Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Transfer Deadline Day was pretty explosive and the fall out continues to spread with the quick fire departure of two Premier League managers. Both Kevin Keegan and Alan Curbishley have departed their posts under similar circumstances, the pair of them citing interference over transfer policy as the reason for their dash to the dole queue.

What I find interesting and to be honest, completely baffling, is the differing reactions of the Newcastle and West Ham supporters to these two exits ; the dismay on Tyneside being in sharp contrast to the apathy in the East End.

For reasons I cannot fathom, in that bizarre pocket of the north-east known as Newcastle, Keegan is revered as some kind of Deity, adored with a fervour that is a few degrees the wrong side of disturbing. Why ? Here is a manager that has a self confessed ineptitude when it comes to tactical decisons at the highest level and who relies on his chest thumping battle crys to carry his teams to victory. People may say that its great he shows such passion and that it is an important component of a good coach and they would be correct - except that in the case of Keegan, his words are somewhat hollow as he has the backbone of a jellyfish. The guy has proven time and time again that ultimately he doesn't have the stomach for a fight and that if things aren't going his way or he doesn't get exactly what he wants then he will be off faster than Usain Bolt. Why should a player be inspired by a speech about fighting for the honour of the shirt when they know the man behind the words is going to scarper at the first sign of trouble ?

When he was Newcastle manager the first time around, he was given very strong financial backing, lavishly splashing the cash on the likes of Asprilla, Ferdinand and a then world record fee on Shearer ; it is said that he was denied funds for the first time when he proposed an 8million transfer bid for Guiseppe Signori as a back up striker. Soon after he walked. Fair enough his reign was exciting....but he won nothing. The hero worship never abated though and 11 years on he was re-appointed. Reportedly, a naive Keegan proposed a list of transfer targets including Ronaldinho, Lampard & Henry. With "King Kev" having displayed that he was out of touch with reality, it would appear Ashley panicked and appointed Wise to pursue younger, more viable players. Now, I can understand that Keegan would be unsettled by such a move, but why did he not say anything about it at the time ? It seems odd that this all becomes an insurmountable problem some 8 months later - which is why I believe that Keegan is using Wise as a scapegoat, a smokescreen for the real reason behind his departure. After leaving Man City, Keegan had been out of football for 2 1/2 years and I don't think he realised how things had changed when he agreed his dramatic return to Tyneside. He went 2 months without a win and I think he lost his bottle before he had really gotten started, his rant in May about how Newcastle could never catch the Big 4 his first attempt to engineer an escape. I think it dawned on him that the Premier League was a vastly different animal to that which he had known during his first stint with the club and that his brand of "come on, get behind us" style coaching would only get Newcastle so far. Fast foward a couple of months and we get the sale of James Milner - a good piece of business for Newcastle as they got 12.5 million for a consistent yet unremarkable performer whom they almost sold for a third of that a couple of years ago. Villa paid an inflated sum and Newcastle rightly bit their hands off. Despite claiming that the transfer had his consent, a few days on Keegan has walked and really, when you look at it, he has left his beloved Geordies in the mire as whichever poor sod takes over the poisoned chalice won't be able to do anything in the transfer market for four months. The "second coming" was a damp squib, producing a limp 6 wins from 21, precisely nothing was achieved and yet the geordies are all weeping into their replica shirts, the love for their footballing monarch undiminished, despite the fact that he has left them in the lurch once more, their club in disarray. I can't help but think that some people get what they deserve.

On the other hand you have Alan Curbishley. The man comes in and saves West Ham from relegation, a last day victory at Old Trafford of all places keeping them up and also making them the first team to complete doubles over both Man Utd and Arsenal in the same season. He follows this up with a firm mid table finish, a solid 10th. Progress seems to be being made. Like Keegan, Curbishley was once a player for the club. He is a genuine East-End boy with a love for the Hammers.... yet it seems for some reason the majority of the supporters never got behind him, even relishing in singing "you'll be sacked in the morning" on more than one occasion. Sure, you can question some of his transfers, such as pricey sicknotes Ljungberg & Faubert as well as the bizarre move to re-unite Newcastle bad boys Kieron Dyer & Lee Bowyer (on a side note, when the shocking revelation during transfer deadline day that someone had made a bid for Joey Barton came through, I narrowed the list of suspects to Curbs and Ince ; turned out the "Guv'nor" was the guilty party, I reckon he "see's a bit of himself in Joey" - a scenario that Barton is likely to be familiar with after his stay in the clink). The slightly dodgy transfer dealings aside, I think Curbishley was doing a sound job and their 6 points from the opening 3 games is one of their best starts in years. Oddly though, the fans never seemd to rally around behind the boss who describes himself as "a lifelong fan" of the Hammers, his departure being met with complete indifference yet at St.James Park there is protests and talk of boycotts, I don't get it !

It's Internationals week and if Alan Curbishley never had the complete backing of the fans then Fabio Capello is right alongside him in that particular boat. The Italian has already been criticised from all corners and once again I must profess to being somewhat mystified. Granted, the performances so far from Capello's England have been laclustre, but when will people understand that these are friendlies, meaningless games that are for the manager rather than the fans. They are fixtures that allow a coach to experiment, to try new things and to find out about his players, so that he doesn't make mistakes when it really matters, ie the World Cup Qualifiers. Now, if we labour to victory over Andorra and then fail to get anything in Zagreb then he is wide open to criticism and rightly so, but I really believe that no-one should be judging him yet.

A lot has been said about the squad selection, but one thing I'm ecstatic about is the fact that Peter Crouch was not selected. It appears that Capello doen't rate him and for that he should be applauded. People will doubtless dissagree and point to Crouch's international goal record, but by and large, he scores against the minnows. His one goal at the World Cup came against the mighty Trinidad & Tobago and to score that, the nefarious Crouch tugged on the dreadlocks of that internationally renowned defender Brent Sancho (at the time struggling to get a game for Gillingham in League 1) in order to rise above him and nod it in. Now, imagine say Hernan Crespo had yoinked David Seamans pony tail before heading home at the World Cup in 2002, we would be rightly outraged and Crespo would be as vilified as compatriot Maradona, so why anyone has any respect for Crouch I will never know. Don't get me wrong, im no big fan of Emile Heskey either and after his shenanigans against France at Euro 2004 I never wanted to see him wearing the 3 Lions again, but I see the logic of having a different style of striker within a squad so its pick your poison. Heskey is more of your fast acting cyanide, whereas the loathsome Crouch is like downing bleach and letting it slowly corrode your stomach resulting in a painful, lingering demise.

One thing I would say about Fabio though, is that I thought he was supposed to be this stern iron man, a real general, the complete opposite to brolly wally McClaren. However, every time I see him, he wears this gormless leer across his chops, looking like some grinning Dennis the Menace, his rubbery face gurning like a cross between Albert Steptoe and a Spitting Image puppet. I hope that starting tomorrow, he gets more ruthless and drives England towards the success that I believe we have the potential to achieve.

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