WITH THE NEW season fast approaching, we’ve decided to take a look at the credentials of the three of the Premier League’s newest managers – Alex McLeish, Andre Villas-Boas and Martin Jol. So read on, and as ever, you can let us know if you agree in the comments section and the poll below. Just don’t say anything that might risk the wrath of McLeish…
Alex McLeish (Aston Villa)
(Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport)
What’s his record as a manager like? He was considered one of the Premiership’s best managers prior to last season when he guided Birmingham to promotion and then helped them come ninth in their first season back in the Premiership – their highest finish for over 50 years. McLeish had previously enjoyed successful stints in charge of Rangers and Hibernian, while narrow failure to steer Scotland to the Euro 2008 finals did little damage to his reputation.
It was, therefore, quite a shock last season when Birmingham – despite having a team good enough to win the Carling Cup – were surprisingly relegated on the last day. While Aston Villa undoubtedly have better players than their bitter rivals, McLeish’s ostensible inability to get the best out of his players at Birmingham will be cause for concern among Villa fans – especially when a significant number of their players (Stephens Ireland and Warnock spring to mind) seem to require the guidance of a highly-skilled coach in order for them to perform anywhere near their best.
What’s he got to work with? With players of the calibre of Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Stiliyan Petrov and Darren Bent, Villa have a solid foundation to work with. While the departures of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young are bound to have some effect, the emergence of promising youngsters such as Marc Albrighton should compensate for these losses to some extent.
Will he succeed? It depends which McLeish turns up. If he lets the taunts of Villa fans go to his head, a repeat of his disastrous last few games at Birmingham may be in store. If he lives up to his previous managerial pedigree, Villa should be good enough to challenge for a Europa League spot. Anything less than a top ten finish however, and the pressure already on his shoulders will start to intensify.
What do the bookmakers say? McLeish is 8/1 to be the first Premier League manager to get sacked this season, while Villa are 12/1 to win a trophy this year – neither outcome is unimaginable.
If McLeish were a character in a movie, he’d be played by… Anthony Hopkins – McLeish has the Hannibal Lector-esque stare to strike fear into the hearts of pampered footballers, while I’m sure Mr Hopkins would be willing to go ginger for the sake of his art.
André Villas-Boas (Chelsea)
(Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
What’s his record as a manager like? In a word: exemplary. While Villas-Boas, at 33, may seem like an overnight success, he has been prepared for life as a coach for many years. At 16, he lived in the same apartment block as Bobby Robson and the Englishman gave him a position in the club’s observation department after learning of his acute knowledge of football during casual discussions between the two.
By 17, he achieved a UEFA C coaching license and then became coach of the British Virgin Islands national team aged 21. He subsequently became Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Porto, Chelsea and Inter, before taking charge of Académica and then Porto. The latter club enjoyed unprecedented success during his spell in charge, as they completed the treble (Primeira Liga, Europa League and Portuguese Cup) in his first season.
What’s he got to work with? Chelsea are an ageing side, with some critics suggesting that players such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are past their best, and there has been a worrying lack of transfer activity at the Bridge thus far this summer.Villas-Boas, however, may prove their most important signing, but he’ll need one or two players at least, if Chelsea are to replicate the type of attractive football for which his teams are renowned.
Will he succeed? Given what he’s already achieved in such a short space of time, it’s difficult to bet against him. Much will depend on whether he can sign a creative central midfielder to invigorate Chelsea, who at times, looked their combined team age last season. If they do, and if Abramovich refrains from meddling in first-team affairs, then I don’t see why Villas-Boas can’t have a Mourinho-esque impact at the club.
What do the bookmakers say? Villas-Boas is 2/1 to win the Champions League with Chelsea, and evens to win a major trophy this season. The odds are 4/1 on him being sacked before the end of the season.
If Villas-Boas were a character in a movie, he’d be played by… Javier Bardem. Both are young, of Mediteranean descent and ruthless when necessary – Villas-Boas in his exploits with Porto and Bardem as a serial killer in No Country for Old Men.
Martin Jol (Fulham)
(Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport)
What’s his record as a manager like? Decent. Despite not securing any trophies while at Tottenham, he won many admirers for the attractive brand of football his teams played and for the manner in which he conducted himself – a quality that can’t be taken for granted these days, as the antics of the likes of Ferguson and Mourinho often attest.
After he was somewhat harshly sacked by Tottenham, despite being unlucky not to help the club secure a Champions League spot on at least one occasion, Jol enjoyed success elsewhere. He brought Hamburg to the semi-finals of the Europa League and won the Dutch Cup with Ajax, before losing out on the league by one point to Steve McClaren’s FC Twente. However, he then resigned from the club halfway through last season after they endured a poor run of form.
What’s he got to work with? On the surface, not a lot seemingly, though Fulham have gained a reputation in recent years for continually exceeding expectations.While they don’t have many standout players, the likes of Brede Hageland, Damien Duff, Simon Davies and Bobby Zamora are all good pros who are capable of digging in when necessary, as well as possessing no small degree of skill.
Will he succeed? Jol has never been an outright success at any club he has managed, but he has never been an outright failure either. He seems the perfect match for Fulham, who will be hoping Jol matches the achievements of his predecessors – Mark Hughes and Roy Hodgson.
What do the bookmakers say? Fulham are 18/1 to reach the Europa League Final again and 9/4 to score more than the 49 goals they managed last season.
If Jol were a character in a movie, he’d be played by… James Galdolfini. Jol may not look especially like him, but he is undeniably similar to Tony Soprano – kind and lovable at times, but also possessing a discernible mean streak. Indeed, their personalities would be practically identical were it not for the fact that Jol doesn’t go around killing people all the time.
So which manager do you think is most likely to succeed?