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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 6, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

    Who’d be a Premier League manager?

    Paul Gallagher

    With the exception of king Fergie – or perhaps Arsene Wenger and of course Ian Holloway – has there ever been a more precarious time for managers in the merry-go-round Premier League.

    Never mind January transfer business on the pitch, it’s who will occupy the dotted white line confines on the sidelines which captures the imagination just now.

    Manager merry-go-round: (L-R) Messrs Hodgson, Ancelotti, Houllier and Grant all face uncertain futures and some sleepless nights

    Manager merry-go-round: (L-R) Messrs Hodgson, Ancelotti, Houllier and Grant all face uncertain futures and some sleepless nights

    If all is to be believed then Roy Hodgson, Carlo Ancelotti, Gerard Houllier and Avram Grant are all in danger of being handed P45s by their respective employers unless results improve dramatically, and quickly. Even then it may be too late for some.

    This quartet alone has racked up countless domestic league and cup titles across Europe and beyond in places like Italy, France, Sweden and Israel, not to mention further success in Europe and cross channel in the richest form of the game anywhere in the world.

    It’s all in the past though and counts for nowt. There is no loyalty anymore; the game’s heart and soul has been ripped out by the money men, who use clubs as franchises and managers as mere disposable pawns. And let’s not get started with what happened to Chris Hughton at Newcastle.

    It’s a results business – as we are so often told – and the moment they start to go against, then managers may as well start making plans for how best to spend all that spare time. Mind you, it’s such an incestuous community, there’s a fair chance the phone will ring for another crack at the whip long before that first game of golf has been squeezed in.  

    “Far too many egos in one room for me, no thanks, I like where I am just fine,” said the irrepressible Ian Holloway, manager of over-achieving Blackpool, when recently asked if he’d like to manage one of the league’s “top clubs”.  His band of merry men are sitting mid-table and away from the relegation battle widely predicted for the Seasiders at the start of the season.

    Chelsea – league leaders not so long ago – have quickly gone from hero to zero and wallow in fifth after their most recent defeat by Mick McCarthy’s Wolves to be nine points adrift of leaders Manchester United, who also have a game in hand. Surely it’s not just a coincidence that results spiralled the moment Ray Wilkins surprisingly departed Stamford Bridge?

    Ancelotti Post-match Interview: Wolves 1-0 Chelsea

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    As for Hodgson, reaching last year’s Europa League final with Fulham is already a distant memory as Liverpool are a rudderless 12th – the same points (25) as Blackpool – and so far removed from a league’s coveted “Big Four” status.

    Houllier’s Villa are in the drop zone and this quietly-spoken – or bland – Frenchman appears unable to inspire in a manner anywhere close to that which Martin O’Neill was capable of when in control of the midlanders. As for Grant, he and West Ham are rooted at the foot of the table and prospects look bleak.

    For what it’s worth, most bookmakers make Hodgson favourite to vacate his post first and is a general odds-on (4/7) to be next Premier League manager to be sacked.

    • orieldude says:

      The periodic outbreak of sympathy for managers sickens me. No doubt when it is confirmed that Roy Keane has been fired by Ipswich it will get worse (incidentally any chance the Irish Times website people could make Keith Duggan’s column about Keane from a few years back free to view? You know the one – where Keith suggested that the English FA should make Keane the next England manager. I’d love a good snigger).

      Premier League managers are well paid for their job and it’s probably the only managerial job in any business where it’s considered normal for a manager to be permitted to ship out the incumbent employees (the players) and hire new ones at great cost in order to achieve targets. Do not forget, for example, when Hodgson’s xenophobic cheerleaders in the English press continue to blame Benitez for Liverpool’s position, that Hodgson got the job when he stated that last year’s squad had underachieved and he could get them to do better.

      If we take the ‘big leagues’ in Europe to mean England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Holland and Portugal then Avram Grant has, in fact never won anything. Houllier has three French Leagues (one from the ’80s and two with big spenders Lyon) and one season of cups with Liverpool. Hodgson has never won anything outside Scandinavia. Ancelotti’s record looks impressive, but remember it includes only one Serie A title with Berlusconi-backed AC Milan. So the statement ‘countless titles’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      As for Martin O’Neill, the state of both Celtic and Villa when he left (with many expensive flops on the books at both) is exactly what Benitez stands accused of. Yet of course you’ll never hear anyone on the BBC (or in Ireland) dare say it.

    • sheepstealer says:

      Hi Paul. Please quantity the ‘countless domestic league and cup titles’ messers Hodgson and Grant have won accross Europe.

    • Paul Gallagher says:

      Cheers for the comments folks. It appears I’ve made rod for my own back with the line “countless domestic league and cup titles across Europe and beyond…” orieldude says the countless titles line “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny” and sheepstealer wants more flesh on the bone…so here goes.

      Ancelotti has won the domestic league and cup in Italy with Milan and the Premier League last season with Chelsea, not to mention two Champions League titles with Milan. Other notables include the likes of the Fifa Club World Cup, Super Cup and Community Shield.

      Add in the fact Milan finished runners-up to Juventus in both the 2004/05 and 2005/05 campaigns under Ancelotti’s stewardship. Juve were later stripped of the titles due to their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal, meaning Milan were effectively de facto champions twice.

      In Roy Hodgson’s case the vast majority of his success came in Sweden, and Malmo in particular. He won seven domestic league titles (five in a row from 1985 with Malmo) and two with Halmstad plus two domestic cup wins. Add to this he was runner-up with Inter in the 1997 Uefa Cup and again with Fulham in the Europa League last season.

      Gerard Houllier has three French League titles under his belt, has won the FA Cup once and League Cup twice in England, while Super Cup and Community Shield accolades can also be thrown in.

      Avram Grant has four domestic league titles in Israel, two each with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa. Could also mention he was runner up in the Premier League (2007-08), Champions League and League Cup with Chelsea all in the same 07/08 season.

      Taking domestic league titles alone, by my reckoning, that adds up to 17 (if you include the two de facto ones for Ancelotti). Granted I could leave myself wide open to yet more scrutiny with the argument against saying; these domestic titles came in place like Sweden or Israel but they are domestic titles nonetheless…and that was the main point.

      The suggestion, therefore, is that all four managers in question have returned successful results in their time and are far from being wet behind the ears; they’ve all been round the block and come with bagfuls of experience.

      Footnote. Where next for Roy Keane?

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