Long Term Manager or Long Term Philosophy?
So a new era dawns at Stamford Bridge, after a tumultuous week in which we finally said goodbye...
So a new era dawns at Stamford Bridge, after a tumultuous week in which we finally said goodbye to Jose. People tend to be rooted in different camps, in terms of whether you believe this was a decision that had to be made, or whether you feel it was made too hastily. Whatever the case, I think it’s time to move on from that particular issue, which in the end, is often divisive. What draws us all together? A love of Chelsea football club and our allegiance to Chelsea, nothing else. Maybe this sounds brutal to some, but managers have come and gone (sometimes too frequently) and will come and go, but Chelsea, as long as this planet still turns, will hopefully continue.
I read a comment recently – I think it was in a Tweet, during the immediate aftermath of Jose’s departure – that made the point that what is needed is not necessarily a long term appointment for a particular manager, but rather that a long term philosophy to be in place is more crucial. It is not a new idea for any of us, that such a philosophy is imperative and should include a commitment to developing young players – I have contributed to this discussion on this blog (‘Actions and Words: Will They Ever Meet?’). What we haven’t seen to date though, is anything like the level of commitment to developing such players (and forgive me, I personally find it difficult to include the likes of Kurt Zouma or Kenedy, as they feel to me more like purchases, rather than players wholly developed through the Academy).
Where do the club stand on this issue? I don’t want to repeat my earlier article, but I do think that we need to consider this when we sift through the possible managers that may be handed the managerial reigns after Guus’s interim tenure finishes in May next year. I don’t know about you, but I see that we have tended, on the whole, to go down a particular route when appointing managers, with one notable exception. For the most part, we have followed the line that a big club needs a ‘big’ manager. Jose / Ancelotti / Scolari / and Hiddink, all fit that profile. The exception was AVB, who, it was probably hoped, would be the next bright young thing. That obviously proved to be an unmitigated disaster, mainly because he couldn’t man manage, despite all of his technical knowhow. Robbie Di Matteo was given the reigns, purely because you can’t sack a manager who oversaw the greatest night in Chelsea history, and, to be brutal once again, Guardiola didn’t want it. But who, or what, are we looking for now?
I am rather bored at the prospect of another ‘big name’ being given the role. I feel decidedly underwhelmed by the prospect of Guardiola , Simeone, or perish the thought, Pellegrini. Why can’t we look to appoint someone who has shown potential and results at a lower level, and who has a penchant for developing young players and inspiring them? Obvious examples currently are Pochettino and Eddie Howe. I can hear the screams of derision already heading in my direction, but these managers have demonstrated considerable talent and have achieved much with a commitment to youth, being able to coach, man-manage and inspire. Personally, I would find it much more exciting to make such an appointment, rather than pursuing the well-trodden ‘tried and tested’ route. Do we want instant success (the goal we have pursued to date), or do we want to pursue a route and philosophy that has longevity and a clear commitment to youth at its core, as well as (long term) success?
I may be being too generous here, but I think Roman wanted that when he appointed Jose for the second time. Trouble is, we appointed a (great) manager who is committed to success at all costs, with that philosophy overriding any kind of real commitment to youth. (Incidentally, had the scenario not been one of us playing like relegation certainties, I think Roman would have accepted a 6th or 7th placed finish, had we instead been putting some faith in youth and making progress towards a bright future). We just backed the wrong managerial horse, if we wanted to embed a long term philosophy.
These next few months with Guus in charge, I would love to see used as a time to take stock and think about the long term philosophy. We need results on the pitch now, yes, because we are floundering just above the relegation zone. But hopefully, if we can string a run together and achieve relative safety, could we not start to look at one or two younger players and integrate them into the first team?
If we have our philosophy clear, then our managerial appointment(s) would fit that philosophy. That is surely the correct order of things. The philosophy to date, for the most part, has been to pursue success at all costs and the managerial appointments, on the whole, have mirrored that. But such a philosophy needs commitment at every level – from Roman and everyone down from there. At the moment, our club has a serious disconnect between the Academy and the first team – that has to change in my view.
Could the next appointment be a watershed in modern Chelsea history? We’ll have to wait and see, but I hope so.