Old-Timer Appointments Show A Glaring Lack Of Direction At Premier League Clubs

Clubs like Crystal Palace and Leeds need to make up their minds about what they want in a manager
16:00, 05 May 2023

When the French announced plans to raise the state pension age there were riots in the streets. They do things properly across The Channel.

Over here in conservative England, PM Rishi Sunak is considering doing the same. 

But the reaction has been merely to drag a grandad’s army of old codgers out of retirement and back into football management to pay for hearing aid batteries no longer available on the NHS.


The appointment of 68-year-old Sam Allardyce at Leeds United was a shock. 

And his immediate claim to be as good as four-time Premier League winner Pep Guardiola is a worrying sign that maybe age is catching up with him. 

Yet Big Sam is a relative baby compared to Roy Hodgson, 75, over at Crystal Palace.

Between them they share more than 61 years in the dugout, two Swedish league titles and the 1988 Third Division Championship. 

There is also a common reputation for playing highly-organised and defence-first football as a deliberate damage limitation policy.  

Hodgson not so much, but even he must have been staggered to see Palace score four and concede three against lowly West Ham United last week.

But both of these surprise comebacks tell us something that the paying football public have suspected for a long time.

Premier League clubs are now so in hock to their wage bills and to the pressure of staying up, even to just exist in the top flight is causing them to panic.

Allardyce could not be further from the legacy of still-cherished Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds, to the extent that Leeds fans built a shrine to the Argentine who preferred cavalier football to dope the crowd on adrenaline while the league position turned to s**t. 


It’s half the reason why things are as bad as they are and why Allardyce must try to build a brick wall in record time to keep Manchester City at bay for his first game in charge. 

Hodgson was asked to do the same when Palace chairman Steve Parish suddenly got the collywobbles and thought the tiki-taka style under Patrick Vieira didn’t belong in South London so he was sacked. 

It’s time clubs like Leeds and Crystal Palace realised that it has to be sink or swim when you opt for a certain manager or a particular way of playing the game.

Playing the way that Manchester City do is understandably the ideal but there is no right or wrong. It also costs a hell of a lot of money to fill your team with 11 players like £100 million Jack Grealish.

Or for that matter Mo Salah for what was a Liverpool club record at £45m six years ago. Last season he was scoring goals for fun, dancing past defences and enchanting the football world. 

If you haven’t got that sort of cash then unless you happen to stumble over a stray Saudi Arabian with £50 billion burning a hole in his pocket, or if a random nation state decides to buy you out then it just ain’t gonna happen. 

Leeds and Palace both laboured under the illusion that they could be Barcelona on the cheap. It just doesn’t work that way in the real world.

West Ham tried to adapt their style somewhat from last season’s gung-ho but ultimately relatively rudimentary approach to a more possession-based tactic this season and look where it has got them.

They will play Leeds in a couple of weeks in a relegation six-pointer. 

It’s no coincidence that the prettiest teams in the land to watch are also the richest ones and they can afford to buy in the players that will bring the X-Factor to the football pitch.

Allardyce was accused of playing ‘19th century football’ by Jose Mourinho of Chelsea when the two faced each other at a London derby back in 2014.

West Ham had screened off their goal and scraped a 0-0 draw. Mourinho is no exponent of the beautiful game yet even he could see the blunt instrument in front of him.

Mourinho claimed the tactics were not worthy of the Premier League but he was wrong. The English top division is the place where the best of everything should be on display.

Allardyce merely played to his strengths and was rewarded with a point. West Ham tried the same on Wednesday but got stuffed 3-0 by City.

There is an art to defending, there is a certain artistry in standing firm and playing direct football.

If you don’t think so just rewind and watch Neil Warnock, 74, receive a guard of honour for keeping Huddersfield in the Championship on Thursday. The epitome of in-yer-face football but genuinely respected by Guardiola for what he does. 

The owners of Crystal Palace, Leeds United and clubs who want to dip their toes into high-end football need to make up their minds about what they want and stop waking up old soldiers like Hodgson and Allardyce to dig them out of trouble again.

Leeds United are 11/8 to stay up with Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware 

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