Managerial skills

Troubled times... Queens Park Rangers’ manager Chris Ramsey (right) gestures to his players during an EPL game againt Chelsea.-AP Troubled times... Queens Park Rangers’ manager Chris Ramsey (right) gestures to his players during an EPL game againt Chelsea.

While Chris Ramsey, who has been given the job as Queens Parks Rangers’ manager till the end of the season, looked pitifully out of his depth, Tim Sherwood, acquired by an equally sinking Aston Villa, has suddenly revived the club with a series of rare and impressive victories, writes Brian Glanville.

Penny wise pound foolish is, hardly, the old saying you might feel to be appropriate to Tony Fernandes, the millionaire owner of Queens Park Rangers and a Malaysian air tycoon. Spend, spend, spend would have seemed a more appropriate coinage.

But, when it came to his club, appointing a new manager to replace the veteran Harry Redknapp, who resigned pleading painful knees, Fernandes balked at the demands of Tim Sherwood.

The former Blackburn and England wing-half, who’d managed Spurs for a short and reasonably successful spell late last season, demanded a bonus if he could keep the struggling QPR in the Premiership. Fernandes decided that the price was too high.

And what has happened since? The job was given, till the end of the season, to the assistant coach, Chris Ramsey, who happens to be black, since when, bar a pitifully rare away victory at Sunderland where everybody wins, QPR have been in free fall. Not only does the so-called Championship, alias the Second Division, await them if they do go down, which looks so probable, but current financial rules will cost them GBP150 million for overspending. And while Ramsey has looked pitifully out of his depth, Sherwood, acquired by an equally sinking Aston Villa, has suddenly revived the club with a series of rare and impressive victories.

As for Ramsey, he recently reached an absolute nadir when he took QPR to the London derby at Crystal Palace. What possessed him, you could not help but wonder, to drag the once bright England winger Shaun Wright-Phillips out of limbo, when he hadn’t started a first team game for over a year? And how could he have decided to expose a hapless 19-year-old right-back in Darnell Furlong to the pace and dynamism of the Congolese Palace left-winger Yannick Bolasie, who admitted afterwards he had made a point of exploiting the youngster’s inexperience. A 3-0 loss was QPR’s disaster. And Bobby Zamora never got off the bench!

There were rumours that Fernandes had pressed Ramsey to pick younger players; but how does that square with the choice of Wright-Phillips? Sherwood, meanwhile, has privately said that when he took over at Villa Park, where the previous manager Paul Lambert had complained of lack of transfer money, the players were frozen with fear.

This was hardly an ideal moment for Les Ferdinand, now the QPR Director of Football and a former star centre-forward, to lament in a television documentary that prejudice, however concealed, is behind the paucity of black coaches in the England game. Numerically he is absolutely right. With Paul Ince, once an England player and a star at Inter and Manchester United, now an unemployed manager, and Chris Powell at Huddersfield Town, now the sole black coach in the English League, statistics may seem to speak for themselves but then, as we know, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. For my part, I’d been perfectly happy if every manager in the Premiership were black, but I’m not sure prejudice is keeping them out.

But Ramsey is small beer beside the imperious likes of Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, who, in recent weeks, have hardly justified their mighty reputations at Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Indeed, until United suddenly came to life to thrash an insipid Spurs team 3-0 at Old Trafford, van Gaal was signally failing to justify his great reputation; his boast that he would also come out on top. As indeed he had at Bayern Munich where he had made a dismal start in the Bundesliga, only to revive the team and take the title. He had had similar successes at Barcelona and Ajax in his native Holland.

But at Old Trafford, the colossal transfer spending of some GBP150 million had been a question of the mountain parturating a muse; or unsuccessful mice. As shown by the salient alarming case of the famed Chilean striker Falcao, on loan from Monaco at a colossal salary, yet not even brought off the bench when the team was knocked out of the FA Cup by an Arsenal team which hadn’t won at Old Trafford for years. Then used next day in the under 21s!

That same day, the GBP50 million Argentine star winger Angel di Maria disgraced himself by pushing the referee and getting sent off. This, from the player who, in an early season game for his country in Germany, had routed the hosts with an irresistible display. Time and again, van Gaal had shuffled his tactics, till he decided to give a regular place in attacking midfield to the towering Belgian Marouane Fellaini, who’d found it hard to hold a place when, as a desperate last minute acquisition the previous season by the unsuccessful new manager David Moyes, he was bought from Moyes’ former club Everton.

But choosing Fellaini inevitably meant frequent use of the long ball to exploit his height and power in the air, anathema to previous United coaches and their perfectionist fans. But it worked well against Spurs, as did the return of the 33-year-old Michael Carrick with his passing skills in midfield. Thus United found themselves contesting the coveted fourth place in the Premiership which would qualify them for the next European Champions Cup. And now van Gaal has said that he is old and United will be his last club, he won’t go out with a bang.

The ever-loquacious and controversial Mourinho certainly won’t be going out, not least with his Chelsea team poised to win yet another Premiership title. But besides emphasising the deficiencies of that league — with every team eliminated from both European competitions before even the quarterfinals — Chelsea’s catastrophic home results against little Braford City (2-4 after being 2-0 up) in the FA Cup and against a PSG team down to 10 players for the bulk of a game which went into 30 minutes’ extra-time, Mourinho can, at this point, hardly allude to himself, as he once did, as The Special One.

What has gone wrong with his hugely expensive team, with their array of famed internationals, from ’keeper Thibaut Courtois to the scintillating Eden Hazard? Certainly they made few friends outside Stamford Bridge with the ugly siege of the carefree in a successful attempt to get PSG’s star turn Ibrahimovic sent off. Mourinho was infuriated by the criticisms of the former Scotland and Liverpool star and later club manager Graeme Souness who declared, “Getting the opposition in trouble and booked by their excessive reaction to fouls became their priority. I was angered and saddened by that approach.”

But over and above that, these were two shocking, humiliating Chelsea results. Mourinho deserves much criticism.