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Friday, 30 November 2012

Isn't it time for Neville, Goodman and Shearer to stop sitting on the fence?


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Sqf Steve Coulter general

On the whole I'm quite a laid back sort of guy. The world keeps spinning round and Emmerdale is on every night. So I just go with the flow. But like every mortal sole there are a few things that drive me round the bend.
 
The latest addition to this every growing list is the bland world of football pundits. The species who inhabit various media outlets. The likes of Leroy Roseinor, Gary Neville and Don Goodman. All decent chaps with a good dose of tactical nous. I must congratulate the Neviller on his mastery of Andy Gray's technical gadgetry. So I'm fine with Gary's insistence that defenders need to block shots with their whole body. Seems sound enough logic to a mere layman.

But one question sends a shiver down the spines of these wise old sages. I refer to the thorny issue of a manager's future. Ranks are closed and the first commandment of the pundit's handbook is evoked. Thou shall never criticise one of our own, particularly if I have to bump into that person in the future.
 
But we can not simply rebuff a QPR fan who has forgotten what a win feels like. Evidence must be found to show that the manager really is the man to turn things round. After all I was planning to go on holiday with Mark Hughes next summer. 
The standard "It's early days yet" or "All these new players need time to gel" cliches will do the job. With the exception of Roman Abramovich, most punters will buy these as plausible reasons for continual failure.
 
But as the nights draw in, our heroes need to unearth new reasons for dismal results. Time to accentuate the positives, because the good times are on the horizon. I give you Exhibit A as provided by Mr L Rosenior. When asked to comment on Wolves' nine-match winless run. The resident pundit of the Football League Show replied: "Wolves have only lost twice at home all season." Happy days, why are you shouting at your Norwegian boss?

He excelled himself later: "Birmingham City are struggling, but I do see glimmers. For instance substitute Rob Hall really made a difference (to the Blues' 3-2 defeat). Okay you are 19th in the table, but honestly I do see glimmers. Stick with Stale Solbakken and Lee Clark, they will come good." Maybe they will, who am I to say? But Leroy, you're defence is hardly Old Bailey material. Tom Cruise in a Few Good Men has nothing to worry about.

Alan Shearer offered this defence of Martin O'Neill's Sunderland: "At least they are creating chances." Shearer must have thought: "I might be working with O'Neill at the next World Cup."
 
Some time the pundits are genuinely star struck. Robbie Savage worshipped Mark Hughes as a youngster. So what was the point of asking Savage to comment on Sparky's Loftus Road future? Similarly Gary Neville was Hughes's team-mate at Old Trafford. The old school tie was always going to colour their opinions.
 
Local radio experts are also staunch defenders of the manager. In the West Midlands our local BBC station has a football phone-in every weekday evening. Former West Ham, Walsall and Newcastle striker David Kelly is one of the shows regular guests. A pattern seems to be developing. Birmingham City lose again. Unhappy fans call for Lee Clark's head. Kelly trotts out: "Win two or three games and your're right up there." A line he's been using since August and will still employ in May. Do me a favour, we know you are mates with Clark.

The protracted St Andrews takeover is another hardy excuses provided by Kelly. "It's impossible for Lee to do his job in those circumstances." Well financial problems haven't prevented Port Vale from pushing for promotion or Malaga taking the Champions League by storm. 

I've voted with my fingers. Ned Kelly has been vanished in favour of Central News.
 
No-one likes to see a manager lose their job. But sackings have always been part of the game. They all know the rules before taking the helm, as we are constantly told it's a results business. I guess the experts don't like to upset their peers, that is fair enough. My solution is to scrap the manager question because this query is as redundant as suncream in a British winter.

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Colin Illingworth

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