Charlton’s Chris Powell is often highlighted as a man destined for a bigger job, but there’s a few other names worthy of a chance higher up the league pyramid.
If chairmen are looking for a new managerial recruit this Christmas then Chris Francis has the names they should be reaching for…
Forget this talk of Luciano Spalletti and Glenn Hoddle. In the wake of Andre Villas Boas’ inevitable demise, Gianfranco Zola’s resignation from Watford, and the rather more harsh dismissal of Steve Clarke just 24 hours earlier, the chairmen of the Premier League should look further down the managerial pyramid for more deserving successors.
The following men may not exactly be the household names you’d expect to step up and forge Tottenham’s bling-bling squad into more than the sum of its parts, but a bit of upwards mobility could be exactly what’s needed.
Should West Brom take a punt on any of these bright young things? Is it time for Spurs to gamble on a low-cost, lower league genius rather than a hyped up and expensive designer coach? Here’s the candidates they should be considering.
Chris Francis is in a bad place. England are on…
International breaks make me sad.
Gone is the daily dose of football, replaced by wasted days of inconsequential fodder.
I flick around the Sky Sports channels and try to watch tennis. Sometimes there is some rugby on. Perhaps darts. Sky Sports News is showing the same interviews on repeat. There is a hole in my life that such international breaks create.
Where there were fields of plenty, we now have a fallow crop. Two weeks should not feel this long when I am in the prime of my life.
The emptiness of an international match day has been filled with faux excitement at the prospect of seeing Shaun Wright-Phillips represent me. For years, I watched Paul Scholes play on the left wing. I saw Dennis Wise wearing the shirt I wanted to wear. Darius Vassell played up front. John Terry was my captain.
This is a real life horror story. Your club team are your friends, England are your family. You don’t get to choose your family. Continue reading
As the dust settles on a frustrating first transfer window for David Moyes at Old Trafford, Chris Francis believes the fans will have to get used to an aura-less future…
The last week has been enlightening. If you are a supporter of a team that is not Manchester United you will have noticed a change. It’s like the Wizard of Oz. We’ve been walking along the Yellow Brick Road for all these years, and instead of finding the Great Oz living in the Emerald City there is a mere mortal behind the screen. Where once was the greatest of all managers, Sir Alex Ferguson, who corralled the best out of his players and was able to convince the most explosive talents to join Manchester United, there is instead David Moyes.
Moyes of course has many excellent attributes on which he is able to draw. He has proven that he can find value in the transfer market before. He has moulded teams with superb work-ethic and togetherness. He has made consistent teams, ones on which he is able to rely. He has also found excellent leaders from within his squads, and got more out of some players than perhaps they imagined they had.
But he, and the ranked United masses, have seen that while the club structure is in place for a new manager, he is still just that; new. He is inexperienced at this level, and without the huge track record of making stellar signings. He has made big signings for Everton before – Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov, Beattie – to varying levels of success. But he is finding already that the next step up, to manage the biggest club in the country, brings its own difficulties. Clubs feel they can drive a harder bargain in the knowledge that you have deep pockets. The players you are in for will almost certainly play for other big clubs or are the stars of the teams they are at. Other big clubs will want these same players.
United ended the transfer window in a manner that we are not used to seeing. Yes, there have been close calls before but in the most obvious case of Dimitar Berbatov, he was at least the man they wanted all along. Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, and Leighton Baines drifted through the open window and on in to the night’s sky, like the mere dreams they turned out to be. Continue reading
Chris Francis discusses Ross Barkley’s premature call-up to the senior England squad and the structural schisms in the national game…
The call-up of Ross Barkley to the England senior set-up is not indicative of why England lag so far behind European teams. This is what I heard some commentators say today. There are deeper, structural issues that exist in the English game that hold the national team back. These will not be fixed quickly.
The call up of a young player who is playing well is not a surprise; this happens everywhere. Barkley has been known amongst the football world as a special midfielder for a long time. Only a serious injury two seasons ago stopped him appearing in David Moyes plans more regularly. Fully recovered, via a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday, he has now played exceptionally in both of Roberto Martinez’s first two games in charge of the Toffees. Any country who has a youngster bossing games in their top division would promote him early, especially as he has played and excelled for every age-group along the way. Two games is early I admit, but still, this is meant to be a very special player. Continue reading
Chris Francis assesses the fortunes of the Premier League’s three newly arrived teams and asks whether this is the worst promoted trio the league has ever seen…
The identity of the Premier League’s worst ever team is in no doubt.
Derby County were promoted to the Premier League in 2007 and then relegated in March 2008 – the fastest demotion since the restructuring of the English league structure. They ended the season on a paltry 11 points having mustered up one solitary win (at home to Newcastle 1-0 since you ask), and picking up just 8 draws. The fact that they lost 29 games in a season indicated that Billy Davies’ team were way out of their depth, although Davies himself had predicted as much. Having guided Derby to the promised land he demanded the board back him or watch as the club was humiliated and sent back down in flame. Warnings unheeded, Davies was sacked after his team’s inevitable meltdown with the appointment of Paul Jewell as successor having little, if any, effect besides destroying his reputation – a set back his career is yet to recover from.
Since Derby’s demise, in recent years we’ve become accustomed to seeing promoted sides making a name for themselves rather than reverting to playing the role of whipping boys to the more established sides. The gap between the Championship and the Premier League is a massive chasm to bridge, but with good management, a collective spirit and the right players a club can establish itself as a serious fixture in the league, quickly. Last year, Southampton and West Ham played with similar squads to those that got them promoted in the first place and were, on the whole, rather comfortable rubbing shoulders with the mid-table regulars. Norwich and Swansea did the same the season before, with the latter achieving a 9th place finish as well as winning the League Cup last year. Stoke, West Brom, and Newcastle have also each shown that promotion can be more than just a “one year tourist visa”, a remark made by Danny Baker over the weekend as he watched Crystal Palace versus Spurs.
While he was wrong to say that promotion has been nothing more than a short-stay stamp in a club’s shiny new passport, he may well have a point this season. Continue reading
Chris Francis considers the arrivals of Gary Hooper and Leigh Griffiths in the Premier League and League One respectively…
With the sale of Celtic’s Gary Hooper to Norwich and Leigh Griffiths’ return to Wolves after another season out on loan with Hibernian, two of the most prolific and exciting attacking talents in the Scottish Premier League have fled south.
Having amassed some impressive goal tallies up North, the new season will be an intriguing opportunity for both strikers, and the SPL itself, to highlight the quality of Scottish football, as well as the potential gaps that exist with the English game.
The two forwards have wildly different roles to play this season. Hooper has moved to one of the five big European leagues for the first time in his career, while Griffiths has moved to a big club in trouble. The former Celtic striker will be charged with improving a poor goal tally for Norwich (only Stoke and QPR scored fewer last year) alongside the more urbane Ricky van Wolfswinkel, as well as replacing the directness of Grant Holt who has left for Wigan. Griffiths will be expected to fire Wolves them back up to the Championship at the first attempt after his prolific feats in the SPL last year. As players they are very different. Hooper likes to play on the shoulder of the defender, take minimal touches, and go for goal at any angle. Griffiths is more likely to get involved in the build up, but is also a good finisher. Continue reading
Leicester City fan Chris Francis extols the virtues of the English second tier…
Bloody hell am I excited. The football season is here already, but this isn’t the beginning of any old league. This weekend we get to watch the start of the most unpredictable league in the land: The Championship.
Over the past few weeks we’ve heard fans from pretty much every team talk about how they think they could reach the play-offs this year, and as ever no one has any real idea as to who will do well and who will fail and fade away.
The Championship is the best league in England because of this unknown quantity. Leicester, Forest, Blackburn, Bolton, and Middlesbrough were ‘the teams to watch’ last year, and it was a pretty poor show from the lot of them, as they finished 6th, 8th, 17th, 7th, and 16th respectively.
Instead, we had Cardiff winning the thing with a rather ugly, if efficient, brand of football, Hull in second and Palace winning at Wembley. In their place we have three teams joining the madhouse who should all fit in pretty nicely. Continue reading