WATCHING his team slump to three demoralising defeats, new Brighton boss Oscar Garcia has looked utterly bewildered.
Mind you, he looks like that all the time so we can’t read too much into his expression.
With his neat goatee and permanently concerned face, the Spaniard looks more like a shipwrecked conquistador than a football manager – and one or two Seagulls fans would be more than happy to pack him off to the new world.
Naturally, doubts are being expressed.
When an unknown and unheralded manager replaces a terrace hero, he needs a good start.
Oscar’s has been atrocious, with 2-1 defeats to Leeds and Derby compounded by an embarrassing 3-1 reverse at home to League Two minnows Newport.
There are those who say the Championship is no place for a man schooled by Barcelona.
Who has never experienced the howitzer down the channel, never seen every goal kick sail straight to the big man up top.
Early results suggest they may be right.
But I don’t think so.
It’s easy to fall back on lazy stereotypes about the speed and physicality of the Championship.
To view it as a place where tiki-taka will get bish-bash-boshed.
And it’s absolutely true that if you just want to get into the Premier League, a solid defence, a big squad and a couple of decent strikers will do the job.
But if you want to stay there, you need style too.
In 2011, Swansea trailed in third behind QPR and Norwich, eventually winning promotion through the play-offs.
Yet while the latter two have battled relegation, the Swans have clocked a top-half finish, the Carling Cup and a place in Europe.
That is no fluke.
They spent years perfecting a style of play that prized possession over all else.
They passed and pressed, even on wet Wednesday nights at Oakwell.
It was a style they knew would translate to the Premier League with no requirement for a costly squad overhaulUnder Poyet, Brighton have done the same.
And, just as Brendan Rodgers finessed the work of Roberto Martinez and Paulo Souza, so Brighton hope Oscar can ice the Uruguayan’s cake.
It hasn’t worked yet, but it’s worth remembering that Rodgers lost three of his first five at Swansea and didn’t get going until after Christmas.
Tinkering takes time.
Oscar is having a nightmare.
But he deserves time to get things right as yesterday’s 1-0 win at Birmingham suggested.
Because if he does get Brighton promoted playing the way he wants, the Seagulls will be fully equipped to take the top flight by storm.
SHERIDAN GIVES STICK TO HIMSELF
PLYMOUTH manager John Sheridan is playing a dangerous game.
After a 1-0 defeat to Southend on the opening day, the 48-year-old lambasted his players, calling their performance the worst he’d seen in his eight months at Home Park.
Maybe the Pilgrims boss was applying a bit of stick. Maybe he was simply being honest.
But given that he signed most of them himself after a summer clearout, it amounts to a damning indictment of his transfer policy.
Had his players responded, you’d say fair play.
But two further defeats suggest all he’s done is aggravate the players and criticise himself.
It could be a long, hard season in Devon.
GET SHARPER, WEDNESDAY
SOME signings are exciting.
Some are pragmatic.Every now and then, however, a player will arrive who is absolutely vital.
Think Cantona to Man United.Or the way Carlos Tevez single-handedly kept West Ham in the Premier League.
So it would be if Sheffield Wednesday could get their hands on No.1 target Billy Sharp.
Watching the Owls this season, it is obvious that the problems of last year have not been solved.
Wednesday remain talented but toothless. They have speed on the break, ability on the ball.
They won’t get rolled over.
But when Michail Antonio or Jermaine Johnson look for a pass, there is nobody running in behind, nobody attacking the post.
That is Sharp’s game.The little striker is a simple player, a poacher who knows where the goal is.
He won’t spark one from 30 yards and he won’t tie six men in knots, but he will score 20 Championship goals a season.
Of course, Southampton must be persuaded to loan him out and Sharp, a lifelong Sheffield United fan, will take some persuading to wear enemy colours.
He’ll also need to drop a reported wage demand of £20,000.
But if he does pitch up at Hillsborough, it may be the difference between Wednesday staying up and going down.
THE SKY BLUES SHOULD BE OUT OF GAME
ACCORDING to Greg Clarke, allowing Coventry City to blunder on in Northampton was the “least worst option”.
“Am I happy the people of Coventry have to go 34 miles to see their game?” said the Football League chairman this week.
“Of course I’m not.
“But I would have been more unhappy if we had said we’re not going to transfer the share and Coventry City would cease to exist.
That would have been worse, and that’s what we always try to avoid.”
And that is the problem. Instead of helping healthy clubs to thrive, efforts are focussed on keeping sick ones alive.
What the League should have done was tell Coventry and their shambles of a board to do one.
So what if League One had 23 clubs for a year? At least it would send out a message that running up debt and abusing supporters isn’t a viable business plan.
Then, at the end of the season, promote an extra club from the Conference – a division where strong, well-run clubs are scandalously prevented from progressing by the persistent refusal to allow three-up, three-down.
What you’d have is an upwardly mobile asset. What they’ve got is a badly-run embarrassment.
To me, that sounds like the most worst option.