The Fate of Five


Football is so dramatic, isn’t it? If it’s not the referees, it’s the players. If it’s not the directors, it’s the fans. But one person who is nearly always involved is the manager. And here’s five men who have been in the news recently.


For once I’m not going to talk about lovely Jamie, the least effective midfielder since Douglas Bader. I’m going to talk about his dad.

Harry Redknapp today confirmed that he is taking over the reigns at Southampton, a club just 10 miles up the road from his former club Portsmouth. Reaction has been largely negative on the blue side of the south coast. Pompey fans have reacted indignantly to the news. Nigel Tresidder, the chairman of Portsmouth supporter’s club who apparently speaks for the thousands of Portsmouth fans around the world said: “To go to Southampton, I think he will lose a lot of support, more than he may think”.

He continued: “He said he left of his own accord – then why is he getting into football again so quickly?”.

Well there is the key. We all did the math when Harry resigned and the final total was that Harry was sick of his interfering chairman. He may have left of his own accord but it wasn’t for the “rest” that was claimed in the press release. Forget the lovely handshake and hug at the hurried press conference last week, forget the mutual appreciation society that was formed through the press over the last fortnight. Harry Redknapp had enough and walked away from a job that was becoming more of a chore than it needed to be.

Taking over at Southampton, I would guess, is Harry’s way at getting back at Milan Mandaric. The fact that the fans will react negatively indicates to me that Harry didn’t do his homework very well – or else he just doesn’t care.

Similarly Mandric didn’t show the ruthlessness he needed to. He should have only released Harry from his contract on condition he didn’t join another Premiership team until his time at Portsmouth would have ended. A simple compensation payment would have sorted that out, and no ones toes would have been trod on. He was the man with the power and he blew it.


Martin O’Neill, manager of Celtic. Champions in three of the four seasons he has been there. UEFA cup finalists, brave stirring displays in the Champions league. But now they’re out before Christmas for the first time under him. So what’s next for O’Neill?

It’s time to get the heck out of dodge. It’s time for Martin O’Neill to take a chance and get his agent to throw his name out to Premiership clubs. It doesn’t matter if it’s not the big job. Maybe O’Neill will never get that big job. Liverpool had their chance and refused to bite, Manchester United didn’t move heaven and earth to move Fergie out and Martin in when the Scot was on the ropes a few seasons ago. Newcastle could have appointed someone until the end of the season and then grabbed O’Neill in the summer but they went for the inferior Graeme Souness.

People forget very quickly and if Celtic end up trophyless this season (which looks a distinct possibility) then the phrase “you’re only as good as your last season” will be line one on O’Neill’s previously impressive CV. He made his name at Leicester, a club he established in the Premiership and that has been on a downward trend since he left. There’s no reason why he can’t establish himself once again at a club like Manchester City, Blackburn or Birmingham – clubs with Premiership level facilties and ambitions.


If the words “Diamond and “Lights” are the two most frequently chosen to describe Glenn Hoddle’s career in ten years time, it’ll be very, very sad.

There’s not too many people who will stand up to defend Hoddle in the wake of the ‘ego’ accusations, so it’s fair to assume that the stories of his aloofness and general disregard for the human side of football management are true.

A six month contract at Wolves where Hoddle aims to build his damaged reputation (our words, not his), seems the best deal for both sides. Wolves can ship him out without compensation if they are languishing below half-way with little improvement, Hoddle can walk away if a better deal comes along. It’s a calculated risk.

He has certainly shown little loyalty in his 13 years in management. He left Swindon after winning them promotion in 1993 for mid-table Premiership strugglers Chelsea. Three years later he abandoned Chelsea for England. After his sacking in 1999, he re-surfaced at Southampton a year later, walking out on them in 2001 for Spurs. Spurs sacked him after a poor season in 2002/3 and a dismal start to 2003/4.

Few can expect Hoddle to show loyalty to Wolves in June if he performs well. If a Premiership job comes up, he’ll be out the door like a shot with barely a care in the world for those he has left behind.

Hard to break the habit of a managerial lifetime.


He was favourite to be sacked at the start of the season. Everton were expected to be bottom three contenders from day one. In December they are firmly ensconsed in third place and have already won as many games this year as they did in the entirety of last season.

Was it because they sold Rooney? Could they be top if they still had him!?

There’s nothing spectacular about Everton. They’ve got decent players like Gravesen, Carsley, Weir and Bent playing well, revitalised names like Ferguson and Martyn playing way above expectations and the support of 38,000 delirious fans can not be taken for granted.

But it will come tumbling down just like it did last season after Everton’s startling first campaign under Moyes. When will this happen? I think some time after Christmas when the small squad starts to get stretched and injuries and suspensions come in to play. A top half finish will probably be achieved but the dreams of Champions league football are unlikely to come true. But fair play to Moyes. He’s a straight talker and gets results.


As a Spurs fan, I’ve seen a lot of managers come and go. As a younger fella there was the glory days of Burkinshaw, the great season under Pleat, the up-and-down but largely entertaining Venables era, the solid Livermore/Clemence year. Then in my 20s I saw the disastrous Ossie reign, the initially promising Gerry Francis run, the victimised Gross, and arch-enemy #1, Georgie Graham. Finally of course there was the pleb known as Hoddle and the short-lived Jacques Santini.

George Graham was the only one of those men who made me feel like he was in control. He was serious, defined and deliberate. Ossie Ardiles and Christian Gross muttered in their broken English, often looking bewildered by what was going on around them. Gerry Francis lost Klinsmann and Popescu, replacing them with Ronnie Rosenthal and Ruel Fox. I felt sorry for him as his head wobbled from side to side wondering where the next draw was coming from. Hoddle was one of those people who couldn’t see the wood for the trees – probably because his head was so far up his own arse. And Jacques Santini? Well, we hardly knew you.

But Mr Jol, our new commander-in-chief has an interesting air about him. There’s a touch of George Graham there, a look in his eye that seems to say without words: “I know what I’m doing”. Martin Jol expects 100% commitment from his players. He demands a professionalism that, if missing, will be rewarded with a public lashing. Witness his biting comments on Freddie Kanouté after his idiotic handball that cost Spurs a League cup semi-final. There are times when you need to treat players with kid-gloves. This wasn’t one, and Jol knew it.

His verbal assault on Iain Dowie (who dared to criticise the selection of Pedro Mendes on the right – I’d just question his selection at all) was a little less impressive. But maybe an outspoken manager is what Spurs need – someone who shows his players that it’s alright to be brave and be yourself. It works for Ferguson, Wenger and Mourinho. There’s just such a thin line between braveness and stupidity, isn’t there?

And finally…

The coverage of racism in the media appears to have fuelled its re-emergence at football grounds across Europe in the last month or so. Of course the fact that jouranlists have taken an interest again (and you can’t blame them after the mindless behaviour of thousands of Spanish fans a few weeks back), doesn’t mean it hasn’t been going on regardless. Many British clubs have experienced isolated racism at rather less socailly developed countries in Eastern Europe and games in Serie A and La Liga have been blighted with racist behaviour for years now.

Unfortunately recent events at Ewood Park and The Den have shown that racism still exists at British grounds too and no longer is it a taboo subject. When you put tens of thousands of people in to one place, that rainbow is going to represent many sides of life. The bad sides too. Ignorance, violence, vulgarity, racism… they’re all present, and always have been.

The way to solve it is not to ban fans for life, it’s to educate the obviously un-educated. Kick racism out of the football ground, it doesn’t go away – it just exists on the street outside or in the pub after the game.

Each generation is learning more and more tolerance and although we’ve a long way to go, we’ll get there in the end.


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