On The Hour, Every Hour
I’m starting to think that I may be a curse on some of these managers. Earlier on in the season, I took a little time to have a look at how Niall Quinn was getting on at Sunderland (considering their upturn under Roy Keane, Quinn must now qualify as one of the worst managers in the history of English football), and now it’s Kevin Blackwell’s turn – booted out of Elland Road by Captain Birdseye with Dirty Leeds almost propping up The Championship and looking like a decent punt to be relegated. In a way, he’s been a victim of his own (relative success). Leeds weren’t expected to do anything last season, but did very well to make the play-off final, although they were utterly outplayed by Watford at The Millenium Stadium and were, eventually, well beaten. This raised the bar of expectation at Elland Road, but the reality of the situation is that no more money was available to buy any players. Their start to the season has been quite dreadful, but this has only been amplified by the fact that their supporters expect another go at the play-offs this season. The issue of admission fees has also started to appear on the agenda there as well – it’s entirely plausible to argue that Blackwell has been offered by Harold Shipman as a sacrificial lamb to deflect criticism of Leeds’ decision to raise their minimum ticket to price to £25. As I noted on here, just 16,000 deigned to turn up for the recent match against Wolves. The sacking of the manager certainly pushes the debate away from that uncomfortable area.
The question that everybody is now asking is this, though: who will be the next unfortunate to take on this particular poisoned chalice? The favourite (both with the fans and the bookmakers) appears to be Alan Curbishley, a man whose name will inevitably be linked with every managerial position under the sun until he’s back in work (“Timbuktu are after a new coach? I’ve heard that Alan Curbishley might be interested”), but I’m less than convinced that he will be enticed up there. For one thing, Curbishley has been London-based for the vast, vast majority of his career. Apart from spells at Birmingham City and Aston Villa at the start of his career, he has been entirely London-based. He has already declared that he’s not interested in the West Bromwich Albion job, so why would he want to go to Leeds? Secondly, he’s a Premiership manager, and Leeds aren’t a Premiership club any more. Sorry to break that news, but there we go. I can’t help but think that there’s an element of self-delusion going on here. Premiership clubs will start shedding their coaches at some point soon (Bolton may be on this list, one suspects), and Curbishley, who was a serious contender for the England job earlier this year, would, I’d have thought, have been waiting for one of those positions to come up.
It’s far more likely that one of the “usual suspects” will end up in the hot seat at Elland Road. My initial suspicion is Glenn Hoddle – a journeyman coach, who has been involved with Ken Bates before, at Chelsea. Or knowing about Bates’ prediliction for causing a stir, how about Kevin Keegan? Of course, I don’t want to unnecessarily alarm Leeds fans (and, cough, we should all remember that both of these two were England coaches – they’ve both coached at the top end of the international game!), but I suspect that this is more the calibre of coach that they will be looking at. Of course, there is a full list of available managers at the League Managers’ Association’s website, which makes for fairly horrific reading. Thinking of chanting for your manager’s head next Saturday? You might feel differently if the replacement might be a Phil Neal and Peter Reid Dream Ticket.