Sunday, 26 April 2009
Manager of the Season? Two Leading Contenders.
We all know that, as a rule, the award tends to go to the manager of the Champions but we all know the policy is stupid; in some years, 'Arry's wife could manage a team to win the title because their playing resources are far superior to any of their opponents. A table based on the performance of the managers would, I think, make very interesting reading this year.
Two of the contenders for the Premiership Manager Title this year came head to head yesterday when Fulham took on Stoke at the Cave in Cottage. Woy has done a fabulous job at Fulham, taking over a side apparently doomed to relegation and building a side which is now in pole position to win the "race for 7th" and European qualification. He has done this by investing in solid professionals, guys who will roll up their sleeves and play for the team, rather than worrying about their own egos. It is a little galling as a Hammer to see Konchesky, Zamora and Paintsil figuring in a side that might block our route to Europe, but it is a tribute to Woy that he saw how these guys could do a job if given the chance. I tell you what, there would not be many Hammers who wouldn't welcome Zammo back tomorrow in place of Di Michele or Tristan. I thought we had done well to get a combined £5.25m for the Z Man and Kaka Paintsil but, as it's turned out, Woy has had the last laugh. Look at the way he has revitalised Murphy and the signing of Schwarzer - two excellent pieces of management. Hangeland has had a fantastic season and Johnson has justified the faith that Woy showed in him when he spent big on a player most others had their doubts about. The Fulham team is a side without stars. They are all just one step up from journeymen, the nearly guys of the Prem, and yet Woy has carried them up to seventh, despite selling their best player in the January window. A job weally well done Woy!
Meanwhile, Tony Pullis has performed a minor miracle in keeping Stoke up (they won't go down now!). I shouldn't think there was a pundit in the country who wasn't predicting that Stoke would be relegated and I am happy to admit that I thought it was an absolute certainty. Not only did I think it would happen, I wanted it to happen because, although a natural fan of the underdog, I didn't want to see the "new Wimbledon" surviving in the Prem. Stoke were ugly - great big thugs who were going to clog their way to twenty points and return to the scrap metal yard from which they'd come. Or so we thought! Instead, they have played to their strengths, which has not just been pure muscle, though that long throw does require strength as well as technique. True, Stoke have proved that size does matter, and long and thick has proved a winning combination, but it has not all been down to thumping the ball high into the box and getting a head on it - just 95% of it! But fair play, Stoke didn't really have any other option, and Pullis has played his trump cards brilliantly. The signing of Beattie in the January window was an absolute masterstroke - how we would love him to lead the line at Upton Park at the moment. Beattie is not a craftsman but he is big, strong and knows how to score. I was at Hoddle's last game as Tottenham manager and saw Beattie drive the last nails into Glenn's management coffin. It was simple stuff, Southampton put the ball onto Beattie's head, and he did the rest. Football, as Pullis and Beattie prove, can be wonderfully simple sometimes. Whilst Hoddle fiddled with wing backs and the like, Beattie mugged him with ggod old fashioned centre forward play! And, of course, Stoke also managed to find a place for a Hammer. Matty can be frustrating but Pullis wanted somebody to put the ball onto Beattie's head and saw Etherington as the man to do it. And it has worked. As has the way Pullis has enrolled the Stoke crowd as the most potent twelfth man in the division.
Interestingly, both of these leading contenders for Manager of the Season are English, and the third and fourth that I will consider later are also Brits. Who says you have to have a foreign manager?
Posted by Hammersfan at 09:49