Benitez, Mancini and Wenger: victims of the English game or their own egos?

Originally published for The False Nine on February 28 2013.

As he held the League Cup aloft in victory, shares in Michael Laudrup rattled up the ranks of the managerial stock exchange. His worth had already soared far beyond and above the valuations placed upon him in the summer, and come the close of business in May, it looks likely that Laudrup will have all but confirmed his place as one of the most attractive managerial investments around.

Swansea’s first major trophy in their 100 year history; Europa League entry for next season; exquisite football; the likelihood of an entirely respectable final position in the Premier League; and named as the man fans most want to takeover the reins at Real Madrid – it’s an impressive end-of-season growth report to reflect on for the Dane who co-founded a free-market think tank in his homeland in 2004.

In almost every possible manner, Laudrup has made the perfect first impression on English football. Charming, charismatic and handsome, there is something almost Mourinho-esque about how the league has fallen under his spell. In tabloid speak however, he is the jovial Scandinavian to the Special One’s fiery Portuguese. No wild pronouncements or headline grabbing antagonism, just calm, cool composure and sincerity. Both present comfortable identities that play up to familiar English stereotypes and folk heroes – after all, Mourinho is the much anticipated belated successor to Brian Clough. Continue reading

City are yet to become true modern rivals to United

Originally published for Can They Score? on February 23 2013.

For the majority of its existance, the Premier League title race has followed in the principles of The Thunderdome of Mad Max fame: “two clubs enter’ one team leaves… victorious.”

Genuine three-way title fights appear to have become extinct in the Premier League era (hence our focus), with each season framed around a duopoly of contenders. Of all the gladiators who have entered the league’s gruelling grand arena – Leeds, Blackburn, Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, City – it is Manchester United who have remained the most persistent and dominant force throughout the past 11 years.

Riding high and heading into March 12 points clear, United are in excellent shape to go on and clinch a 13thPremiership title. However, the club’s detractors have denounced their position as false, claiming that the current United team and the league itself is bereft of quality. This season is said to be a low-point in the domestic game that flatters a side lacking in skill and substance – a drought lacking in good players, teams or contests. Continue reading

LFC: Brendan Rodgers vs Kenny Dalglish – who is the true King of the Kop?

Brendan Rodgers: can he do what the King could not?

It’s fair to say that Brendan Rodgers hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts as Liverpool’s new manager.

First there was the unpopular abdication of King Kenny (pushed to jump before he was thrown?), followed by an opening day defeat to West Brom – a club that many Kopites will, in the short-term at least, associate with Roy “forever walks alone” Hodgson, and whose novice manager and ex Reds defence coach, Steve Clarke, was mocked and dismissed by some online fans pre-match. The quizzical loaning of Andy Carroll to West Ham with no replacement and the at-times embarrassing and literal TV soap opera that is Fox Sports and Channel 5’s Being Liverpool has hardly helped.

It hasn’t quite been all doom and gloom however, with Rodgers’ approach often producing good displays and performances if not points. Many fans can quite rightly point to growing pains with the new system as one of the major causes of their stuttering start this year rather than a major dearth in quality. Continue reading

Twitter, Football and Ressentiment: My Reply and a Farewell

Ressentiment: Manga style

As it may have be gleamed from my previous articles, I am a Liverpool fan. I know, I know, nobody is perfect. But I like to think of myself as being, at least most of the time, a fairly reasoned and sanguine commentator when motivated to write about football.

I am also a user of twitter, although I mostly use it as a way of collating various sources of articles on subjects that interest me. Indeed, it is rare for me to get involved in the heated, faceless tribalism that permeates such social networking websites.

Continue reading

The case for and against Sir Bob Paisley

Paisley and his own unique treble of three European Cup wins.

Bob Paisley (or should that be Sir Bob Paisley?) is a name that often seems to be drowned out and lost in the up-to-11 volume of the rolling news era, where each and every victory, player, team, squad and competition must be bigger, and therefor better, than the last.

Even if we are to judge the game and its legends by these ever-inflated standards however, few come close to the achievements of Liverpool FC’s Bob Paisley. Over nine years as Anfield boss, Paisley won everything bar the FA Cup, including a UEFA Cup and three European Cups, two of which were picked up in consecutive seasons. He is still the only manager ever to win the competition three times.

Paisley was officially recognised with an OBE after he clinched his first European Cup in 1977, but for many Liverpool fans, seeing the names of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson up in lights sticks in the throat considering how their own hero managers go without such honours.

Sir Alex Ferguson was knighted after his 1999 treble win. Without going into the argument of what a treble consists of, the combination of trophies won that season was a feat not achieved before or since in England. It was a magnificent accomplishment at the midpoint of a truly incomparable career. Sir Alex is undoubtably a manager for the ages, with a CV that, on its own merits, cannot be bettered by anyone. Continue reading