Football management is a tricky old game – and that is when playing it at the fantasy level. Real life football management seems to be one of the most precarious professions you could enter in to (although it’s pretty well paid at the highest level) and the run up to Christmas will no doubt throw more top level managers in to the spotlight as speculation mounts on sackings and appointments.

The role of the football manager is in the spotlight once again – and with the Sam Allardyce debacle now starting to simmer down thanks to the headline making dropping of one of England’s most successful players (clever that) – the focus of the press has turned to the fate of a whole host of Premier League and Championship managers. This weekend sees the introduction of three new managers in the Championship and the Premier League sees its first American manager taking the helm at Swansea. In fact in the last 2 weeks there have been 7 new appointments in the football league from top to bottom.

The reappointment of Steve McLaren at Derby is perhaps the oddest appointment in a long time and it seems neither the pundits or the fans agree that the return of the umbrella wielding ex-England manager makes sense. With Steve Bruce (who appeared to be in the frame for the England job) taking on the exciting but daunting task of trying to steer Aston Villa back to the Premier League, we are left asking the question – what does it take to be a successful manager in modern football?


The longest serving manager in the Premier League (and in fact all professional English leagues) is Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. The Frenchman has just celebrated 20 years at the North London club and in that time has won 3 Premier League titles and 6 FA Cups. The vultures have been circling on him in the last few seasons but his record stands up better than any other current Premier League manager in terms of success in England.

So, is longevity the key or has Arsene gone stale?

What about the cultured and well travelled Pep Guardiola? His management career started with the Barcelona B side where he enjoyed much success prior to gaining promotion to the senior side. He won pretty much everything with Barcelona as he clinched back to back league titles, 2 Champions League titles, 2 UEFA Super Cup titles and 2 World Club Cup titles. He then went to Bayern Munich where he again won back to back leagues but was unable to win the Champions League. Pep is of course now at Man City and suffered his first defeat at Spurs last time out following a stuttering performance at Celtic that ended in a draw.

Is this his biggest test yet and is he as good as everyone thinks?

The Premier League is well represented in terms of cultural diversity but we do also have some successful English managers. In fact, Eddie Howe (who is revered as being a potentially top manager in the future) is the second longest serving Premier League manager at a day over 4 years. Only 8 managers in the whole of the football league have served their clubs for longer and none of those are in the Championship – a sign of the times indeed – but also a pointer as to the treacherous nature of the job of a manager.

Tony Pulis is another manager who is usually brought in to steady a ship as is Sam Allardyce – oh hang on – scrap that. Alan Pardew has a decent Premier League record and seems to be on one of his good runs right now and is another who makes the frame as having some good management skills.

It seems the modern manager has to have personality. Some have bags of passion and enthusiasm like Antonio Conte – another manager who was rumoured to be losing his job this week. In reality, it seems no matter what the credentials are and no matter how high the quality of the work the manager puts in away from match day – it is a results business and if they don’t get the results then it is curtains for them.

One thing is for sure though, the modern manager has to have a thick skin and they all have perseverance – after all, they keep coming back time after time for new pay packets…. Sorry, I mean challenges.

Whatever it takes to be a successful football manager I’m not too fussed… I will be sticking with the fantasy football management – and I’ll be starting with a Premier Punt daily fantasy football bet today.



Gareth Southgate has done the unthinkable and dropped Wayne Rooney. It’s taken a stand-in manager to do a man’s job and fair play to him. He’s stood up and done what many of Rooney’s critics have been baying for and dropped England’s captain and top goal scorer. There’s a fair chance that with this decision alone Southgate has secured the England job on a permanent basis.
Rooney has become the story for every England, and Manchester United, team selection this season. Mourinho has dropped him from his team at Old Trafford and almost inevitably Southgate has followed suit. But has he bowed to public opinion and made a populist decision to show that he’s the big man who can make big decisions?
I remember Steve McLaren’s first press conference where he made a similar decision and jettisoned England’s then captain, David Beckham. Unfortunately for McLaren, Beckham was still playing for England long after he had been removed from his post.
Rooney was booed by the Wembley crowd on Saturday against Malta. This is not a rare occurrence for England players to receive such treatment. Gary Neville and his brother, Phil, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard all received similar treatment for various reasons and bear in mind that Cole and Neville (Gary) could claim to be England’s best ever full-backs.
I watched Rooney closely on Saturday against Malta and he was alright, not great, not poor, just alright as he has been for too many games of late. I genuinely believe if Rooney had been injured on Saturday and Eric Dier had played in the same position, he would have done a similar job and the focus would have been on the team’s failure to score in the second half at Wembley against a team 176th in the FIFA rankings. This has been forgotten in the rush to slaughter Rooney and, although he was part of the problem, there were ten others on the pitch who failed to score against Malta in the second half.
Rooney’s wife took to Twitter to defend him on Saturday evening. One of the people she was defending him against was Match of the Day presenter, Gary Lineker, who tweeted that he could have played in a midfield holding role against Malta even at his age.
Well, from what I can remember of Lineker’s career he didn’t get involved in any play outside the penalty area. Nowadays, there are very few players in the modern game whose sole purpose is to finish off moves from within the six yard box. This is something at which Lineker was, admittedly, a master.
Lineker made a documentary earlier in the year when Rooney surpassed Bobby Charlton’s England goal scoring record in which he visited the Rooney’s home. I bet he won’t be getting invited back any time soon.
I watched the press conference Southgate and Rooney gave when they arrived in Slovenia for tonight’s World Cup qualifier. I think Rooney was excellent, the consummate professional. Here is a man who was once bracketed alongside Ronaldo and Messi and who has perhaps not matched up to their achievements, but who else has? Or will in the future? Not many I’d bet.
He accepts he is not the player he was and let’s not forget, he was a proper footballer. His public perception has probably never been lower than it is today, which is saying something considering some of the episodes he went through in his youth. He doesn’t appear to get too down with the relentless criticism he gets from the public and he doesn’t seem to get too carried away with the support he receives from the majority of former and current professionals.
I believe a lot of the public and professional criticism he gets today is based on jealousy. He earns an absolute fortune and that annoys a lot of people and, yes, there are a lot of supporters, particularly Manchester United supporters, who are not happy with his approach to making a lot of that money but I say good luck to him. He’s a working class boy from a working class area and he’s now one of the richest people in the UK. He doesn’t need to be sitting on the bench for England but he says he will continue to do that if he is selected to be part of the squad and, for that alone, I admire him. There aren’t many footballers today that would do that at this stage of their career. He may need to do it for Manchester United, but he certainly doesn’t need to do it for England…..well done, Wayne!


How must Big Sam be feeling this morning after agreeing with the FA last night that his position was untenable? Not too great I would imagine.

I hope he didn’t head to the nearest bar and get rat-arsed after leaving Wembley in his top of the range white Range Rover (I wonder if he got a special deal from the dealer because he was England manager when he bought it) because to wake up with a massive hangover on top of all this would be a nightmare. Still, on the bright side I bet Bradley Wiggins is feeling a bit better today.

I would imagine Big Sam is currently phoning round trying to get a good deal on a trip to the Far East until all this nastiness blows over. Well, maybe not the Far East. Somebody might ask him to do a keynote speech if he was over there which he might want to avoid doing until all this nonsense goes away.

Maybe somewhere in Florida would be nice. Take the grandchildren to Disneyland, maybe even check out the deals on a holiday villa near the fun parks of Kissimmee. Apparently you can get a good deal on holiday rents in the height of summer, could be a nice little earner.

Will there be a way back into football management for the big chap when he gets back from his trip? I think he probably does have a future in management, probably even at Premier League level. In two months’ time when somebody is languishing in the bottom three with Premier League survival on the line, who you gonna call? Certainly not Ghostbusters.

I doubt there are too many Premier League owners who would be too concerned about Big Sam’s morals when compared with his ability to keep their team out of the bottom three come May. He will be back in the Premier League before the shops have their Christmas selection boxes on their shelves…..well, maybe not as quickly as that. Apparently the shops do already have Christmas selection boxes on the shelves according to Mrs. Punt, but you know what I mean.

It would be good entertainment to be present the next time Big Sam bumps into England’s former manager Roy Hodgson or his former coach, Gary Neville, at a match. “Woy” as Big Sam called him in the video…..that’s just painfully embarrassing for both of them. I suspect Mr. Neville might be a bit more aggressive in his approach to confronting Big Sam than Roy will. I’m sure he has had an excellent relationship in the past with Big Sam due to his closeness to his former boss, Sir Fergie.

Looking at the bigger picture, what does it mean for the England team? It would have been interesting to see how Big Sam would have done with England in a tournament. Unfortunately, we will now never know. The job he has craved his whole life has come and gone in 67 days. They will still qualify comfortably for the World Cup, of that there is no doubt, but who will be leading them by the time we get to Russia in 2018?

Gareth Southgate is taking over for the next four games. This gives the FA until March to find a permanent replacement, and do they really need all that time? They only appointed the latest manager 67 days ago so surely they have a good idea of who else was in the running to get the post. Who will be the next one of the rank? Will they go for someone from left-field? I doubt it. This next appointment will be ultra-safe with no skeletons in his cupboard and will need to be whiter than white. Unfortunately for the FA, I’m not sure there is anyone in football who fits that bill.

I would give it to Glenn Hoddle if it must be an Englishman. The bookies have Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew and Eddie Howe as their frontrunners, none of whom have won anything more than an English Championship, which used to be called the Second Division in my day.

Hoddle has at least taken England to a major tournament before he became a god-botherer in public. He was fairly critical of Hodgson’s team at the Euros in his role of ITV co-commentator so I think it would be good entertainment to see how he would cope with a vastly inferior group of players than the ones he took to France in 1998.

Anyhoo, if nothing else the England team and their manager situation always provides excellent entertainment for those who prefer club football or are not of an English persuasion. Long may that continue.




So Fergie’s best mate gives Fergie’s other best mate the job he’s always wanted, but where does this leave England’s captain and record goal scorer? Well in my opinion it leaves him in a very vulnerable position with regards to his future international career.
When David Gill offered Sam Allardyce the England job last week it would have come with a ringing endorsement of big Sam from Sir Alex Ferguson. Always an admirer of big Sam’s approach to running a premier league team that would never be relegated, or challenge Manchester United, big Sam would always have been the first name on his list of recommendations when his former chief executive at Manchester United came looking for advice on replacing the hapless Roy Hodgson. Notably, the other top candidate for the job was another of Fergie’s mates, his former captain at United and now former Hull City boss Steve Bruce. Who incidentally also has a lamentable record of managing teams against Fergie and United in general, he has never won against them with any of his teams.
Allardyce would have been my choice for the post, I think he deserves his chance to lead his country to a world cup and let’s face it he doesn’t need to do much to improve on his predecessor’s record at the last three tournaments. First of all, the team will be organised, there will be no round pegs in square holes. Secondly, they will be better prepared than ever because if nothing else Allardyce is meticulous when it comes to preparing a squad, one of the first managers to embrace nutrition, psychology and the use of tools like Prozone and Opta statistics to analyse performance in the nineties Allardyce has always been a leader rather than a follower in fact some of his former players and staff describe him as a great innovator. Speak to former pros Kevin Davies or Kevin Nolan and they will verify that Sam was ahead of his time during his time as manager of Bolton Wanderers.
Tactically Allardyce has always been sound, he’s had to be. Having never taken charge of a top premier league team his strength has always been getting the best from a group of average players by creating a great team spirit and deploying the tactics that would result in Bolton, Blackburn or West Ham performing above expectation season after season.
But how will Sam cope with star players with big egos who have continually under achieved in an England shirt? I think he will be a revelation, he has fantastic man management skills, he knows when to administer the proverbial boot up the arse and when the arm round the shoulder is required. This brings us back to the original question regarding Wayne Rooney, what is international future under Sam’s management?
I don’t think he has one, well not a very long one anyway. This is where I believe Sir Alex Ferguson may have some influence. It is three years since he retired but in the final six months of his last season it was obvious that he felt Rooney had served his purpose in a United shirt, he was substituting on a regular basis which only served to increase Rooney’s frustration. On what turned out to be his last match in charge of United in the Champion’s League he left Rooney on the bench at Old Trafford against Real Madrid, the biggest insult he could deliver to United’s star man. In his last post-match interview as United manager he announced that Rooney had asked for a transfer…. again, knowing full well the response that this would bring from United’s supporters who had still not forgiven Rooney for the transfer request he had lodged in 2010. The truth is that he had not submitted an official transfer request this time but in a row with Ferguson told him to sell him if he was not going to play him.
Of course there was no need for Ferguson to reveal any of this but he could not resist it, one last grenade before strolling of into the sunset. All part of the revenge for the 2010 transfer request. Now Rooney’s international future lies in the hands of one of Fergie’s best mates…….good luck with that Wazza.

Over & Out
Cheeky Punt


After sixty-eight years of dedicated conservatism Roy Hodgson decided to roll the dice at EURO 2016 last night. Like a desperate man in the last stakes saloon in a Las Vegas casino he went broke. My only question is, why? He made six changes to a winning side that still needed another win to secure top position in the group and most likely a game against a third place team and almost certainly passage to the quarter finals. Given his departing boss’ comments at the weekend regarding the criteria for Roy getting a new contract, he stated that a semi-final or a tough defeat in the quarter finals would secure his future, his team choice was even more baffling.
Following a 0-0 draw England will face a runner-up from group F, that potentially includes Ronaldo’s Portugal, should they survive that the likely outcome would be a quarter-final against the host nation. As winners of the group wales could face the mighty Albania…. enough said.
So what induced this madness in Roy’s thinking? ‘Cautious’ is an adjective that has followed Roy throughout his career, so what was his thought pattern when he sat down with Gary Neville and Ray Lewington and said “I’m dropping the two best players from our first two matches lads, Rooney and Walker are out”? and more importantly, what was their reply? If it wasn’t along the lines of “are you f*****g mad boss?” then they really aren’t doing their job, are they?
The truth is that given the quality of player that Hodgson brought in it shouldn’t really have been seen as a gamble. Most pundits expected Vardy and Sturridge to replace the supposedly exhausted Harry Kane and the poor Raheem Sterling. Replacing Dele Alli with Jordan Henderson was understandable as Alli had not been his usual dynamic self. Changing full backs is unnecessary, a back four should be left to bond as a unit, suspensions will eventually break it up naturally. Replacing the skipper with Wilshere was counter-productive, Rooney is a player who needs to play to maintain his fitness and momentum. More significantly he is not a great substitute mainly due to the fact that he very rarely starts on the bench and hasn’t done so throughout his career.
So what went wrong? Basically it comes down to poor finishing and can Hodgson be blamed for that? He picked the two players every journalist and pundit were calling for, both missed very decent chances. Adam Lallana has yet to score an international goal and should have last night. Slovakia defended as if their lives depended on it last night and blocked several goal bound efforts, they were difficult to break down and played with eleven men behind the ball for most of the evening.
Jack Wilshere looked short of match fitness and was replaced by Rooney after the hour mark. Will that be the last we see of one of Roy’s favourite player’s? Where is Ross Barclay? Will he be given a chance in the last sixteen game? A year ago Barclay was flavour of the month, this year many feel he was lucky to make the squad and might not get on the pitch.
Roy defended his selections by saying that he trusts his squad and players need to be kept ticking over, all of which is perfectly true, as long as the results follow, otherwise ……well Roy knows exactly what to expect.

Over & Out
Cheeky Punt