Pete Sixsmith casts an eye over the turmoil at Villa Park and Anfield …
No sooner has the dust settled on the most exciting Premier League finish since the last most exciting Premier League finish, than we have two managers given the old heave-ho by their clubs.
Alex McLeish was out of the door at Villa Park before the ink was dry on the morning papers and the legend that is Kenny Dalglish joined him on Wednesday after what was probably an acrimonious meeting in Boston.
McLeish’s dismissal came as no surprise. The Villa fans had never taken to him and the vitriol poured from the terraces as they just avoided relegation in their penultimate game. Apparently, the final day’s performance at Carrow Road didn’t so much hammer nails into his coffin as weld them in with an indestructible flux.
His was a poor appointment, as bizarre as if we’d taken Joe Kinnear after the Mags went down. His football was boring and one wonders whether the number of “injuries” Villa suffered was political rather than medical. Charles N’Zogbia was his marquee signing last summer; he looked more like a threadbare Millett’s pop-up tent by May.
Dalglish is a different matter. He was, and still is, a revered figure among Liverpool fans. He was a sublime player, one of the best I have ever seen, and in his first spell as manager he showed intelligence and integrity. He represented the club, the city and the fans with real dignity over Hillsborough and emerged as much more than a football manager.
At Blackburn, he had more or less unlimited funds and won the title, but he had a poor time at Newcastle and few of their fans have fond memories of him. Ten years out of the game and back he came to Liverpool to rescue the club from a relegation struggle.
Having said that, Dalglish should be a hero in the North East, principally for giving our two PL clubs £55m. Steve Bruce used the Jordan Henderson £20m to bring in the bulk of his summer signings, while Ashley allowed Pardew to spend some of the £35m he got for Kevin-Kyle-with-a-ponytail on Ba, Cabaye and, eventually Cissé. No arguments about that deal among the Tyneside faithful.
See the Salut! Sunderland ‘Who are You?” awards: Villa fan takes first prize, Liverpool supporter is second … https://safc.blog/2012/05/and-the-winners-are-in-no-particular-order-liverpool-wolves-aston-villa/
The constant referrals to Dalglish as “King Kenny” irritated me, and, as those who know me will tell you, I am not easily irritated (yes you are – Ed). He made a series of catastrophic blunders over the Suarez case and it is likely that he will be haunted forever by those crass t-shirts that were worn at Wigan.
The end came after an insipid defeat at Swansea, meaning that the once mighty Reds finished below Everton for the first time since Adam was a lad, 17 points light of the mythical fourth place and CL qualification and a staggering 37 points behind the top two.
What do both Villa and the Fading Reds have in common? American owners. Which other club has an American owner? We do.
How much do they really understand the football culture in this country? Randy Lerner is getting some stick from Villa fans now, but when he came in and bought the club, he was hailed a hero. He read his Villa history, restored the derelict Holte Hotel and was seen as a model owner. Two disastrous managerial appointments later, he is no longer seen as a saviour, more a stumbler.
The Fenway Sports Group prevented Liverpool from a possible administration when they bought out the Abbott and Costello look-alikes who previously owned the club. They had a plan which said CL football, a new ground and a bright future under a club legend. All those dreams have crumbled.
Lerner and FSG have backgrounds in sports ownership. Lernerowns the Cleveland Browns NFL team, inherited from his father and with a fairly dismal recent record. FSG own the iconic Boston Red Sox who play at the even more iconic Fenway Park. Generally, they have been good owners and restored the old stadium to its former glories – but they had a poor season last year and are having a shocker so far this.
The other American owners in the league don’t sack managers, but they have neutered the buying power of Manchester United considerably over the years and it is only the strength of SAF that keeps United together. When he goes, I can foresee a major collapse at Old Trafford. We await that day with undisguised glee.
Ellis Short has been a quiet owner so far. He appointed and sacked a manager who promised much but achieved little. He replaced him with a man the vast majority of Sunderland fans had wanted as manager for years. He has put money into the club and seen a fair bit of it wasted by the previous two managers.
This coming season may well be the one where Short looks carefully at his emotional and financial investment in Sunderland AFC. We may have to accept that our club will never again win the league title, despite its long and glorious history. Will he be prepared to settle for adequate season after adequate season? Or will he lose interest as Lerner appears to have done or be overwhelmed by the experience of running a PL club, which is as FSG appear to behave?
The Quiet American is a Graham Greene novel where the eponymous figure advocates a third way for smaller, less powerful countries. Maybe Ellis Short sees a different way ahead for us: get it right on the field and wait for the Fair Play ruling to knock out the likes of City and Chelsea, whose owners’ buying power is distorting the competitive element of the Premier League.
Of course, it could all go wrong if Liverpool take a fancy to O’Neill. Here’s hoping they don’t.