Dyche-iola channels inner Allardyci
Sean Dyche’s comments about ‘own-brand’ jeans may have quickly become one of the quotes of the season. In the wake of Burnley’s win over Liverpool last week, he was reveling in the role as Allardyce’s heir: the English manager with a massive chip on his shoulder bemoaning how his ‘own-brand’ skills are overlooked by bigger clubs in favour of ‘designer’ (read ‘foreign’) managers that are actually no more brilliant than he. He may have a point. He has done a very decent job with a side lacking huge resources. He may yet get a chance at a bigger domestic club.
However, the aftermath of his side’s drubbing at the hands of Chelsea showed the other side of his persona which may explain why bigger English clubs have never looked seriously his way. When his side wins against the odds, much of his post-match praise goes towards himself via his players: his canniness at exploiting a tactical weakness; heart and soul beating out fancy-dan possession or talented players. When he loses – as they emphatically did this weekend – there is not even a slight admission of error. It is because the opposition have more money; a bigger squad; external factors that dwarf his lowly surroundings.
Behind closed doors, he will obviously look inwards as to why they lost. However, so much of what makes a modern manager is how they present themselves to the public. The ‘designer’ managers Dyche et al refer to may be in better jobs than he on reputation. But they are also there on merit and because of their abilities to present themselves in a way that big club wants to be seen as. When they win, they do not construct the victory as due to their own underappreciated genius. When they lose, they do not blame everyone else but themselves. Dyche is wrong: ‘home-brand’ managers can get big jobs. What stops them is not ‘the system’, but a publicly-presented victim complex that blends arrogance and haughty derision of failure into a cocktail that the PR-savvy big clubs find decidedly unappealing.
It had many a subscription payer taking to social media to ask: who thought this would have been a good game? Newly-promoted Middlesbrough are renowned for their defensive solidity, and have begun the season with a similar level of robust, hard-to-break-down performances. They have, however, bolstered the squad with good attackers, and have made for decent fun so far. At the weekend they were faced with up against the masters of the clean sheet and lover of centre-backs: Pulis’s West Brom. Two sides faced up as the opening bill of Sky’s lavish Super Sunday, and delivered an absolute stinker.
Boro were involved in this too, and should not be entirely excused for delivering a part of his tepid game. However, it is hard to disagree with the large section of West Brom fans who are growing tired of what Pulis serves up week after week. They keep lots of clean sheets, and they stay up. These are the facts that will continue to give Pulis lots of chances to get a Premier League job. That simply is not enough for many, and with good reason. Granted, this season he has actually began playing a full-back in position, as opposed to his past dour fixation on clogging the team with central defensive players. Also, he could be backed up in his claims that he has thus far seen little investment.
His track record at Stoke and Palace has proved that chairman are skeptical to give the man money. When he spent at Stoke (he was one of the highest net spenders for a couple of seasons) he did not noticeably improve the club’s position or playing style. This carried with him to Palace, where seemingly mistrust in how he spends money led to him not getting the funds or transfer control he desired, hence his departure. Here again, a club seems unwilling to spend big for the benefit of Tony Pulis, for the reason many Baggies fans are seeing clearly. He does keep you up but, regardless of expenditure, you have precious little fun in the process.
Who is that City number seven?
Genuinely, who is this player? The scorer of two goals against a rugged West Ham side; a key component both of this excellent performance and much of the rest of City’s thus-far 100% start to the new season. The player who tormented the opposition full-back, putting him on the sending-off tightrope barely twenty minutes into the first-half. The forward who far outshone his megastar teammate Aguero. While the Argentine responded to the hands-on treatment of Winston Reid by elbowing him (an overlooked rivalry that has spanned several matches of pulling, niggling and mutual discomfort), this unknown winger looked above any opposition attempt to frustrate him. He was fouled a fair amount, but continued to press and drive and drift in a way that constantly seemed to misdirect and frustrate the Hammers’ back-five all afternoon. This player also scored one of the most composed and accurate goals you are likely to see, slotting in the ball at the near post within the tiniest of gaps between defender and post.
Apparently, this player is Raheem Sterling: the hated symbol of pampered modern football who was vilified throughout last season by fans of domestic and international football due to his poor performances, inflated price tag and many fictional children. Far from wilting in the face a new demanding manager, it seems like this pricey youngster is creeping towards making his fee a fair price.