There have been some great goals over the past week. Jack Wilshere kicked it off with a lovely one for Arsenal at the end of a beautiful five- or six-man move. Next Pajtim Kasami hit that stunning Fulham equaliser at Selhurst Park, when he showed outstanding ability to take a ball over his head, down on his chest, and volley across goal from an acute angle.
Then Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit that pile-driver in the Champions League. I’ve also been shown a sensational goal scored by a female footballer in Ireland called Stephanie Roche, which you might have seen on YouTube. She juggles the ball then turns to volley it in from the edge of the box.
Of those I’d go for Wilshere because of the intricacy of the move. I know Arsène Wenger’s going to be biased but I agree with him when he said yesterday that a goal like Wilshere’s is much more difficult. Kasami, Roche and Ibrahimovic all scored very good goals but you do see ones like that every now and again: was Kasami’s any better than Peter Crouch’s a couple of years ago?
To play so many one-touch passes with players all putting the ball exactly where they wanted it to go, including a couple of lovely flicks, then Jack’s cool finish. That was special. We’ll be looking at it for years to come.
But it is not the best goal I’ve ever seen. As a manager the most satisfying goals are the ones you have worked on. Sometimes they come in open play, but usually it is a set-piece that comes off. When there’s a bit of thought gone into it, a wall pass or one with a few players involved, that’s very pleasing.
I used to do one involving a wall pass around the wall that worked at quite a few clubs, especially at Notts County. You still see a few when watching matches, but it is harder now as every match is videoed so you can only use a move once. After that everyone knows what to expect. I remember as a player at Chesterfield we had a throw-in routine that worked for ages until word got round.
But no one filmed the best goal I ever saw. It was on a parks pitch in an Under-12 match somewhere near Hartlepool. I was coaching a group of scruffy urchins who had knocked on the door of my digs in Seaton Carew when I was playing for Hartlepool. I agreed to coach them and one day we worked on a corner routine. It was quite complicated but come the Sunday match they all followed the instructions, executed it perfectly and we scored.
I was running down the touchline cheering. I felt like Brian Glover in Kes. I’ve seen a lot of goals since, but none better.
Like me, Ollie was given a near-impossible task
I do feel sorry for Ian Holloway as I’ve been there. I had time to put a promotion-winning squad together at Queen’s Park Rangers, rather than inherit one, but I had similar problems trying to upgrade it to a Premier League squad as our owners were trying to sell so it was virtually impossible to get anything done in the transfer market. When the club did change hands, everything was done in a few days. We couldn’t get all our targets and ended up more or less signing anyone just to fill the squad.
Like Ian, I realised once we began training and playing that quite a few of the lads who had come in over the summer did not have the same work ethic and camaraderie as the lads who had fought hard to come up. It was not all of them, but enough to cause friction. It was hard for me to grasp the mentality of some modern-day players and I think Ian has had the same experience. I could see watching his press conference on Wednesday how low he was. He mentioned how tired he was and he’s not really had a break since 2009 when he took over at Blackpool, got them up through the play-offs, nearly kept them up, began trying to get them back then went to Crystal Palace and got them up, also through the play-offs.
It is always harder if you get promoted by the play-offs. The club isn’t really prepared for it and you have less time to strengthen as the other clubs have gone up weeks ago and often pinched the better available players.
To make it even harder, Wilfried Zaha, without whom Palace would never have got up, was off to Manchester United, last year’s top goalscorer, Glenn Murray, is out for most of the season and Yannick Bolasie, who had a good season last year, has also been out. That’s three attacking players absent, and it is the attacking threat all promoted teams need if they are going to make an impact in the Premier League.
It has been a tough couple of weeks for managers, with several moving on. International breaks are always dangerous; they give chairmen time to think. I always feel the end of October, when chairmen begin to get ideas of how the season will pan out, and after the third round of the FA Cup, with the transfer window just opening and the potential for a Cup upset, is when managers are most vulnerable.
One of the changes has been at my old club, Sheffield United. I think they have taken a sensible approach appointing Nigel Clough. I listened to his first press conference, when he said the people of Sheffield want excitement, tackles and headers. It’s great he has already got a sense of the place.
I won’t be tempted back into management
Inevitably, as I’m not working and have happy memories of my time there, I had the press on to me as soon as news leaked out of Ian’s departure, asking if I wanted to go back to Palace. The answer is I’m happy with my media work, with this column, BT Sport and TalkSPORT. I don’t think a full-time management role is for me now, but I’d be tempted by an intermediary role, between a manager and a chairman, helping both of them out. It’s what people call director of football, though I don’t like that title myself.
There are, however, other possible jobs. On TalkSPORT yesterday my co-presenter Danny Kelly asked listeners to send in suggestions and some did tickle me. Referees’ chief could be interesting, as might chairman of the Football Association, while the suggestion “he should get into politics to sort the country out with his no-nonsense approach” was flattering. One said, “I’ll pay Neil to listen to my dad moan after every Barnsley match”, while other ideas were “anger management coach” for Steve Evans, the Rotherham manager, and press officer for Graham Poll! To the Bury fan who said “don’t come here”, I can reassure him there’s no chance, not again. The one I liked best was short and sweet: “Postman. Always delivered.”Reuse content