Setting the agenda: Massimo Cellino, Son Heung-min, Tim Sherwood, Phil Jagielka
Funny club, Leeds United.
Not “ha ha” funny – not yet, anyway – but funny in the sense that every owner with a pound to his name thinks that he can elevate the club back to the heyday of the 70s, when the club were managed by Don Revie.
Sleeping giant, massive potential, etc … these are buzz phrases that have still afforded Leeds column inches since the club’s sharp and dramatic decline just over a decade ago.
Since 2012, Leeds have had six managers or head coaches – nine if you consider that Neil Redfearn has held the position on three occasions during that period.
Indeed, the frequency of the changes means that managers very often overlap one another.
Last week, I was told by a man very close to Leeds that head coach Uwe Rosler drove down the tree-lined road to the club’s training ground at 9am – to take training – but was then fired on the spot by chairman Massimo Cellino.
As Rosler drove out of the ground, Steve Evans pulled into the same road at 9.30am, driving in the opposite direction and ready to meet the players and take his first session.
You don’t have to be a football man to work out that what that proves is that the decision to sack Rosler and replace him was decided well before
What Evans will do – if he’s given the time his predecessors were not, which he won’t be – is knit together a very tight first XI.
Evans is known for his lack of tinkering and an ability to put together another small group of players that flesh out the remainder of the squad.
It is said that Evans needs 20 players to achieve the same results as a manager who needs 30, with a tightly bonded group that are known as “his men”.
If you happen to be the chairman of a football club, then the money saved on wages becomes a very attractive proposition.
The League is now desperate to banish Cellino from these shores
But note this: Three of Cellino’s past four managers were Dave Hockaday (six games), Darko Milanic (six games) and Rosler (12 games).
Having somehow passed the Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test, the League is now desperate to banish Cellino from these shores.
They have now disqualified him – for a second time – for the rest of the season after he was found guilty in Italy in June of non-payment of VAT on the importation of a Range Rover.
It may sound a minor offence but it does show the keenness of the League to remove Cellino as the owner of an English football club.
In the meantime, the Italian has ignored the League and keeps firing managers.
It is that that means Leeds aren’t a “ha ha” funny club.
They’re actually a very upsetting football club to those of us who can recall what it once meant to wear that famous Leeds shirt.
Next Slide: Arsenal could have signed Son
I met up with my friend, an Arsenal scout, last week.
We talked through players and clubs and he noted that Chelsea’s problems are all being caused by in-house feuding among the players, who are all pointing fingers at one another.
The worst, he told me, is Cesc Fabregas.
I pointed out that Tottenham Hotspur’s summer recruit, Son Heung-min, is one of the most impressive players I’ve seen at White Hart Lane since Gareth Bale.
Immediately, the scout took his phone out of his pocket and showed me a scouting report from last season. This is how it read …
* Scares the life out of defences. Feet are scarily quick, can turn in any direction.
* Keeps his shape, good discipline, counters quickly, carries the ball a long way up the pitch, aware of team-mates in better positions.
* Scores goals from great positions in the box that others don’t take up (Ljungberg). Hard to pick up and track.
* Fit, doesn’t stop working.
* Different to anything that we have in the building.
* CAN PLAY FOR US ALL DAY LONG!!
That was one of several reports he showed me that got better and better.
Arsenal watched Son almost 30 times last season, with all the scouts in agreement that the player would be a fantastic addition.
So what happened?
“It’s Arsene [Wenger],” the scout said. “He’s so indecisive it’s frightening. We had [Morgan] Schneiderlin done and dusted last January and, by the summer, the gaffer had changed his mind. Son was 100 per cent perfect for us.”
As somebody who can spot a player in a Category 5 hurricane, I’m telling you that Arsenal should have signed Son.
Arsenal watched Son almost 30 times last season
He was, indeed, perfect for them and, before he sustained a foot injury, he was the standout performer for Spurs.
At £20.7 million, he may well prove to be the bargain that got away where Arsenal are concerned.
Incidentally, I asked the Arsenal scout about Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus, who I know the club have watched extensively for two years.
“Not for us now,” the scout said. “We’ve got enough of those players.”
Reus scored two goals in Dortmund’s 5-1 win over FC Augsburg on Sunday, by the way.
Sorry, Arsenal fans.
Next Slide: Sherwood is own worst enemy
Last week, I wrote this …
“The thing is with Tim Sherwood is that he’s very cocksure of himself. He has always wanted to be a manager and he has gone through the coaching process in order to learn the ropes. But you never really know what it’s going to be like until you take the plunge.
“He won a few plaudits for getting something like a performance out of Emmanuel Adebayor when he took on the Spurs job and there were a couple of good team performances, too.
“But, off the pitch, some of his comments let him down. They were the comments of a naive manager, still wet behind the ears.
“I remember when he did an interview for Sky, in which he said that he had one job and one job only and that was to fill the Spurs trophy cabinet with cups because it was criminal for a club the size of Spurs to win only the odd cup every so many years.
“I watched that thinking to myself: ‘Well, that’s completely pissed on the heads of all the managers before you, which showed a huge lack of respect, and also, who are you kidding? Spurs are building for the next ten to 15 years. Without the revenues from the new stadium, you’ve got no chance’.
“And Daniel Levy is too switched on for rubbish like that and he got rid of Sherwood as soon as he could.
“And yet, Sherwood doesn’t seem to learn. On the whole, you don’t come out with comments that piss off the squad because, ultimately, while the players are in the building, you need them.
“I think it’s misplaced authority. That is to say that Sherwood is trying to show at every opportunity who is the boss, but he does it the wrong way.
Sir Alex Ferguson was the master of protecting his squad
“In my opinion, you learn from the best. Sir Alex Ferguson was the master of protecting his squad and making them feel special.
“He said that if United lost a game, it was never their fault, even if it was. You always blame the referee, the opposition, the pitch, the weather, anything, but never your own players.
“Sherwood stood post-match and said: ‘I’m the manager, I take responsibility and I have faith in my ability to turn this around and that we’ll stay in this league’.
“You never say that as a manager. You say something like: ‘We’re not getting the rub of the green, we’re in a false position, the players are fighting for every ball and it’s not going our way’.
“And then you sort it out behind closed doors. Why publicly hang yourself or bring pressure on yourself and the players? It’s crazy.
“Some people think the honesty is refreshing, I think it’s utterly stupid.”
On Sunday, Aston Villa sacked Sherwood.
And apart from having a very ordinary team, he buried himself by talking up the club and himself when it is clear that the club is going in the opposite direction.
As a manager, you have to manage the situation and that means letting everyone know what a tough job you have on your hands.
In some cases, not telling the world that you’re “Superman” and laying down false hope by doing so.
Sherwood needs to learn quickly. He did the same at Spurs and was shown the door when his bravado failed to match performances on the pitch.
Next Slide: Jagielka highlights ‘stupid injury syndrome’
After a spate of knee ligament injuries, I wrote a piece for the website last week that explained that many such injuries are caused unnecessarily, sometimes stupidly.
I wrote: “Ask a player what he thinks of his injury and he’ll generally tell you that it’s a ‘silly injury’, avoidable, it couldn’t happen again. And that makes them angry for a while.”
Right on cue, Everton’s Phil Jagielka demonstrated just how avoidable knee ligament injuries really are during his side’s 2-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday evening.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lost the ball as he attacked the right-hand side of Everton’s penalty area and then committed a foul as he tried to win the ball back.
Referee Lee Mason blew his whistle immediately but the ball had broken between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jagielka the second after.
In that second, there is the scope to do something without getting penalised for it.
Defenders will kick the ball away, strikers will shoot and, sometimes, a player has the opportunity to “leave one” on an opponent.
Jagielka saw his chance to clean out Oxlade-Chamberlain by following through his clearance.
He decided to do that because the ball was in his favour and there are a lot of defenders who would do the same, especially English ones and especially against a winger.
However, as Jagielka went to clear the ball as hard as he could, Oxlade-Chamberlain planted his foot in the ground.
The result was that the force behind Jagielka’s clearance transferred back from Oxlade-Chamberlain and back up Jagielka’s leg.
The top half of his leg went forward and his lower leg stayed exactly where it was, blocked by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s planted foot.
The ligaments overstretched because they weren’t allowed to take their natural path. Physios call this process “hyperextension”.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez tried to pin the blame on Oxlade-Chamberlain but, as a football man, he knows what Jagielka was trying to do and that he was stupid doing it.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez tried to pin the blame on Oxlade-Chamberlain
Martinez said: “To lose Jagielka in such a stupid challenge is disappointing because the referee has already awarded the free kick. It was an unnecessary challenge. Needless.
“Oxlade-Chamberlain puts his foot up when the referee has already given the free kick.
“If you have a player who lunges his body to try to stop a ball going over the goalline and that ends up with an injury, then you take it, but this is frustrating.”
Which begs the question: if the whistle had already gone, why did Jagielka try to clear the ball as hard as he could straight through an opposing player?
But that’s typical of a manager trying to deflect from a stupid injury caused by his own player, a player who should know better.
Deep down, Martinez knows it and Jagielka knows it, too.
It was absolutely avoidable and compounded by the fact that “Jags” was trying to make his mark on Oxlade-Chamberlain but succeeded only in losing a few more games from his career.
At least the prognosis for his recovery, from medial ligament damage, is only eight to nine weeks. It could have been a lot longer.
There is little sympathy from fellow players when a footballer injures himself trying to be a clever sod.
It never ceases to amaze me how often players get injured in ways that are their fault and totally avoidable at the time.
But it does offer you a perfect example of what I was talking about in my column last week.
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