Apologies for the lack of posts. Professionally I have been very busy indeed for the last couple of months and will remain so as I build towards opening a new office in central London. Incidentally, if any of my readers use private dentistry in west or central London and are pleased with the service they receive, please let me know about it by email or in the comments.
Sam Allardyce’s resignation has been debated widely in the short space of time since the announcement. He’s widely held to be frustrated with the lack of opportunities at Bolton Wanderers, and there are rumours that he is being lined up for jobs at Manchester City and Newcastle.
This is all likely to be true or close to the truth. But there’s another, alternative view. What if someone slightly more interesting and powerful has been talking to Sam?
England have two internationals looming: a friendly against Brazil to launch the new Wembley, and an away qualifier against Estonia. The nature of that friendly, and its context, take it out of the normal run of “unserious” matches. England under Eriksson had a habit of raising their game against top opposition, and this is the first match of that kind since the victory over Argentina in 2005. Something tells me it won’t be like that this time. After that, Estonia need to be beaten, and beaten well.
If England are humiliated by Brazil, and come away from Estonia with only a one-goal margin of victory, McClaren will have an unemployed and motivated man breathing down his neck. And the press will be on that man’s side in a big way.
Whether it’s fair or unfair, I suspect Steve McClaren has lost the confidence of the FA in his year in charge. I think they would replace him if they could. Or if they had the courage. With Allardyce free from other ties, they’ll need just that little less courage than before. Much will depend on how seriously they take bung allegations, and on how much those allegations are felt to have faded over time.
At the start of the year, I made a number of predictions. Now might be a fair time to review how they are doing.
In terms of the title race, I backed the young Arsenal and Chelsea, with a nod at Liverpool. Manchester United’s success has been a complete surprise. In particular, I, and no one else outside Old Trafford, foresaw the season Cristiano Ronaldo has put in. Nor did I foresee the failures of Ballack and Shevchenko. Arsenal’s frailties were hidden from me by the sheer beauty and skill of the team.
No quality crystal balls into the box from me, then.
I picked Manchester City, Sheffield United and Charlton for the drop. My big failure has been Watford. Aidy Boothroyd didn’t keep them up as I was expecting. Sheffield United aren’t staying up yet, but probably are, and I didn’t think they had the team to do it – wrong again. Manchester City are – but largely because of the failures of others. They’ve had a wretched season, and won’t rescue it with a win in the Manchester Derby.
My big “success”, as it were, was in picking Charlton for the drop, which wasn’t a popular choice at the time. The talk last August was in terms of their “pushing on” from where Curbs had left them. I felt this kind of talk to be dangerous, and so it proved. They might yet survive, and in fact, given their performances under their new manager, probably deserve to in some way. I trust Bolton fans won’t fall into the “push on” trap.
More Than Mind Games Manager of the Year
There’s been a lot of good management this year – Mourinho’s handling of the Chelsea power struggle; Jol’s proper revival of Spurs; Neil Warnock’s performance at Sheffield United; Ferguson’s nurturing of another winning team, if that’s what it turns out to be. But I’m handing the award to Roy Keane, who took over an utterly demoralized Sunderland side at the bottom of the Championship and took them to automatic promotion. Insider accounts of his approach to management show a man taking to management as to the manor born, and adapting his persona to the demands of his new position in an admirable way.
More Than Mind Games Meet-Up
If any readers or fellow bloggers would like to get together for drinks and chat about football, other sport, anything else indeed, in London or Cambridge, let me know by email or in comments. The idea would be to find a traditional pub or wine bar, perhaps with large-screen action on in the background, and kick back for a couple of hours.