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The Joys of Football Management



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I was reading a respected journalist recently, who was praising the virtues of Fulham manager Roy Hodgson. Indeed, the author in question even went as far as to suggest that if and when Senor Capello decides that the England job is not for him, either when Old Trafford comes calling, he is sacked after losing in a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, or the most implausible of the three, England lift the Jules Rimet Trophy, that the 61 year-old well travelled and respected boss would be a good option to replace him.

However the thing that hit me the most from the article, was the fickle fate of football management as it seems you could be dubbed the best thing since the new designer England shirt one day, and only have the delights of reporting on Dagenham v Accrington for Sky Sports News the next. For Hodgson, the defeat of Manchester United after a number of their players acted like a bunch of three-year-olds after being told that there was no ice cream left, saw his reputation rise to new heights. However, defeat against Liverpool this weekend would no doubt see it fall again as the press bring up his Blackburn experience and warn Fulham fans not to get too excited about renewing their passports for a bash at the inaugural Europa League next season.

In giving the matter further thought, the manager who sprung immediately to mind is Alan Pardew. It was not so long ago, of course, that Pardew was dubbed the new saviour of English Football — i.e. an English manager who could one day be the national coach. Considering the former Reading, West Ham and Charlton boss is now out of work, I’m sure most fans would forgive him if it was discovered he was keeping a voodoo doll of Steven Gerrard, Javier Maschareno, and Carlos Tevez as he cries himself to sleep over what may have been.

Pardew was, of course, just 60 seconds away from winning the FA Cup in 2006 with West Ham until Gerrard’s typically dramatic intervention. He then followed that up with the ill fated signing of the Argentinean duo who had excelled in the World Cup just weeks before in what was seen as a managerial masterstroke. Rightly, the press were quick to praise Pardew and links to bigger clubs were mooted. But, how the mighty fall and after leaving the happy Hammers just months later. The failure to keep Charlton up and the perception of ruining a club tagged as the model way to run a club financially has seen his star far at a dramatic rate. Add to the charge sheet an ill advised comment on Match of the Day 2, which has saw him removed from the show shortly after.

I’m positive Pardew won’t be the last of so-called “manager genius” to fall on his face in spectacular fashion; just look at Paul Jewell, another linked with the England job that has seen a promising career fall away. More recently, Tony Adams status in the game and managerial hype has taken a battering, and he too may never reach the levels of his playing career unless he rebuilds his reputation fast.

What should give Pardew, Jewell and Adams comfort is the fact that managerial reputations can be rebuilt. Continuing the England theme, Steve McLaren is receiving rave reviews since taking over at Dutch side FC Twente and a second successive appearance in the Champions League is highly possible.

Closer to home, a minor revolution is taking place down on the South East Coast at little known Dover Athletic, under former Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler. It was Hessenthaler that did a stellar job taking Kent’s only football league side to their highest ever place, a 11th place finish in the Championship, on a shoestring budget. Inevitably, links to numerous higher profile posts followed, including West Ham before Pardew got the nod back in 2003.

A move away never materialised and Hessenthaler saw his reputation fall after a poor run of results that led to his sacking. A route back into the league was blocked despite numerous interviews. His only option was to relearn his trade in non-league with Dover Athletic, which he has done with great effect and is once again being touted as one of the best young managers in the game.

Those that follow the non-league game will know that Nigel Clough has taken the opposite path, with a decade in the non-league game before taking the route into the league – making his move when his star was at his highest and Derby County came calling. Derby, who surely can’t go any lower reputation-wise, have Clough pegged as the man to halt the pitiful decline; the next great hope. His sensible and measured approach should see him have a long and successful career. But if he’s smart, I’m sure he’ll take a look at managers from the past and remember that things can change in the blink of an eye.