Five come alive as bosses' wheel of fortune takes a turn for the better
Up and down the country, new managers are pumping up expectations. But will it all end in tears? Steve Tongue reads the runes
Sunday 26 June 2011
There have been more than 50 managerial changes in England since the start of last season and, after a flurry of appointments in the past month, the merry-go-round is still turning.
Some high-profile names eager to climb on to it, such as Sam Allardyce, Steve McClaren (at Nottingham Forest) and Chris Hughton, are taking their chance in the Championship, where the scrutiny is theoretically less intense but the price of failure is higher. Against that, sitting out the ride for too long can see you forgotten; it is almost three years since Alan Curbishley resigned on a point of principle from West Ham and he has not found a job since.
Curbishley was linked with the vacancy at Birmingham, but missed out to Hughton, who was sacked by Newcastle last December in the same week as Allardyce was axed by Blackburn. Now both are back, among five new appointments who have been speaking in the past week about what they hope to achieve.
Alex McLeish (Aston Villa)
Background A fine centre-half with Aberdeen, winning 77 caps. As manager, took Motherwell to second place and Hibernian to third, then had a mixed four seasons at Rangers: two League titles and five cups, plus a last-16 place in the Champions' League; but a record run of derby defeats by Celtic. Took over the Scottish national team in 2007 but resigned 10 months later to take over at Birmingham, who in four eventful seasons were promoted once, finished ninth, won the League Cup and were relegated twice.
Qualities Straightforward, with the self-confidence to walk out at one club and take over their bitter rivals. But may need to develop a more attacking mentality.
Targets Winning hearts as well as matches; enough of the latter to have Villa challenging for the top six again.
Funds Boosted this week by £17m sale of Ashley Young, but Randy Lerner is reluctant to commit further funds after Martin O'Neill's mixed success with his sprees.
What he says "[We have] a great mix of experience and tremendous youth players. It could be a breakthrough season for a lot of the young ones."
Verdict A bold but insensitive choice of manager. Must keep Stewart Downing, find a top midfielder and then make a good start – all by the end of August.
Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea)
Background Took his coaching badges aged 17, briefly managed the British Virgin Islands before working for Jose Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale. Saved Academica from relegation and moved to Porto, winning four trophies in his first season.
Qualities Very bright young man and proven winner who must now charm a dressing-room of old pros at an unstable club.
Targets Just the Premier League, Champions' League and a couple of cups. All done with flair and style, of course.
Funds Would have been unlimited but for Uefa's new Financial Fair Play regulation. Still competitive.
What he says "The most important thing is to motivate the players to get their ambitions right. I feel confident I can respond to the ambitions of the supporters, the owners and the administration."
Verdict If anyone other than Mourinho can restore sanity to the madhouse, it could be his protégé.
Martin Jol (Fulham)
Background Played for two Dutch clubs and Bayern Munich, then in England for West Bromwich and Coventry. Coached in Holland for 13 years, then took Spurs to fifth place before being sacked and replaced by Juande Ramos. Helped Hamburg to fifth place, won the Dutch Cup with Ajax and finished one point behind Steve McClaren's Twente for the title. Resigned last December with Ajax fourth.
Qualities Good experience of English football, committed to attacking play, with a fair record in the transfer market.
Targets Staying comfortably in the Premier League and improving a poor record in domestic cups.
Funds Mohamed Al Fayed pays good wages but tends not to push the boat out for transfers.
What he says "If you look at the team, it is an older team and they did very well in their own style, and I cannot change that overnight into Total Football. I need results, but I want to play good, attacking football in an organised way."
Verdict Must have realistic expectations at an overachieving club. Can make them more attractive but probably not more successful.
Chris Hughton (Birmingham City)
Background Full-back for Spurs, West Ham, Brentford and Republic of Ireland (53 caps), then assistant manager at Tottenham for 10 years. Assistant and then permanent manager at Newcastle, winning the Championship, but sacked after four months in the top flight.
Qualities Calm and organised, avoiding controversy and good at winning the respect of the players.
Targets Continue Birmingham's yo-yoing with instant promotion, preferably with a more enterprising brand of football.
Funds According to the acting chairman, Peter Pannu: "Just because we qualified for Europe and the possibility of extra games doesn't mean we have to be throwing around crazy money."
What he says "This is what I regard as a real football club with passionate supporters. We are going into an extremely competitive Championship and I need to get into the job straightaway."
Verdict A steadying influence who knows his way out of the Championship and can achieve it again with the right backing.
Sam Allardyce (West Ham United)
Background Played centre-half for eight English clubs and managed Limerick, Blackpool, Notts County (promoted), Bolton (promoted, reached Uefa Cup) Newcastle (sacked after four months) and Blackburn (sacked by new owners after two years).
Qualities Works with what he has to get the best results, improving most clubs he has been at. Chippy over long-ball reputation.
Targets Promotion, preferably this season.
Funds Limited, but some more will be available once England internationals bring some fees in and are off the wage bill.
What he says "The players have to reinvent their reputation by making sure West Ham get back into the Premier League as quickly as possible."
Verdict Needs a good start to win over dissident fans. Kevin Nolan, a superb signing, will help but they need a goalscorer.
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