Tag Archives: Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield United labelled “prehistoric” by angry managerial candidate

Sheffield United have been branded “prehistoric” by a man they hoped would be their next manager.

Former Australia manager, Graham Arnold, took the unusual step of publically slating the club after he was interviewed for the job by the Blades board. The West Coast Mariners boss was so disgusted by his interviewers’ attitudes towards football he actually quit the interview, which was being conducted through video-link, and stormed out half-way through.

Sheffield United have been labelled "prehistoric" by Graham Arnold.

Sheffield United have been labelled “prehistoric” by Graham Arnold.

Arnold told The Australian: “In all honesty, I didn’t have to think too long or too hard about it. It just wasn’t for me.

“Forget that the financial offer in itself was quite poor, but I would have been taking three steps backwards in my development as a professional coach if I had gone.”

“I walked out of that meeting with the club’s board and football director Dave Bassett, and said ‘Wow’.

“It just blew me away. Being one of the bigger lower league clubs, I was expecting a lot more in terms of how they wanted to develop as a club on the field.

“But they just didn’t seem interested when I was talking about playing a short passing game and taking the football another level up. It was about smashing the ball long and working on set pieces. It was prehistoric stuff. That’s not the way to develop a football team.”

 Damning

The comments were a damning indictment of Sheffield United’s take on the beautiful game and a huge embarrassment for the Bramall Lane bigwigs.

Fans have traditionally taken pride in the “Sheffield United way.” This style of football prioritises effort, physicality and a desire to win over skill, elegance and aesthetics. Visitors to Bramall Lane in recent decades have often been left frustrated by their hosts’ old-school style of play and their questionable discipline.

Managers such as Kevin Blackwell and Neil Warnock nurtured teams who were tenacious, hungry and forceful but who also had a choice reading of the laws of the game and a Machiavellian approach to the sport.

The “Battle of Bramall Lane” in 2002 is infamous because it is still the only Football League match to be abandoned because a team did not have enough players to continue. Sheffield United had three players sent off against West Brom, and were lucky not to have a fourth expelled, before Warnock allegedly told two of his players to fake injuries in order to get the match abandoned.

Sheffield United now find themselves in League 1 and although Danny Wilson tried to improve the style of play at the club, it was still brutal on the eyes. It worsened when United legend, and the “Sheffield Way” personified, Chris Morgan took over towards the end of last season.

 Ugly and unsuccessful

Arnold’s comments on Sheffield United were scathing and with the Blades preparing for a third straight season in England’s third tier, there are many fans who believe the club’s board should use his criticism constructively.

The Australian’s opinions have highlighted what many fans already knew; their club’s stubborn refusal to keep up with the times has left them looking backwards, stranded in the dark ages. The people who run United are still thinking the way directors were thinking in the 1970s, and though Stoke City is an obvious anomaly, clubs tend not to see long-term success by adopting long-ball, bully-boy tactics these days.

Sheffield United is a big club with a substantial fanbase but since 1994 they have only had one season in the top flight.

Despite adventurous and entrepreneurial ventures off the field, which include twinning with Chengdu Blades in China, the people running the club have bafflingly stuck with a failing system on the pitch.

Graham Arnold had ideas about playing progressive, passing football at Sheffield United, but Dave Bassett and the Sheffield United board wanted to keep playing the percentages and concentrating on set-pieces. For some reason they wanted somebody who was going to employ the same style of play which had seen Sheffield United fall short in recent years.

The two clubs promoted automatically from League 1 this season, Doncaster and Bournemouth, succeeded by playing aesthetically-pleasing and positive football, despite having far smaller resources than the Blades. This shows the way smaller clubs are excelling in the third tier by playing the ball on the floor.

 Look to the future

Sheffield United will celebrate their 125th birthday next year but unfortunately for the fans, the board and Dave Bassett are looking to the past for inspiration instead of adopting a more positive approach.

Traditionally the supporters have embraced United’s traditional ugly style of play, but times are changing and across the country clubs are looking for managers who play entertaining football. This isn’t because they’re arrogant or because they have illusions of grandeur. It’s because this is the way most successful clubs play their football by now.

Graham Arnold has shamed Sheffield United by putting the club’s backwards approach under a spotlight. The comments were damning but they’re completely justified and those in charge of the club need to use this embarrassing mess as a catalyst for change.

The board must abandon its bizarre and short-sighted stubbornness in favour of a more positive approach, otherwise the club will remain trapped by the myths of its own history.

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Would you want Paolo Di Canio at your club?

The most controversial and entertaining manager in the Football League has quit his job, so what next for Paolo Di Canio?

The flamboyant Italian left his post at Swindon Town after getting frustrated with the League 1 club’s troubling finances, and the effects they were having on his preparations. He is already being linked with Leeds United, where Neil Warnock doesn’t seem to be enjoying life, but there are a few factors chairmen need to consider before giving Di Canio a job.

 

Football genius or troublesome fascist?

Football genius or troublesome fascist?

Di Canio was a very unlikely manager, and big questions were asked when Swindon appointed him in 2011.

As a player he was capable of spectacular skill and breath-taking goals, not least his beautiful bicycle volley against Wimbledon for West Ham in 2000, which is still considered one of the greatest goals of the Premier League era. But he was also an unpredictable personality, who could implode at any time.

In 1993 he left Juventus after falling out with legendary manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, and in 1996 he repeated the trick at Milan by quarrelling with Fabio Capello. In a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal, Di Canio pushed the referee to the ground, and received an 11 game ban which ultimately signalled the end of his tenure in the Steel City.

In England he is best remembered for his time at West Ham, but even there, where he is still adored by supporters, he was considered as stable as a tower of jelly. Tantrums and fallouts were commonplace and he barely played in his final season at the club because of a spat with manager, Glenn Roeder.

He had a comparatively problem-free time at Charlton, before returning to his childhood club, Lazio. Back in Rome, he wound up opposing fans, fraternised with right-wing ultras and regularly gave supporters a fascist salute.

His former manager, Harry Redknapp recently claimed he never once believed Di Canio could be a manager.

But his record at Swindon is quite remarkable. In his first season in charge at the County Ground he led Swindon to the League 2 title, and the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

He leaves Swindon in the League 1 play-off spots, and just three points off the top of the league. They are unbeaten in their last 11 league games, and have a great chance of going up this season, either automatically or through the play-offs.

Di Canio has left as a result of the poor state of the club’s finances, and in his statement to the press he cited the sale of playmaker, Matt Richie, to Bournemouth, as a major reason for his departure. Ritchie, who has excelled under Di Canio, was sold behind the manager’s back in the January transfer window, and since then relations between the manager and the boardroom have been strained.

But Swindon’s financial crisis is down in no small measure to Di Canio and his spending.

Di Canio was given hundreds of thousands to spend on players in order to manufacture a squad capable of storming up the leagues, and in an aesthetically pleasing style. Swindon spent more on agent fees over the past year and a half than any other club in League 2 and League 1, such was the club’s commitment to getting the players Di Canio wanted.

The Roman has expensive tastes, and any chairman who chooses to employ him must be prepared for arguments over transfer funds, unless they want to overspend and encounter the kind of problems which are currently crippling Swindon. Di Canio has an eye for talent, but it comes at a cost, and it’s still unclear whether he could work within a strict budget, or even whether he would be willing to try such a strategy. It appears he was looking to leave Swindon as soon as the cheque book was put back in the drawer.

Whichever club picks up the fiery Di Canio will also have to put up with his bizarre personality.

At Swindon, Di Canio’s passionate press conferences and tempestuous touchline antics entertained the masses, but he was sometimes guilty of bringing negative attention upon the club.

Di Canio’s fallout with Leon Clarke was damaging, but accusations of racism by French striker, Jonathan Tehoué were very difficult to deal with. Di Canio is a self-confessed fascist and a Mussolini sympathiser, so accusations of racism are likely to stick, and no club wants this kind of bad publicity.

Jekyll and Hyde

He’s a brilliant, passionate lover of the sport, whose Swindon team played gorgeous, entertaining football as they climbed from League 2 to the verge of the Championship. He understands football better than almost any other manager in the Football League and he will always strive to win, but in a style befitting his perfectionist streak.

However this Jekyll and Hyde character comes with a reputation and a troublemaking tendency, which will always cause problems for clubs. His departure from Swindon with the club so close to the top of League 1 shows Di Canio’s unpredictability and spontaneity.

Wherever Di Canio ends up next, fans, and more importantly chairmen, must prepare for a rollercoaster ride, which will inevitably consist of great football and controversy. It’s up to them to decide whether the Italian stallion is worth the hassle.

Dave Jones: Should he stay or should he go?

Sheffield Wednesday are second from bottom in the Championship, they’ve lost their last seven games and on Saturday they lost to fellow relegation-batters Bristol City.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones is under severe pressure. (Picture courtesy of talksport.com)

Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones is under severe pressure. (Picture courtesy of talksport.com)

Manager, Dave Jones, is under severe pressure, with fans questioning both his ability to inspire his team and his tactical nous. Jones led the Owls to automatic promotion from League 1 last season, and has years of experience in the Championship with Wolves and Cardiff, but is he the man to lead Wednesday to safety?

Great expectations

Jones was appointed in March with Wednesday 3rd in the League 1 table and fresh from a morale-boosting victory against Steel City rivals Sheffield United. He led the team to promotion, leapfrogging United in the process, and Wednesday looked set for a fresh start in the Championship.

In August everything looked rosy for the Owls; they were unbeaten in the opening month of the season, winning two and drawing one. Few people were tipping Wednesday for the drop, and nobody could have predicted the abysmal run of results which would follow.

Wednesday had substantially boosted their squad in the summer, acquiring the services of full-back Joe Mattock, experienced centre-back Anthony Gardner and striker Jay Bothroyd, who excelled under Jones at Cardiff. They also bought Michail Antonio, who shined on loan from Reading the previous season, and borrowed highly-rated youngster Ross Barkley from Everton.

There were also exotic-sounding  transfers, such as Slovenian international Nejc Pecnik and the loan of Rodri from Barcelona B.

It seemed Sheffield Wednesday were all set for an enjoyable season back in the second tier of English football, but things turned sour very quickly.

After their unbeaten August Wednesday went on a miserable nine match winless run. They then won two games in a row against relegation rivals Ipswich and Peterborough and the Hillsborough club seemed ready to turn their season around.

Alas they’ve lost all their games since beating Peterborough 2-1 on November 3, and have slowly slipped down the table.

The defeat at home to Bristol City will hurt for a number of reasons.

Two of City’s goals were penalties, cheaply conceded through nervous defending by players who had just netted for Wednesday. Another painful aspect of this defeat is that Wednesday looked to be in control of the game, leading 2-1 with five minutes remaining, only for a Baldock penalty and a superb Adomah free-kick to steal the points at the death.

Wednesday’s misery was compounded when a late Wednesday goal was disallowed because defender Miguel Llera had grabbed the referee to complain about a decision he’d made, forcing the ref to halt play just before Gary Madine scored.

Of course this latest loss is especially painful because it was against a Bristol City team, below them at the start of play, who had themselves been on a poor run of form. The Robins, who revealed in midweek the appalling financial state of the club (record losses of £14.4m for the year ending May 2012), are now three points ahead of the Owls and outside the relegation zone.

Saturday’s soul-crushing defeat is the low-point in a disappointing season for Wednesday, and it’s piled the pressure on Dave Jones.

Jones unable to deal with pressure

Jones is probably one of the most mysterious characters in the Football League. He’s an extremely proud man, and somebody who resents criticism or questioning. This has damaged his relationship with the press, and to a lesser extent, with fans in recent years.

He can appear dour, negative and stubborn, and this is a defence mechanism that rarely works in his favour when under pressure. His stubbornness has been misread as arrogance in the past when in fact it’s usually a sign of insecurity.

Jones’s record suggests he’s a manager who struggles under pressure. He led Wolves to promotion via the play-offs when they were second favourites against a Sheffield United team which had reached the semi-finals of both the FA and League Cup that season. However in the Premier League Wolves struggled to adapt and finished bottom.

At Cardiff he reached the 2008 FA Cup final against the odds, but consistently failed to get promoted despite buying many high-profile players. Year after year the Bluebirds would get into promising positions, only to crumble spectacularly under pressure when expectations were raised.

At Sheffield Wednesday he took over a team which was not expected to finish in the top two, but had more or less secured a play-off spot. With expectations and pressure low he managed to rally his team and they overtook Sheffield United to finish 3rd.

Now though, with Wednesday struggling in the bottom three, Jones is once again under immense pressure, and supporters have been critical of his decision-making.

Last week Mark Beevers was allowed to sign for Millwall, where he’s been outstanding in defence while on loan from Wednesday.  He was sold despite the fact Wednesday are shipping goals at an alarming rate and haven’t kept a clean sheet since October.

Following Saturday’s game Jones was asked if he feared for his job and he said: “I didn’t give two penalties away at the end of the day,” adding: “It’s hard for us coaches because we’re under pressure as well.”

When asked if he expected to be in charge for next week’s crunch Yorkshire derby against Barnsley, Jones simply said: “I hope so. I hope so.”

Should he stay or should he go?

Confidence is in short supply at Wednesday and the players look dejected. There are some good footballers at the club but nobody knows when the losing run will end.

The few fans who still believed in Dave Jones are slowly turning against him as the situation gets bleaker. Sadly, Dave Jones’s jittery, overly-defensive interview answers suggest his confidence levels are about as low as those of the players.

The board has to decide whether or not they believe Dave Jones can inspire the players to turn things around. Unfortunately for the manager I suspect they’ll see what we all see; Jones isn’t the man to lead Wednesday to safety.

Yorkshire derby marred by fan’s attack on keeper

A Yorkshire derby between Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United was never likely to be a tame affair, but unfortunately a Leeds fan ventured way beyond the realms of acceptability and stole all the headlines for himself.

Michael Tonge had just scored a stunning equaliser in front of the 5,000 travelling contingent to send United fans wild. The appearance of Leeds fans invading the pitch to celebrate isn’t as uncommon as it may seem, although it’s never ideal to have supporters on the field of play. Out of the blue one young fan blindsided Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland and landed a two-fisted punch in his face.

The thug ran into the crowd with a wide grin on his face, proudly looking over his shoulder at Kirkland lying on the turf, holding his face. The smug fan might not be so happy when he finds out that the entire attack and escape was filmed by Sky Sports, who zoomed in for a good look at his face, and will probably pass the footage on to the police.

Friday night’s clash at Hillsborough was the first time the two white rose giants had met in five years and from the off it was obvious that no love had been lost since their last encounter.

The first half was full of talking points.

Wednesday were very unlucky when a seemingly blatant handball in the Leeds box by Argentine striker Luciano Becchio went unpunished by the officials. Soon after the cameo by the Hand of God, Michael Brown, a player who likes to let his opponents know when they’ve been tackled, left his foot in on Owls striker Chris O’Grady, before falling to the ground and feigning injury to avoid suspicion.

Wednesday defender Miguel Llera was fortunate to stay on the field when he thrust his hands in Brown’s face in order to get rid of the combative midfielder.

Jay Bothroyd’s 44th minute headed goal was almost overshadowed by the more unsavory incidents in the bad-tempered first half, which remarkably did not produce a single yellow card.

Sheffield Wednesday were the better team in the first half, and they continued to outmanoeuvre their lacklustre opponents in the second half. Bothroyd, Antonio and Barkley all looked lively and creative throughout the messy affair.

The evening’s main talking point came in the 77th minute, but unfortunately it wasn’t Tonge’s superb 25-yard strike. Once the former Sheffield United midfielder smashed the ball into the Wednesday net he sprinted off to celebrate. During these celebrations several Leeds United fans ran onto the pitch.

One fan, later described by Leeds manager Neil Warnock as a “moron” ran up to the distracted Kirkland and floored the former Liverpool keeper before making his escape.

Kirkland was treated by the club physio, but looked decidedly shaken by the punch.

The game ended 1-1, but after the final whistle, Wednesday manager Dave Jones criticised Warnock and his players for applauding their supporters after the game. Warnock defended his actions, claiming that “the majority of the supporters had acted impeccably.”

The match has once again highlighted Leeds United’s problematic hooligan minority. During the 70s and 80s Leeds fans had a reputation as some of England’s most violent. Though the club has worked hard to discourage football violence, there remain a few dinosaurs that have no interest in the football and simply wish to create trouble.

Thankfully there’ll now be one less thug to worry about.

Entering the pitch carries an automatic three year ban from football, but Kirkland’s attacker can expect a lifetime ban. He may even face a prison sentence after the inevitable court case is finished.

Maybe a stint behind bars can send a message to others like him that regular football fans have no time for this kind of nonsense.

Football has thankfully moved on. It’s just a shame that some fans are still stuck in the dark ages.