to address this and move on the player or players concerned to send a clear message before the new manager takes over.

By all accounts Moyes hated the ‘Chosen One’ banner draped in his honour at the Stretford End, and who can blame him. He felt that it implied the job had been gifted rather than earned, and maybe that was his downfall. He was so desperate to prove that he had earned the right to be at Old Trafford he abandoned the simple things that had made him one of the most sought after young managers in Britain. Let us not forget that Moyes was just the fourth manager in 2012  after Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Harry Redknapp, to record 150 wins in the Premier League.

Brian Clough failed horribly at Leeds United when they were the toast of English Football. HIs tenure was shorter than Moyes’ and far more acrimonious. He bounced back at Nottingham Forest and will never be forgotten. Let us hope that David Moyes too can bounce back too and that he can bring similar success to a club who decides to look past the last eleven months.

(for the record the writer does not support Manchester United!)

April 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

Still In Demand

Timing has always been a big thing in Sir Alex Ferguson’s life. First of all the timing of the games, and secondly when to step down at Manchester United.

Ferguson’s timing was impeccable. A Premier League Championship in the bag last year, and with a team that was not that good, it was just those competing with United did not perform. With a cashed-up Manchester City being steered by a new manager they were always going to be contenders. The return of ‘the chosen one,’ Jose Mourinho at Chelsea meant that they were always going to be challenging purely on the high of his return to Stamford Bridge. Arsenal recruited well and were always going to be there or thereabouts, but still looked tow players short of being title contenders, but were always good nuisance value. As much as he would have seen that, would he have predicted that both Liverpool teams would be in the top six? Liverpool, United’s arch rival looking like the team to take the title; that would hurt.

Many have criticised the outgoing Moyes, and United have not played well this season, but the fall was to be expected. Sadly so too was Moyes short term tenure. Every Manchester United fan will point to Frank O’Farrell who replaced the great Sir Matt Busby and how short his time in charge was. If you look Arsenal after the successful George Graham era Bruce Rioch only lasted a year at Highbury. At Chelsea when Mourinho left after finally bringing the club, Avram Grant lasted just a year. It takes time for a club to adjust after a period of success to the ways of a new manager. Which makes one wonder why anyone steps into the firing line.

Sir Alex however despite what many fans feel was a poor choice in terms of a replacement, is still however very much in demand. Apparently BT Sport are looking for big names to boost their broadcast team and having just paid GBP897million for the Champions League and Europa League coverage from 2015/16 for three years, and they see him as the ideal man to pull in viewers. An approach has been made via his son Jason who acts as his agent.

Those in the know say that it is very unlikely he will take up the offer. As if he was to share his insights on television he may well lose his appeal as a guest speaker, an avenue that is bringing him rewards that may well be far greater than those on offer at BT Sport. The 72 year old is already earning a reported GBP100,000 a time on the after dinner and lecture circuit. A fee that is four times higher than the next biggest earner in this field, Lord Coe.

Timing though is Sir Alex’s forte, no doubt if he has tired of the after dinner circuit, or feels his appeal and profile are on the wane, he will revitalise interest in some other way.

April 24, 2014 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Can Boxing Unite For the Greater Good?

Change requires one person to make the first bold step, and new World Boxing Council President, Mauricio Sulaiman is to be applauded for attempting to implement change.

Sulaiman who took over from his father Jose after he passed away earlier this year is carrying on where his father left off, with the WBC leading the way once again in trying to implement changes in the sport, for the long term good of the sport.

The meeting of Boxing’s Championship bodies has been talked about but has not happened for far too long. The last meeting was when Gilberto Mendoza the President of the WBA met in Mexico some years ago with the then WBC President Jose Sulaiman.

Mauricio Sulaiman is trying to re-ignite that initiative. He has said that the main reason for the meting is to try to unify rules, so that there is an agreed united standard in the sport, as in most sporting activities, that fans and boxers alike know and understand. One issue the fans would like to see is the restoration of less World Titles, with the “Super” weight categories being put to bed once and for all. There are quite simply too many world titles and as a result some boxers are able to adopt that moniker, yet are honestly not worthy of it. Sadly this is unlikely to happen.

At the moment it is expected that the big four will take part in the proposed summit meeting of Boxing’s super powers,  the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. These are the established bodies and the one’s whose titles carry the most kudos. Fight fans would like to see these trimmed back to two, possibly three at the most, but that will never happen.

Some would say that there should be one, which is agreed, but there is some magic in boxing when there is a unification bout between the two Champions of the WBC and WBA. One thing that all of the boxing bodies must do is make their Champions fight the number one contender within a set period, as in the past. Sadly in modern day boxing, to increase their worth as the World Champion too many fighters avoid the top contenders and fight lower ranked opponents to stay at the top that little bit longer. This does the sport no good whatsoever.

No date has been set for the meeting as yet, but let us hope that progress can be made and as proposed the bodies can indeed unify many of the rules.

April 24, 2014 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

Glory Take The Lowe Road

Trying to portray an image of correctness Perth Glory appear to have once more shot themselves in the foot. On the 20th of December they appointed Kenny Lowe as the Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the 2013/14 Hyundai A-League season after Alistair Edwards and the club parted ways.

At the time club CEO Jason Brewer stated ““We want to ensure that we undertake a thorough and highly professional search process to identify the most suitable candidate for the permanent position of head coach. We want to make this very important decision with a view to ensuring a path for sustained success in the long term.” That all sounded extremely promising.

No decision was going to be made quickly and fans became concerned that the club was waiting until the end of the season to make such a decision, a time when players coming out of contract are already talking to other clubs and negotiating deals. In the January transfer window the club made three new signings which many found strange when the club was waiting to appoint a new coach, Rostyn Griffiths arrived along with Lithuanian International striker Davydas Sernas and Serbian midfielder Nebojša Marinkovic. Sernas was signed until the end of the season, while Marinkovic and Griffiths were signed until the end of 2014/15.

In February at a Fan Forum the club advised members that a “formal process to identify, select and contract the best permanent candidate” was underway. They were also shown the application document in a powerpoint presentation.

Sadly once again through this recruitment process the club has ended up sending mixed messages to the fans, in the main once again due to the Chairman of the club contradicting his Chief Executive. They have also according to some applicants as of last week not advised them that they were unsuccessful. Having started the process to find a head coach almost fourth months ago and being told that the club had received over 50 application from Australia and overseas, many expected a new face, and not the man who had stepped in to steer the club through the stormy waters of the last season to be given the role. That is why the announcement yesterday was met with a great deal of disappointment. Many fans it is believed calling the club to air their views and vent their frustrations.

By all accounts it was a final decision between Kenny Lowe and Spanish coach Albert Roca who was assistant to Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona, Galatasaray and with the national team of Saudi Arabia

One has to feel for Kenny Lowe. He understandably put his hand up for the role believing that he was good enough to do the job, just as many anyone does when they apply for any job. He did not make the decision to be head coach, but the Glory’s panel of six did. He should not be lambasted for being the successful candidate, purely because he was the one chosen.

Lowe himself has admitted he was surprised to land the role when he said at the press conference “I’m surprised. At the end of the day I’m not really high profile, but I think I’ve got qualities that will allow me to do well. So I’m looking forward to the challenge and it’s a big challenge.’’

It is a big challenge. Of that there can be no doubt, and once again being only given a two year tenure in the role, and being expected to bring through young local talent and make the A-League finals and the Asian Champions League is a massive ask. This shows that the club has not learned from previous mistakes. In order to give the club stability they need to give the coach security of a longer term, even if the exit clause sees him only receive a set amount rather than then amount left on the term of his contract.

“We had candidates that matched Kenny’s talent, but none matched his passion, and I believe that is what we need more of in this club.’’ CEO Jason Brewer stated, this in itself is a worry to many. How does one define passion? People show it in different ways, some will read watch and talk football 24 house a day, but have a quiet demeanour. Others show that passion through physical actions and words. As one wag wrote on social media, “My mum is a passionate lady, so she must have been in the running.”

Lowe will know that recruitment is going to be crucial to determine his future. After the club was beaten 3-0 last month by Western Sydney Wanderers he stated “I think it showed today that we’re not good enough. The young boys are not ready.” Yet part of the job criteria is that he must “develop a first team squad that is made up of at least 35% of home grown players that throughout the course of the season are provided with opportunities to develop into first team players at Perth Glory.” In addition he must “support the reduction of playing staff budget and playing staff number (sic) in accordance with directions from the CEO and the club’s board.”

Lowe has admitted he did not believe he was a front runner for the post, and that may have led to him being more relaxed than his fellow candidates when interviewed. As one of the four points in the job description states “The right candidate will be a leader of men and a builder of teams. He will be able to demonstrate how he has down this previously and he will have to exude confidence that he can do so at Glory. Ideally he will have “turned around” a losing mentality and be able to point to examples of these and explain his role in that. The best man managers will have been leaders all of their lives. People build teams and command respect in different ways.”

Many will point to this requirement and look at the NTC performances over the past three or four years when Lowe was in charge. This was supposedly the best young talent in the state, yet they hardly ever won a game; the reason we were told was because it was not about results, but development. This team’s form never turned around. In seventeen games in charge of Perth Glory Lowe won four, drew four and lost nine. There was a spell where the team had failed to win in ten games, before victories over Newcastle Jets and the Central Coast ended the run. Maybe the panel saw this as the “turn around” they were looking for? Many fans did not.

Kenny Lowe is sadly on the back foot straight away. He will need to get results immediately. There will be no honeymoon period, as football and Perth Glory is a business. Through no fault of his own fans are already disenchanted by his appointment, which may result in lower membership numbers. Early defeats will result in crowds diminishing as was witnessed at the end of this season; Free tickets helping them look a little more respectable! If that happens Lowe will soon be shown the door, something he is well aware of having been around the game a long time. “It’s football. There’s only two things that will happen while I’m here at this club, that I’ll guarantee will happen, one I’ll get criticism. Two, I’ll get the sack. That’s guaranteed.” He said at the press conference.

Three things Lowe will need to do, are be strong when others at the club try to influence his squad and the other is win over the fans. Without them on his side, despite what he thinks, it will be a very bumpy ride. Finally his first signing will need to be one that excites and be a player who can deliver, this will have a big bearing on how people view him and next season, more so than the club may realise.




April 23, 2014 at 10:09 am 6 comments

Listen to Mum

British Olympic Boxing champion James DeGale announced last week that he was back and that he had signed up with a new promoter in Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable. Not only that he was lined up for a Super Middleweight title eliminator at Wembley Stadium on 31 May.

DeGale had become disenchanted with the sport after being unable to secure any meaningful fights on any worthwhile cards and was looking to throw in the towel.

“Six months ago I was in a dark place. I went, ‘Mum, I’ve got tow properties, a nice car and a pension so screw this boxing. I’ll earn UKL1000 a week doing personal training.’ She said, ‘Don’t be stupid,’ and she was right. Potentially there’s some crazy money to be made. This is going to be fun now.”

Having listened to his mum and heeded her advice, let’s hope he looks after her and shows his appreciation for her wisdom.

April 20, 2014 at 9:26 am Leave a comment

Still In the Running

There is no doubt that Lord Coe has gone from being a man in a hurry, to a man in demand. The former Olympic Gold medallist switched his running shoes for a career in politics becoming the Conservative MP for Falmouth in Cornwall, before heading the London Olympic Games. He is now the head man at the British Olympic Association and is being asked to stand for the position of Lord Mayor of London.

The current incumbent the flamboyant Boris Johnson has said that he will not run for a third term, and sees Coe as his ideal replacement. However it would appear the post holds little appeal for the Chelsea supporting Lord Coe.

“My answer is consistent I am no longer interested in a career in politics – just sports politics” he told the Independent newspaper in England.

This comment would virtually confirm that Lord Coe intends to bid for the role of President of the International Athletics body, the IAAF. The elections are next year and if successful he would automatically gain a seat on the International Olympic Committee, which in turn could lead to an eventual nomination to the role of President of the IOC.

There is no doubt that this would appeal greatly to the former middle distance runner, however his main rival for the Presidency of the IAAF is former Olympic Pole-vaulting legend Sergei Bubka, who has plenty of people backing his run for the top job.

The word is that just as Coe ran two events at the Olympic Games, the 800m and 1500m, he may well be in the running for two posts here. Should he fail to gain the top job with the IAAF, it would still leave him open to run for the position of Mayor of London later in the year. That is if he wanted to eat his words.

Its nice to be in such demand.

April 19, 2014 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

Vale: Dylan Tombides

Western Australia has produced some outstanding footballers over the years and many have taken the route to the top via the West Ham United academy. One such player hoping to follow in the path of Stan Lazarides and Richard Garcia was Dylan Tombides.

It therefore comes as a huge shock to hear that his life has come to an end at the tender age of 20.

Tombides played youth team football with Stirling Lions in Western Australia and joined West Ham United aged 15. He Played for West Ham in their reserve team and was named in the first team to make his Premier League debut on 22 May 2011 versus Sunderland but remained an unused substitute.

In 2011 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer which was discovered following a random drugs test taken after he had played for Australia U-17 team in a 4-0 defeat against Uzbekistan at the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico.

In June 2012, he was told he was back to full health and returned to training. He celebrated in style making his professional debut on 25 September 2012 for West Ham in a 4–1 home loss against Wigan Athletic in the League Cup. He came on as an 84th minute substitute. It was to be his only appearance.

Sadly the cancer returned and he was forced to miss the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, due to having to undergo surgery as part of his on-going battle with the disease. Everything looked to be on track as he was one of seven overseas based players in Aurelio Vidmar’s 23-man squad for the 2014 AFC U-22 Championships in Oman in January. It was a tournament, he hoped would help him stake a claim to be part of Ange Postecoglou’s World Cup squad, before heading to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

Regrettably for fans of the game it was not to be. Today he lost his long battle with cancer and Australia lost a talent that was yet to shine on the world stage. Yet judging by the comments already coming from his club he touched the lives of many, and will hopefully not be forgotten.

Our thoughts at this time are with his family, friends and team mates.

West Ham United will show their respect with a minute’s applause ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League fixture with Crystal Palace at the Boleyn Ground. The players will also wear black armbands in his memory.

Rest in Peace.

April 18, 2014 at 9:25 pm Leave a comment

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