Gareth Southgate had the humility to look slightly embarrassed at the Savoy on Sunday. ‘If they do all this for me when I come fourth,’ he must have thought, ‘what room will they hire if I ever win something?’
The Royal Albert Hall, most probably, or maybe he will speak to the masses in Hyde Park, like the Pope. Either way, the Football Writers’ Association have been paying tribute to leading figures in the industry at gala nights since 1983, and if Graham Taylor can get one, gentleman though he was, an England manager who not only reached a World Cup, but progressed to the semi-final stage, is no less deserving.
Southgate spoke well, as he always does, and made one point that was particularly interesting. He said that in his second game as Middlesbrough manager, his team beat Jose Mourinho‘s Chelsea 2-1. They later beat Arsenal, and Liverpool. Some people – Arsene Wenger among them, no less – were saying he was a potential England manager.
Gareth Southgate was honoured by the Football Writers’ Association on The Savoy on Sunday
And then Middlesbrough went down and he was sacked, while still in the Championship. Suddenly, it looked as if he might not get a second chance as a manager at all.
Peculiar, isn’t it, football? Read any book by a leader in business, a tycoon, a successful individual in just about any field and they will trot out the same mantra: you learn more from failure than you do success. And everybody nods sagely and thinks: how wise.
Except the owners of football clubs. They will take that lesson from Richard Branson or Bill Gates, or even Ellen DeGeneres, but will not apply it in their own world.
Nobody learns from failure in football. Failure gets you the sack and often, as Southgate acknowledged, careers end there. Southgate still hasn’t had a job in club football since leaving Middlesbrough and while he may get linked with vacancies at Manchester United these days, he needed to come fourth in a World Cup to make that leap.
Southgate struggled at Middlesbrough and is a prime example you can learn from failures
Nobody was touting him for a Premier League return when he was impressing as England’s Under 21 coach. He was still defined by a single relegation, an event that happened as Middlesbrough manager when he was 38. Few considered that he might have learned from the experience, or that Middlesbrough’s changing circumstances may also have played a part.
Let’s face it, for all the plaudits, Southgate is only England manager now because Sam Allardyce got legged over by a hidden tape recorder and the Football Association reacted in haste. Without that episode, Southgate’s talent would still be concealed by Middlesbrough’s shadow.
Of course, not every negative experience is teachable, but many are, particularly for a young coach. Burnley judged that Sean Dyche would learn from relegation to the Championship in 2014-15, and were proven right: he guided them back to the Premier League at the first attempt and has kept them there since.
Credit to Ed Woodward, too, for deciding that a poor nine months at Cardiff in 2014 did not fairly capture Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s potential as a manager, and that he could lift Manchester United after the departure of Jose Mourinho. Yet these are exceptions, in Solskjaer’s case helped by his playing reputation.
Around the bottom of tables outside the Premier League are managers toiling in virtual anonymity, who may never catch another break if their first career opportunity proves a dead end. What knowledge is lost, what experience wasted if failure is seen as a life sentence?
Burnley have been proven right for thinking Sean Dyche would learn from relegation
Paul Scholes looks likely to be Oldham’s 27th manager since Joe Royle left in 1994. There have been a number of caretakers and John Sheridan has enjoyed four spells with the club, but even removing these statistical anomalies, it works out that roughly one third have never been able to get a manager’s job in English football again, after leaving.
Not that Oldham alone is a black hole for ambition – those figures would no doubt be replicated at a great many clubs. If anything, Oldham’s reputation for getting through managers probably aids future employment chances. It is the lower league equivalent of being sacked by Chelsea: you are held less responsible. Indeed, Chelsea are the perfect example of the dual standard. They burn through managers every other season, yet there is no comparable evidence of Roman Abramovich being this impatient in his business life.
Under Abramovich five managers have lasted a year or less, yet Marina Granovskaia, who effectively runs Chelsea day by day, is entirely unaffected by unsuccessful appointments, poor signings, costly departures or rotten results.
Maybe some managers cannot change, and Chelsea tend to go for high achievers who are likely to be set in their ways. Yet if Granovskaia may be learning from the way Chelsea see-saw between success and failure, no such luck for the managers, no matter their status or past achievements.
Roman Abramovich’s quick to sack managers but doesn’t seem as impatient in his business life
Roberto Di Matteo did not make it to the end of November, despite delivering the Champions League trophy. It was his third full-time job after a year at Milton Keynes Dons and 18 months at West Bromwich Albion. The year he was sacked by Chelsea he won six games on the spin, followed by a run of one win in eight – might he have learned from what was, in essence, a difficult spell?
Anyway, learning never stops. Fabio Capello was disappointing as England manager at the 2010 World Cup yet it is often overlooked that this was his first tournament as an international manager. He thought he could prepare the players as he did a club team in pre-season, but was wrong. Players are exhausted at the end of a campaign. He worked them too hard, the team base was too isolated, it was an unhappy camp.
In all likelihood, his strategy would have been very different at the 2012 European Championship, had FA chairman David Bernstein not dismally engineered his departure. Capello would have learned from those mistakes, in a way the FA, and some football clubs, rarely learn from theirs: which is probably why we end up hiring halls at the Savoy to celebrate semi-finals.
Henry’s anger management
Thierry Henry, once an urbane, unruffled presence in the television studio, lost his rag and called the grandmother of an opponent a ‘whore’ during a 5-1 defeat by Strasbourg.
Incredibly, this incendiary reaction was the result of time-wasting at a throw-in. Henry’s Monaco are still 19th in the French top flight and battling to avoid relegation.
That this man has been reduced to furiously targeting old ladies after three months in management perhaps shows why so many prefer the comfort of the sofa to the realities of the dugout. Did he not note what the job could do to sophisticated ally Arsene Wenger?
Mo doesn’t want to be known as new Suarez
If Mo Salah earns a reputation for diving it will hurt Liverpool more than any rival. The club have been here before with Luis Suarez.
Once referees thought they were being conned he couldn’t buy a penalty. In what proved his final season in England, Suarez was probably harder done by than any striker in the country.
Referees don’t wish to be made to look foolish in the post-match analysis so he stopped getting the benefit of the doubt.
It will start happening to Salah soon – and at the time of the season when the smallest shake of the head could influence the destination of the trophy.
Jurgen Klopp needs to shut this down, and quick.
Mohamed Salah doesn’t want to earn a reputation for diving – it will hurt Liverpool’s title tilt
No wonder clubs are ganging up on Leeds
It is hard to have great sympathy for Leeds, with 11 of their rivals ganging up to put a spoke in their wheels by complaining to the Football League about the spying controversy.
Leeds, after all, were among those pressing administrators to investigate Wolves over their links to Jorge Mendes last season and they have been highly active in protesting against the television deal, with the attendant threat of a breakaway to Premier League 2.
This might be classed as payback time. Yet, without specific regulations in place governing spying, it is hard to see how Leeds have broken any rules bar the agreement to act in good faith.
And while that is a catch-all charge – much like bringing the game into disrepute – it is not one that should see individuals banned or points deducted.
A warning and suspended sentence, at most a fine, should suffice.
Leeds were among those pressing for Wolves to be investigated over links to Jorge Mendes
One road to nowhere, however, is to argue, as Gary Neville and others have done, that moral judgments are hypocritical because journalists spy on training to get information all the time. These are entirely separate issues. There is no good faith arrangement between journalists and the teams they cover. Their job is to win football matches, ours is to accurately inform our readers in the hope they will buy our newspaper.
If we have information, it is our duty, our job, to share it. Why would you pay 70p otherwise? ‘We know the team but we’re not going to tell you. Now give us your money.’ That’s not a business plan for any news organisation.
So, just because journalists have been known to spy on training does not make it right that teams spy on each other in such an overt manner.
Leeds and Derby sign up to behave faithfully to one another: a vague clause, yes, but one that covers tapping up, poaching managers and staff mid-season, and in this case, spying.
Maybe, in the future, the League might wish to set out precisely what good faith entails, but if the clubs would rather keep the definition woolly, there’s a reason for that.
No doubting Serena is the real No 1
According to the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, Simona Halep is the world’s best player.
Her record against Serena Williams now stands at a single win in 10. This explains Halep’s modesty when, before their meeting in the last 16 of the Australian Open, she described Williams as ‘the real No 1’.
She looked all of that on Monday, beating Halep across three sets including 6-1 in the first, in 20 minutes. If she equals Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, at the age of 37, with a 17-month old daughter at home, it will be one the greatest achievements in sport.
The US Open final tantrum was a low point, but no bad day can put a dent in Williams’ career. She deserves to stand at the pinnacle above any player, male or female.
Serena Williams looked the real No 1 as she beat Simona Halep at Australia Open on Monday
Maria Sharapova did not intentionally cheat by talking meldonium and she has a team of lawyers very willing to explain the technicalities of this ruling, if required.
Nor did she cheat when disappearing into the toilet for seven minutes, just as her opponent Ashleigh Barty was gaining enormous momentum having taken the second set of their Australian Open match 6-1.
Yet Sharapova was roundly booed on her return and all the way to defeat. And while this verdict won’t stand up in any court, there are some judgements that can’t be found in books. It doesn’t make them any less valid.
Brady is one of the best ever in sport
Tom Brady was already the oldest quarterback to feature in a Super Bowl. Now, at 41, he is going back again in search of an unprecedented sixth victory.
His play-off display against the Kansas City Chiefs brought back memories of Super Bowl win No 5 – which is already the NFL’s equivalent of Istanbul 2005, with Brady as Steven Gerrard plus plus.
Awaiting the New England Patriots are the LA Rams and Jared Goff, who was seven when Brady won his first ring. It does not matter whether you understand this sport, or not: Brady’s is one of the greatest athletic careers.
It’s all quiet on Higuain making his cup debut…
Some may be wondering exactly how it is that Gonzalo Higuain could join the Carabao Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Tottenham at what is effectively half-time, if he arrives at Stamford Bridge this week and plays in the second leg.
Here’s the explanation: it’s a silent rule. In 2009, Tottenham signed Jermain Defoe from Portsmouth. When he arrived the club had already played the first leg of a League Cup semi-final with Burnley, winning 4-1.
Having first made his league debut, Defoe was named in the squad for the return at Turf Moor. Burnley checked with the Football League. The club presumed, as aggregate scores were taken into account and away goals counted double, that the tie started with the first leg and a new player wasn’t eligible. The League disagreed.
Burnley asked where this unusual regulation could be found and were told it wasn’t in the rulebook. It was, apparently ‘a silent rule’. The League had nothing to cover this eventuality, so a player was said to be registered as soon as he was available for league matches.
So, with Higuain confirmed as able to play it seems either the League have not closed that loophole in 10 years, or the silent rules are now recorded. Bottom line, if he’s registered, he’s in.
Silent rule could allow Gonzalo Higuain play in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg