The Higher They Climb

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The ‘Great Players Who Couldn’t Manage’ First XI would surely prove all conquering, boasting legends such as Graeme Souness, Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson and, maybe after a plague or two, Steve Claridge. But whilst this Dream Team continues to await its final Alan-Shearer-shaped piece of jigsaw, it has recently welcomed the addition of Paul Ince. From my point of view his dismissal from Blackburn was justified, yet do his allegations yesterday of mistreatment at the hands of his board, and general malaise at the life-span of the Premier League manager, hold any weight?

Top of Ince’s complaints to Sky Sports was the claim that his board had not given him a chance to spend. Yet surely a manager should be able to take a good group of top-flight players – which is what Blackburn had on Ince’s arrival – and prevent a drop into the relegation zone. Ince must have known whether funds were available before arriving and so can’t blame John Williams posthumously, the latter understandably trying to avoid the repercussions that fellow blogger Kristian suggests have haunted Harry Redknapp’s old flames.

The fact is that the league has become an island floating in the clouds; parachute payments remain insufficient to break the fall and revenue differences leave relegation a terrifying prospect for established Premier League sides. Most agree that Rovers would have flirted with the fall had they stuck with Ince and so maybe the ex-[how much time have you got?] midfielder should consider himself lucky to have been given such a high-profile chance at all, following reasonable rather than spectacular spells at Macclesfield and MK Dons. Blackburn did act quickly to replace Ince, but what was their alternative? In a similar position Portsmouth are apparently backing their own former legend, and the difference between these contrasting routes may be highlighted by a difference of division by next season.

Premier League managers do face some of the lowest levels of job security in any industry. Yet this is the result of astronomical investment, in turn providing equivalent wages which surely offset their short-shelf lives. And whilst only a cynic would suggest that Ince was in any way motivated by money during his career (call me a cynic), no argument can counter his claim that ‘it is important you stand by your manager through thick and thin’ better than his own example as a player. Paul Ince has had many a word hurled his way, but ‘loyal’ hasn’t been one of them.

It’s a bit difficult to feel sorry for a top-flight manager when the sack beckons because such casualties soon find another job, a safety net apparently glued to every rung of the managerial ladder. The real concerns are therefore the clubs, as constant manager-swapping will never result in stability or even allow good managers to naturally emerge. In the meantime, the squad of managerially incompetent ex-footballers will continue to strut their terrible stuff up and down, and then back up, the Football League.

 

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