Tag Archives: ugly

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.

Do the owners of Forest and Rovers know what they’re doing?

This week saw two controversial managerial sackings in the Championship which have raised questions about the way Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest are being run.

Sean O’Driscoll, who was appointed as Nottingham Forest manager in the summer, was shown the door on Wednesday just a few hours after his team spectacularly beat Leeds 4-2. The Al-Hasawi family, who run the club, had insisted they would give the former Doncaster manager time, but with Forest a point outside the play-off spots, they changed their minds.

Meanwhile, in Lancashire, Blackburn’s owners once again displayed questionable judgement, sacking manager, Henning Berg, after just 57 days in charge. This despite giving the deeply unpopular Steve Kean two protest-filled years at the Ewood Park helm before forcing him out earlier this season.

Both Forest and Rovers are owned by vastly wealthy people, with no previous experience in football prior to their investments. And fans at both clubs are wondering, do they really know what they’re doing?

The Trent End in Forest's City Ground

The Trent End in Forest’s City Ground

Forest

Sean O’Driscoll’s sacking was met with widespread astonishment. Forest were playing entertaining football, just a point outside the play-offs, and though they hadn’t set the world alight, there were promising signs.

O’Driscoll, who had gained an army of admirers for achieving success on a budget with a stylish but unfashionable Doncaster side, was brought in with the aim of building a side in his image. He stuck to his beliefs at Forest and looked set to challenge for a spot in the top six.

But halfway through his first season, after one of the most impressive performances of his time in charge, he was shown the door by the club’s Kuwaiti owners.

Forest fans were left decidedly bemused by the sacking, and the vast majority opposed O’Driscoll’s departure. Fans claimed they could see a project in motion and a team being built inkeeping with the ideals and values of the club.

But one of the most worrying aspects of this case is O’Driscoll’s replacement.

O’Driscoll’s seat was still warm when it was announced Alex McLeish would be replacing him.

The Scotsman’s a controversial choice at a club which has always been associated with beautiful football. McLeish’s teams have tended to play an unattractive, but largely effective, long-ball style of football.

Forest’s greatest ever manager, Brian Clough, once said “If God had wanted us to play football in the sky, He’d have put grass up there.”

Not only does McLeish’s style not fit perfectly with Forest’s historic image, on the face of it at least, his direct style doesn’t fit in with the current setup.

O’Driscoll had a side which was familiar with playing patient, passing football. Are the players capable of adapting to McLeish’s more physical, negative style?

McLeish will undoubtedly be given substantial funds in the January transfer window, and he can use it to bring in players who will understand his system. But fans are worried McLeish’s appointment could go badly wrong for the club.

McLeish could take Nottingham Forest up this season, after all, he won promotion with Birmingham City in 2009.

But Big Eck’s image and his football doesn’t fit in easily with that of Nottingham Forest. The fact the Al-Hasawi family have dismissed a football purist like O’Driscoll, in favour of McLeish, shows a basic lack of understanding of the club’s culture. It’s always worrying when wealthy owners begin running the club without consideration for the club’s culture and the fans’ interests.

Blackburn

In 1931, Mahatma Gandhi visited Darwen, near Blackburn, to meet unemployed mill workers who were angry because cheap Indian cotton was undercutting their produce. The people of East Lancashire fell in love with the skinny Indian, and since then there has always been a spiritual bond between Lancashire and the subcontinent.

That was until Venky’s purchased Blackburn Rovers and started running the club in the most chaotic way imaginable. Since taking over, the owners have repeatedly broken audacious transfer promises and consistently angered the fans with outrageous decisions.

Last season’s fan protests against manager, Steve Kean, were particularly venomous, but the owners continued to back the Glaswegian. Even though Blackburn were shamefully relegated from the Premier League, Kean remained in charge for the start of the Championship, but with Rovers 3rd after eight games, Kean was bizarrely forced out.

The club then spent a whole month looking for a replacement before opting for former player, Henning Berg. The Norwegian had previously been critical of the club’s ownership, but he accepted the job, claiming he’d been convinced they had a plan for the club.

It’s unlikely the plan involved sacking Berg after 57 days in charge, but that’s just what Venky’s have done. Incredibly, after defying the fans and keeping the hapless Steve Kean for nearly two years, his replacement couldn’t manage two months.

Admittedly the Berg era has been a joke from start to finish; the football’s been dreadfully low-tempo, he’s only won once and Rovers have rapidly slipped down the table. Uninspiring Blackburn now find themselves 17th in the Championship and dropping towards the drop zone.

The Berg experiment will undoubtedly be viewed as a disaster, and another depressing chapter in the recent history of Blackburn Rovers.

The fact Berg only lasted 57 days suggests those running the club didn’t know enough about him when they appointed him, but scarier still, it suggests they have no structured plan for their football club. Fans have constantly criticised the owners for neglecting the club and allowing it to rot, and their recent activity is a further cause for supporter concern.

Kevin MacDonald will be caretaker manager at Ewood Park until the end of the season. While he is highly respected within the game, and his record as a coach stands up to scrutiny, the appointment of a caretaker for the entire second half of the season (seemingly Roman Abramovich’s invention) stinks of laziness on the part of the owners.

While Forest fans await the beginning of the McLeish era with cautious intrigue, Blackburn fans are simply dreading the next few months, hoping they can evade the drop.

The recent sackings at Forest and Blackburn are cause for concern because on the face of it they show a lack of long-term planning, and a poor understanding of the sport by the respective owners.