Monday, December 11, 2006

Striking while the Iron's hot

It’s always an interesting point in a club’s history when it changes its manager. The end of one era (more often than not a less than successful one), and the beginning of another fuelled with hope and optimism that the new man will bring glory to his team.

West Ham United now find themselves going through just such a period. Today, Alan Pardew was relieved of his duties by the man who became his new chairman just three weeks ago, and the debate has already begun as to whether Eggert Magnusson was right to dismiss him and who Pardew’s replacement will be.

To be blunt, the modern game with all its financial motives does not allow any manager to stay in charge of a club when it’s lost 11 games out of 17 and conceded four times more goals than it’s scored. Add to that the unceremonial ejection it received from the Carling Cup by Chesterfield (to say nothing of the rather more justifiable loss to Palermo in the UEFA Cup) and you have a team that’s staring relegation to the Championship squarely in the eyes, and that simply will not do.

For a team not to be a part of the Premiership these days is like a jailed criminal not being in possession of a reinforced chastity belt. Without it, you’re screwed.

It happened to West Ham in 2003. They slipped into the Championship forcing their last change of managerial personnel – Pardew replacing Glenn Roeder – and had to endure two near-suicidal seasons before they somehow scraped into the Play-Off Final and won a place back in the top-flight in 2005.

As if that wasn’t achievement enough for Alan Pardew, he last year surpassed himself by instilling a confidence in his side that allowed them to play entertaining, attacking football resulting in a ninth-place finish in the Premiership and a runners-up spot in the FA Cup.

Oh, and as a result of that, they also qualified for this season’s UEFA Cup.

Some people think that’s exactly the sort of reason why Alan Pardew should have been treated better by not being dismissed today, but by doing so they miss a valuable point.

To be considered a success these days, a manager must prove that his team can perform at the highest level on a continual basis, not just at some point in the past. If after a spell like the one West Ham have gone through there is no reason to feel that things will improve soon, the Board are left with only one option. He who hesitates is lost, as the old saying goes.

And you can say what you like about the Argentinean signings: what’s caused West Ham’s downfall in this first four months of the season is Pardew’s inability to drive his team on with imagination, inspiration and tactical diversity. That, too, is a signal for someone new to take over.

So who should that new person be? Sven-Goran Eriksson has already ruled himself out, which is a pity. With his track record at club level, it could have been an exciting prospect for West Ham. Alan Curbishley has been installed as the favourite, but as someone who managed to achieve only promotion to the Premiership for Charlton (after he’d got them relegated in the first place) and precisely nothing else, he’s perhaps not the man they’re looking for either. As for George Graham, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables, they’ve practically made a career out of appearing on lists like this whenever there’s a high-profile managerial casualty, so let’s not waste any more time considering them.

With lots of money waiting to be spent thanks to the recent investment made by the new Icelandic chairman, West Ham should be capable of attracting the attentions of a much better class of manager than any of those mentioned above, especially one that’s available on the continent. It seems too good an opportunity to miss with the club’s potential for success never being higher, so maybe Europe could provide the answer.

All that lies ahead for West Ham, but they will be looking for someone who can motivate the players, get them organised into a well-drilled unit and play a decent standard of football. If the new man can achieve that as Alan Pardew no longer could, West Ham will remain in the Premiership, thus achieving their immediate priority. Going one step further and achieving genuine glory seems a far-off dream at the moment, but with the right man put in place during the next few weeks, it might – just might – happen.


Smart said...

With proof of money yet to be invested into the club, I reckon Alan Curbishley is the man to be next in charge at the Boleyn Ground. (and possibly Pardew on his way to the Valley).

Speculation is that West Ham will have £10 million to spend in January, which in my eyes, isnt enough to attract a big name foreign coach. Add to the West Hams current position I think the next manager will be a British one.

Which may not be a bad thing, bearing in mind the potential relegation battle ahead.

All fans are fickle, but West Ham fans seem to have pushed that to its limits as far as I can see with Pardew. They were calling for him to leave when he couldnt get them promoted, then when he finally did and they had a good season last year, he was the best thing ever, and a potential England manager - in their eyes. West Ham even extended his contract.

Not all West Ham fans have been like that, of course. Some can see the disruption caused by adding two foreign internationals into what was a successful team in what was a very iffy 'transfer'. Add to that too many players living on past seasons performances and you can see why West Ham are 18th in the premiership.

But is it all Pardews fault? Last season in a cup final and a place in Europe. Six months later and he is out of a job.

You can see why there is such a divided opinion on this one.

Chris said...

Well to start off with, Les Reed appears to have been made permanent manager of Charlton, so I doubt that Pardew will take his position. I think he might be lined up for somewhere like Crystal Palace myself, but time will tell.

Sadly Alan Curbishley seems to have got it into his head that he will no longer be out of work come Christmas, and for his sake I hope that's the case. For West Ham's sake, I hope it isn't in their employ.

He's already treating his appointment to the club as a fait accompli and that to me shows the kind of arrogance which isn't liked very much by the fans. That, together with his decidedly average track record at Charlton leads me to think we'd be better off without him.

Re: Pardew and many fans calling for him to leave when he was struggling to get us promoted, I'd say it wasn't an unfair reaction given the quality of the football being played. To his credit, he eventually did get the club promoted and I've no doubt they're now all grateful for that, but as I mentioned in the article you must consider your club's status in the here-and-now, not how it was a long time ago.

As for the two Argentineans, I still believe they are good players who can yet prove their worth to West Ham. Who, indeed, would turn down the chance to sign them 'in case they upset the team's equilibrium'? No - I feel that some of the other players at the club started feeling neglected and sorry for themselves. A sad way to react when perhaps they should have been inspired to play as well their new team-mates.

Smart said...

It looks like Curbishley is getting the job today, and that seems to be pleasing most of the West Ham fans. They do like an ex-player at the helm.

One thing I say about Curbishley is something that someone once said to me - an alternative view.

Most people see Curbishleys acheivements as winning nothing and struggling along, keeping Charlton afloat.

It was suggested to me that maybe we should look at Curbishleys achievements with a bit more respect, as without him, they would have disappeared a long time since.

Now bearing in mind how he kept them 'afloat' for many seasons, and within months of him leaving Charlton find themselves at the foot of the table, maybe that viewpoint is a valid one?

Even if it is, however, I still wouldn't want him managing my club.

Chris said...

Oh don't get me wrong - if Curbishley keeps us in the Premiership for a few seasons it'll be some sort of achievement, but having done that, the fans will quite rightly want the club to move up to the next level - winning trophies.

If you don't win trophies and stay in the same league achieving nothing all the time, what's the point of supporting your club? To cheer when it occasionally gets one over on its local rivals? Big deal...

It would put the club on a par with any number of lower-league teams if all they do is tread water all the time. I sincerely wish him all the best of luck, but I have my reservations about the whole episode.


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