Tag Archives: phil brown

Lambs to the Slaughter

Preston fans watch Saturday's match against Portsmouth...

If football is religion, then it is a faith — like so many faiths — that loves its miracles.  For those who want to believe, even the smallest scrap of conjecture can turn into hard evidence, like being born again after seeing Jesus in a tortilla.  So you can forgive me if I got a little over-excited about Preston North End’s recent run.

After an extended run of bad results left them at the foot of the Championship table for most of the season, their new-found winning ways had a whiff of near-impossible.  They beat struggling Coventry City and Scunthorpe United, and then put a dent in Swansea City’s promotion hopes.  Was it the sign that Lilywhite fans were hoping for?  Could they overcome a massive deficit and pull themselves out of the relegation zone?  Might they find redemption that would wash away the sins of this season?

Old Nick, er, Phil...

Sadly, the answer looks a likely “No”.   A 2-1 loss to Reading, followed by a draw to Portsmouth has them seven points from safety with only six games left.  If you take Lanthier’s Law (sort of like Coughlin’s Law, only without Elisabeth Shue and the cool boat) that any club seven points or more above the relegation zone is safe, the only team that PNE could hope to catch is Crystal Palace.   But the Lancashire side is not known for having divine intervention on their side. 

Preston is not a clutch club.   They’ve made the promotion playoffs four times in the last ten seasons, but each time they have been denied entry. They remain in second-tier Purgatory… and now they may pay for their transgressions by being cast down into the depths below.  Yet still, Preston fans seek salvation, looking for someone to answer their prayers.

Brent P. Lanthier

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Swings and Roundabouts

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Back in my university days, when I was a virile young rapscallion looking to meet as many women as possible, my friends and I would watch each crop of First-Year students as they arrived on campus, assessing the young ladies for — let’s say — possibilities.

Invariably, there would be one or two gorgeous creatures who would pique our interest.  But word travelled fast in my small school and we were usually disappointed that most of our targets had boyfriends back home, or at another centre for higher learning.

“Not to worry”, someone would say, “she’ll be single by Christmas.”  And lo and behold, the freshman (freshwoman?!?) would return for second semester, sans ami.

So after this last month, I can only assume most owners of English football clubs are like me at 19 years old: horny and stupid.  Why else would they be dumping old managers by Christmas, only to chase new ones, in a never-ending parade of pink slips?

Here are the stats:

– Since Christmas, 14 of the 92 Premier and Football league teams — 15 percent — have hired new managers.

– Since the end of the World Cup, 27 clubs have fired and hired their gaffers.  That’s 30 percent of teams, including five in the Premier League.

– Forty-three managers have been on the job less than a calendar year.  That’s means almost 50 percent of English teams have changed their bosses since last January.

– More than 70 percent of managers have been at their jobs for less than two years.  How many of them will be in the same job come May?

McCarthy can't understand how he's kept his job so long

– Only 10 managers have been in place since the World Cup in Germany.  They include Premier League managers Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes, Tony Pulis and surprisingly, Mick McCarthy.  Interesting note: that list would have included the much-maligned Rafa Benitez, before his departure from Liverpool.

I can’t understand why clubs will fire a manager they consider sub-standard, only to bring another with a record of mediocre results.  Example: the sad revolving door at Preston North End.

Last week,  the Lancashire side appointed ex-Hull manager Phil Brown to replace Darren Ferguson.  Ferguson — the scion of Sir Alex — started his managerial career while still a player at Peterborough United.  Joining Posh in January 2007, Ferguson helped the League Two club to a top-ten finish.  The next two seasons saw two straight promotions, and Peterborough were in the Championship.  But Ferguson would only see four months of that league; by November 2009, he was gone.

Six weeks later, he was at the helm of Preston.  Less than one year later, he was gone again.  The firing drew headlines because after his departure, Darren’s famous father withdrew three Manchester United players who were at Preston on loan.  Not to worry, Darren’s back on the touchline… at Peterborough United again! The team that thought he wasn’t good enough to manage have hired him back!!!

Bizarre methods got Brown the ax at Hull City

Meanwhile, his replacement has own history of highs and lows. Phil Brown famously pulled Hull City from the Championship’s relegation zone in 2007, and got them promoted into the Premier League the following season.  It was the first time in the club’s 100+ year history that they’d reached the top flight.  Not only did they go up, they stayed up… for a year.  But Brown’s bizarre coaching methods and questionable purchases did him in.  Hull dropped leagues… and dropped Brown in the process.  Yet Preston must have thought, if he can get Hull promoted, he can save us as well.

It must be frustrating days for the Lilywhites.  The first-ever English champions and double winners have made the Championship play-offs three times in the past six seasons, yet in the second tier they remain.  They sit at the foot of the table while they watch local rivals Blackpool make a respectable go of it in the Prem.

But Preston is just one example of the “now, now, now” mentality of clubs. Owners want results, not willing to let a manager’s methods settle in — or bring in new players to work with.  It’s either win now… or else it’s the Dear John letter.

Without sounding like an afterschool special, football clubs have become like horny college students: always on the hunt for the next big score, instead trying to weather bad times and build a relationship that could pay off in the end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a beautiful woman who just walked into the pub.  I wonder if that’s her boyfriend…

Brent Lanthier

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Love for Sale: Hull City

This is the final installment of our look at the three relegated Premier League teams.  While Burnley was prudent with its books this year, the other two — Hull City and Portsmouth — are in deep financial trouble. Now the League is set to ratify a rule that would force teams to pay for players 12 months after the transfer window opens.  That could bring more administration for those clubs who gamble their fortunes away.

Hull City

Many punters think Hull’s relegation came a year too late.  Phil Brown managed to save his team from the drop in 2009, after Newcastle and Middlesbrough both broke Northeastern hearts by losing on the last day of the season. Now some Hull players are openly blaming their plight on the departed manager’s infamous on-field, half-time rant.

But with a wage bill that was eighth in the league this season, this team was expected to do better.  There are rumours of administration.  And the Telegraph has reported the Tigers will slash 22 million pounds from their 38 million-pound payroll.  The following players might be on the block, come the window.

Stephen Hunt: Even if Hull weren’t relegated, this Irish international would likely have ended up in another club.  There were rumours Hull rejected bids for Hunt in January.  Although this is his second relegation — he did the drop with Reading two years ago — it’s definitely not his fault (unless you count getting injured, resulting in Hull losing their best player by far).  He runs, he led the team in scoring and he is a haaard man… just ask Petr Cech.

Andy Dawson: A left-back who helped the Tigers through three promotions, Dawson was a model of consistency on a team that was consistently bad.  Although manager Iain Dowie doesn’t believe the player will bring in big cash for Hull, Dawson did a good job of marking wingers this season. He is also good at freekicks and is a bit of a pain in the ass, leading the team in yellow cards.

Jimmy Bullard: The painter-turned-footballer, Jimmy Bullard could be the hardest working man in England… when he plays. Bullard infamously damaged his knee after signing with Fulham, forcing him to the sidelines for 18 months.  Then after signing with Hull in January 2009, he tore his ACL 37 minutes into his first game.  Some point to his transfer fee of 5 million pounds as an example of Hull’s bad business. But Bullard is industrious and he’s capped for England so surely he can still find a home in the Prem.

Geovanni: This winger is a legend at his old club, Benfica.  Geovanni should have been the pride of Blue Manchester as well, scoring a goal that knocked United out of the Champions League in 2006, and then scoring on his debut for City. But he fell out of favour with Mark Hughes and ended up in Hull, earning 25-thousand-quid-a week in the process. The rumours are that he is sick of England and could end up at Olympiakos.  But one thing’s for sure: he’s gone, baby, gone.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink: A jersey maker’s nightmare, the veteran striker was signed last summer after he was released by Celtic.  The Dutchman’s best days may be behind him, but the 6′ 3″ forward could serve as a Peter Crouch-type second target.  Vennegoor has been linked with Wolverhampton since January and not just because he really, really likes the colour orange.

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