21 October 2010

The blind leading the blind

Football is often described as "big business these days." Not so. It's very very small business and incompetently run business at that. There's an excellent section in Simon Kruper and Stefan Szymans' book "Why England lose (and other curious football phenomena explained)" about how clubs chose managers compared to businesses in other industries and what's happening at Liverpool is a clear example of the nonsensical approach to picking the head cheese 99% of football clubs take.

When a company is looking for a new managing director, the whole process takes on average about five months - candidates have to write a business plan, give presentations, pass a series of interviews etc. Football clubs tend to find new managers about a week after sacking the previous guy who usually has only been given a few months to prove himself.

A couple of examples where this didn't happen are Arsenal waiting a season for Arséne Wenger to become available and Martin Edwards refusing to sack Alex Ferguson in 1990 because he felt had potential to improve.

There's a pattern that most clubs follow when picking a new dude; it's usually a mad rush to hire a new guy as this is seen as a sign of strength and a protracted process a sign of sluggishness. Rather than asking a candidate to present to the board some sort of plan for the club and explain their footballing philosophy and detail where they want to take the club and how, ..usually the new guy is just told by his agent that a club is interested and he accepts.

In England, the new guy is always a man, usually aged between 40-50, most often an ex-player (despite this usually being a hindrance), always under-qualified (football is still considered a game that cannot be taught in the classroom) and either recently sacked from another job or has achieved good results from his current position over a five or six month period. Finally he'll be English and taking over from a failed foreigner or a foreigner taking over from a failed Englishman.

Roy Hodgson was appointed on this basis. He has no claim to a job as big as Liverpool's. He's considered to have a wealth of international experience, but when you look at his CV it's pretty unimpressive. With the greatest respect to such footballing power houses as Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates and clubs such as Viking in Norway and Grasshopper in Switzerland, these are not comparable with a club as big as Liverpool and with expectations as high as Liverpool's.

Roy Hodgson got this job because he was English, had some good results with Fulham the previous seven or eight months and was well liked by the English tabloids. The downside of course, was that he was not qualified for a job this big, boarding on hopeless.

Liverpool will now take a reciprocal course through the same illogical process of selecting a manager if they choose Frank Rijkaard who appears to be odds on favourite to take over and continue Liverpool's descent into the Championship.

He's available having been sacked from Galatasaray after less than one season. His first club job was with Sparta Rotterdam where he was able to relegate the side for the first time in it's history, but established himself as a special one by some how being offered the Barca job and receiving the gift of Ronaldinho from the footballing Gods.

Those three years of success with Barca appear to be the exception rather than the rule, and Barca is after all an exceptional club - I'd like to think I could win at least three La Liga titles with them without ever even having to leaving my bungalow - but it will be enough for all future clubs to justify appointing him and enough for him to justify accepting these jobs.

I'm going to predict no more than an eighteen month reign for Rijkaard if he's given the Liverpool job. That ought to be more than enough time to prove he isn't qualified. He'll then have to be replaced by an English/British manager as the fans will have had enough of Johnny Foreigner wrecking their beloved Liverpool and it'll all start again.

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