WHENEVER a foreign manager comes in, I’m always a bit disappointed. I always prefer to see chairmen give British talent a chance.
But in Middlesbrough’s case, I’ll make an exception. As I’ve said on this page before, I’ve got a lot of time for Boro chairman Steve Gibson.
In terms of loyalty and finance, nobody has been so reliable. Without him at the helm, I think the club would have been in a real mess over the years.
And over the last 20 years or so, I don’t think any chairman has done as much to support young British managers.
He gave Bryan Robson his break, then Steve McClaren and Gareth Southgate. Most recently he had Tony Mowbray, who supported Boro as a boy and became a club legend as a player.
Now, though, he’s gone in completely the opposite direction and appointed Aitor Karanka, a Spaniard whose only previous experience is as assistant to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.
Clearly, Steve’s decided enough is enough. He hasn’t had any success for a long time so he’s gone for someone who knows the Spanish scene, who has worked with top people and played for top teams.
And given Boro’s struggles in the Championship, what has Steve got to lose? People will say this Karanka doesn’t know the division. Well Mauricio Pochettino didn’t know much about the Premier League but it’s taken him less than a year to get his Southampton team straight into the top four. He’s taken to it like a duck to water.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work at Middlesbrough. Not because Karanka is Spanish but because being a manager is so much more difficult than being a No 2. Everybody who has ever made the step up will tell you that.
When you’re an assistant, you take training then get off home, see the kids, have a game of golf.
You don’t worry about anything because you know the manager will make all the big decisions.
If you’re the manager, you carry the can. You have to make brave decisions, take choices that you don’t want to. And you know you’ll be fired at some stage.
You take the job home with you, worry 24/7. It’s more rewarding but it’s less enjoyable.
So yeah, I’d have liked to see a Brit in charge. But you have to say, there aren’t an awful lot of names that roll off the tongue. If I was a chairman, I can’t think of many people on the market who I’d want in charge of my club right now.
So let’s give the guy a chance. I know Steve will.
NOTTS A GREAT START, SHAUN
WELCOME to management, Shaun Derry. In his first two games in charge at Notts County, his team have gone out of two cups and conceded eight goals!
If he wasn’t aware of how tough life is in the dugout, he does now. Mind you, I’m sure he’s glad those defeats came in the FA Cup and JPT.
All clubs in the lower leagues want to progress in the cups. Financially, it’s all money you didn’t budget for. Shaun will be disappointed with that.
But he’ll be far more concerned with league results. When you take over a club in County’s position, you just want to keep them up. Anything else is a distraction. Now the hard part really starts. But you can tell Shaun knows he needs to strengthen. He’s already signed a centre-half and it won’t be his last in the next few weeks.
LET’S HAVE VIDEO REFERRAL
YOU’VE got to sympathise with Jeremy Peace, the West Brom chairman, who’s written to the FA demanding the introduction of video replays after his side were robbed of a win at Stamford Bridge when ref Andre Mariner wrongly awarded Chelsea a last-minute penalty.
It was a diabolical decision by Andre. Yet this season he’s been the best ref in the country by a mile. It just shows that pressure situations affect the very best.
And decisions don’t even out over a season. The smaller teams always lose out against the big boys.
So let’s do it. Let’s have replays for big penalty decisions. They do it in rugby and tennis and it doesn’t take long. I think fans would welcome it.
It’s only right because a bad decision in a big game can cost clubs millions.
COD ARMY HAVE SPENT WELL
That’s why I’m very impressed with the progress of Graham Alexander, left, who has taken the Cod Army to the top of League Two.
For a first-time manager in his first full season, that’s a great achievement regardless of how much cash you’ve got.
Graham never played for me, but I remember looking at him about 15 years ago but decided against it because I thought his legs had gone.
Shows what I know – he kept proving me wrong every single year and if anything he just got fitter.
If management doesn’t work out, he should patent whatever it was that kept him playing until 40. Right now though, it doesn’t look like he’ll need a fall-back option.
I DIDN’T FANCY MICK’S JOB ON MONDAY
I SAW Micky Adams at Shortwood on Monday afternoon and I said to him: “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes tonight.”
Everybody was waiting for his Port Vale side to get beaten in their FA Cup tie, so credit to those lads for doing a professional job and winning 4-0.
And what a fantastic result for Mansfield, who beat St Albans 8-1. Yes, St Albans are a few divisions below. But scoring eight is commendable no matter who the opponent is.
I’m really pleased for Stags boss Paul Cox. Paul played for many years in Non-League and it’s where he learned his trade as a manager. I’m sure he’ll have got across to his lads just how switched on they had to be.
After a great start they’ve had a tricky run of late and hopefully this will be the catalyst for a return to form.
Sadly, we can’t say the same for Mark Cooper’s Swindon, who got a 4-0 hiding at Skrill Premier side Macclesfield. I watched Macc in the Conference earlier this season and they looked a useful outfit.
So although it was technically an upset, I don’t think anybody in football was particularly surprised.
When a club from the Conference beats a club from the League, it isn’t a shock anymore. They’re mostly full-time and the gap has closed to almost nothing.