Courage or desperation? Hammers take low Roeder

New men at Upton Park and the Riverside have impressive credentials as coaches but enjoy status by association
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The Independent Football

Glenn Roeder posed for photographs amid the dust and rubble that will be Upton Park for two months. The cacophony of £35m worth of construction work at least drowned out the misgivings issued by the faithful at his appointment as they stood outside a club where the dreamers have always vastly outnumbered the pragmatists. On this particular day they were not so much blowing those famous bubbles as foaming at the mouth with indignation. It was difficult not to speculate that Glenn Who? will be needing that hard hat in the coming months.

It has been a week in which we have witnessed not only a brace of Englishmen becoming Premiership managers, but both of them, Roeder and Steve McClaren, Middlesbrough's replacement for Bryan Robson, making the transition from coach. True, the former has enjoyed some experience, briefly as player-manager at Gillingham and for nearly three years at Watford before being dismissed. Though he pleads in mitigation that he was forced to sell players ­ he made a profit of £5.4m on transfer dealings, which included the acquisition of Kevin Phillips for £10,000 ­ his overall managerial cv still reads "failure".

That experience with Watford still rankles. Roeder's terse reflection on those years when he claims the Hertfordshire club put ground improvements before playing ones ­ "I've yet to see a new stand score at the far post" ­ could yet return to haunt him as he settled into the job with the Boleyn Ground looking more like a building site than a theatre of excellence, on precisely the same day that Frank Lampard followed Rio Ferdinand out of the gates.

West Ham have displayed either courage or desperation in naming Roeder to replace Harry Redknapp, who had become almost part of the Upton Park fixtures and fittings. It was possibly a bit of both, once the Hammers' initial targets, Alan Curbishley and McClaren, spurned their overtures.

It will take virtually instant success for Roeder to start to seize the heart and soul of the supporters. That will be no simple task. As he emphasised himself, the club, at which he has been coaching for two years, has been in decline since the end of the previous season.

Roeder plans to acquire three new players, with the priority a replacement for Lampard, who believes his international career will be enhanced by an £11m move to Chelsea, just as his former England Under-21 team-mate Francis Jeffers insists his will benefit from Thursday's £8m transfer to Arsenal.

"The difficult thing about replacing Frank is that you need a player who can get you between eight or 10 goals a season from midfield," said Roeder, whose coaching staff will include Roger Cross and possibly Ray Lewington, but probably not Stuart Pearce. "We haven't been a high goalscoring team in the last few seasons, and [by selling Lampard] we're taking 10 goals away from midfield and obviously that's a concern to me."

The other concern will be to ensure that West Ham's major performers do not lose their belief in the club. Joe Cole has already declared his commit- ment to Roeder's stewardship, but Paolo di Canio has expressed doubts with a reference to "small-time Hammers".

Roeder's critics suggest he does not possess the charisma or playing pedigree to attract the best new players, even with the £16m at his disposal; or the strength of character to galvanise talents such as Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. Only a big-name, ex-international can achieve that. Someone like Bryan Robson, the mischievous might say.

But the 45-year-old does not foresee problems in maintaining the allegiance of those like Cole, Carrick and Frédéric Kanouté or persuading major players to sign for him. "Some of the biggest-name managers don't coach," Roeder declared pointedly. "They're only big-name because they were big-name players. They don't actually go down the coaching route. It's not just a question of getting in quality players, but moulding them as a team. I believe strongly in the team ethos.

"Individuals might win you the odd game, but it's not a giant version of five-a-side with everyone running all over the place. Over the season you've got to get the team organised, playing within a game-plan and in a certain style, with everyone knowing their jobs."

The fact is that, like McClaren at Middlesbrough, Roeder arrives with impressive recommendations as a coach in an era where tactical prowess is rather more of a pre-requisite of management than star appeal in front of the TV camera. Significantly, with the appointment of that pair, and the arrival of Bolton's Sam Allardyce, nearly half of the coming season's Premiership managers have never played at senior level for their country.

What Roeder does possess, just as McClaren does, is status by association. While Boro have gained a generous cutting of a mighty Scotch pine in Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant, West Ham have the advantage of a man whose mentor was Glenn Hoddle, who nominated him to join his England coaching staff for France '98.

"A few people owe Glenn an awful lot," said Roeder. "Peter Taylor would be the first to admit that when Glenn gave him the opportunity to take the Under-21 team he had a successful period. His credibility shot up because of that. I'm in a similar position."

Roeder is also a disciple of Terry Venables, under whom he played at QPR. "Terry has had a lot of influence over many of the players who played under him," he said. "He's a top-drawer coach. During the Middlesbrough game [West Ham's final Premiership fixture and Roeder's one match in charge as caretaker coach after Redknapp departed], he was unhappy with one of our players fouling their keeper. Terry looked over and said: 'I suppose you've taught him that?' I said straight back to him: 'Yes, but who taught me?' "

If teachers are any guide to a pupil's merits, Roeder may just make a better fist of his surprise elevation than the sceptics would prophesy.