Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sven sacking the price paid for rich ownership

It cannot be denied that Leicester’s current position of 13th is not really good enough for a club that spent in excess of £15million over the summer and has the highest wage bill in the Championship.

But in what remains an immensely truncated division, the Foxes are just three points off fifth place and only a further four off the automatic promotion places. Having a bet on the Championship is a wildly unpredictable exercise these days.

Yet those facts didn’t appear to matter to the board of Leicester City, who sacked their manager Sven Goran Eriksson just 13 months into the job.

From the outside it seems extremely harsh – it does need to be considered that we don’t know the internal workings of the club and any faltering relationships between players and staff. Yet still, just three months into a season with such heavy investment it seems needlessly disruptive to sack a manager and his assistant, with the various compensation costs that such a venture brings, and install a new man in charge, who will bring his own ideas and players to the table.

It appears though that it is the price you pay for wealthy ownership these days. Leicester have already been compared to Chelsea, who have had the benefit of Roman Abramovich’s millions to spend but have also gone through seven managers as the Russian seeks instant success.

It is this doubled edge sword that makes the take-over of football by rich owners as worrying trend in the long-term (the uber rich and imminently successful Man City apart, though so vast is their wealth, they should be treated as a unique case). This constant hiring and firing, throwing good money after bad and the spiralling wages and transfer fees is going to eventually lead to a total meltdown and a number of clubs hitting the wall.

Back to Leicester and it seems Martin O’Neill is the favourite in the football betting and the man the fans seem to want back. The Irishman enjoyed tremendous success with the club at the turn of the century, establishing them in the top ten of the Premier League and winning the League Cup twice.

However, putting to one side the adage that you should never go back, would O’Neill want to risk his reputation by going to a club with trigger happy owners?

Rumours are he is seeking reassurances of both funds and patience, which if intertwined is an appealing combination for a football manager. But should O’Neill take the job, despite the inevitable hero’s welcome he would – and should – receive – he must know that only success, and quick, will see him last longer than his predecessor.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Kean finds no home comforts in India

A mid-season tour of India was supposed to provide Steve Kean with a bit of relief from the storm brewing among the terraces at Ewood Park.

Instead it has merely fuelled the fires, with a ‘Kean out’ banner somehow making the journey to Asia with him and unfurled during a friendly and a third supporter protest planned upon his return.

He has received the backing of owners Venkys for now, though they admit football scores need to improve.

However, speak to most fans and they see the Indian owners as much of the problem as Kean.
The circumstances by which Sam Allardyce was sacked and Kean appointed raised suspicions and when you get off onto an uneasy start with supporters, you need to turn things round and fast.

Kean hasn’t, and neither has Venkys.

The Scot has won only nine games in nearly a year in charge, relying on a final day victory against Wolves to stay in the Premier League last May.

Five months later, five defeats from their opening seven games has seen the Lancashire club slump to second bottom, and the natives are restless.

The owners must also take their share of the blame. They arrived with outlandish claims about Blackburn piercing the top six. I am not suggesting it isn’t possible, but it won’t happen with the methods they are adopting, mainly name-dropping but then failing to deliver (Raul, Ronaldinho etc...) sacking an experienced boss and hiring a rookie replacement and embarking on a series of pr disasters which merely reinforces the feeling among some supporters that they are merely in it to improve their brand in the UK and even if they do care for the club, their lack of experience in football management is starting to show. If things don’t change I would bet on relegation at the end of the season.

They now face a crucial few months which could define their season and immediate future. If Kean can spark a mini-revival and quell the dissenters then this season can be salvaged.

However, when fans are unhappy it is very hard to win them back and so it will take decisiveness from Venkys to decide if and when they should replace Kean - the owners of West Ham admit they did not replace Avram Grant before it was too late. While I don’t like to see managers sacked but Kean is approaching that point of no return and only a sharp upturn in results, I feel, will save him.