James Lawton: Same old faces on radar due to lack of a Clough or Revie

Sunderland owner Ellis Short invested in a young Roy Keane who refused to take his calls when things got tricky

Sunderland's enthusiasm for either Martin O'Neill or Mark Hughes is hardly a surprise. Whoever emerges victorious from the hand-to-hand battle, if indeed it is one that they care to pursue after establishing the terms of engagement being offered by owner Ellis Short, is likely to create an immediate sense of well-being at the Stadium of Light.

But whatever happened to the old possibility of a young coach filled not with a world-weary sense of the cost of everything, including mediocre midfielders from Bulgaria, but the conviction that he could change the face of football?

In the top flight of the English game there is just one working example and he is 34, Portuguese and right now might benefit from a little help from Our Lady of Fatima, to whom Jose Mourinho was said to be so devoted, at least in the formative stages of his career.

The other difference between Andre Villas-Boas and young English lions like Brian Clough, Don Revie and Malcolm Allison who insisted they were bound for the stars, is that he never kicked the ball professionally.

The point, of course, is that Sunderland's Short, who did invest heavily in the unproven potential of Roy Keane, and was rewarded by the great player's refusal to take his mobile phone calls when things got a little tricky, has every reason to cut his losses and look for the certainties that he can expect in an O'Neill or a Hughes.

When someone complained to Hughes during his time at Blackburn that the team's style of football was not exactly lighting up the moors around Ewood Park, he said he could solve the problem immediately if his critic immediately handed over £50m.

A whole generation of top footballers has both waxed extremely wealthy and seen, close-up, the pressures that accumulate so quickly. Hence players who in the old days would have seemed sure-fire candidates for major jobs in English football, now flock into the TV studios, most of them to bombard their viewers with the most anodyne of double talk.

One notable exception is Sky's Gary Neville, whose bracing analysis is winning some unlikely admirers and also suggesting that he might be a conspicuous loss to the managerial ranks. When asked about the likely successor to his fallen former team-mate Steve Bruce he said, not disrespectfully but with perhaps a hint of resignation, that inevitably it would be one of the old names – or, he might have put it another way, the usual suspects.

It was a reminder of the encrusted nature of the English football establishment, among whom Alan Pardew's brilliant surge is the performance of the baby among the Premier League's three English managers. At 50, Pardew is more than a decade younger than Harry Redknapp and Neil Warnock.

The intriguing, and rather saddening, historical detail is that Brian Clough was 32 when he took over at Derby County and Don Revie 33 when he assumed command at Leeds United. By comparison Malcolm Allison was quite elderly when he launched Manchester City into their greatest years. He was 38.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own