Stoke left with a difficult decision


Monday morning quarterback: Stoke raise the alarm but they have got no firefighters on duty

Stoke left with a difficult decision

Monday morning quarterback: Stoke raise the alarm but they have got no firefighters on duty

When the main reason for not sacking a manager is because you can’t think of an adequate replacement, it doesn’t look good on either party. Two defeats before his eventual departure, Mark Hughes asked “Who else is going to do it?” in a post-match press conference, and he had a point. All of the usual suspects were either employed (Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew, Roy Hodgson) or had previously managed the club (Tony Pulis).

It’s very easy to opine that Stoke should show a little more imagination and think outside of the tried and trusted British manager box, but they are in the relegation zone with four months of the season remaining. Swansea appointed Bob Bradley and that was a disaster. Crystal Palace appointed Frank de Boer and the same applied. Recruiting someone from leftfield without experience of managing in the Premier League is a gamble. Is this really the time for gambles?

Unfortunately, Hughes’ extreme underperformance left Stoke with no choice. During a season when Premier League clubs have fallen over themselves to appoint firefighters, there are none left. Whatever direction Stoke move in now requires a leap of faith.

Coutinho sale does not have to represent setback

One way of falling back down to earth with a bump after winning an FA Cup Merseyside derby is to lose one of your key players to a European superclub. Liverpool supporters were glum on Saturday when the worst-kept secret in football finally became public knowledge. Philippe Coutinho is a Barcelona player.

Firstly, the idea that Liverpool had any choice in the matter is nonsensical. Football has three or four apex predator clubs, Barcelona being one. When a player - particularly one of South American heritage - decides that he wishes to join Barcelona, and they also want him, the only question is when the deal is done not if. Player power still rules, and Coutinho made it perfectly clear to Liverpool that he no longer wished to play for them.

At that point, the strategy becomes one of transfer fee maximisation, and Liverpool managed to recoup the second highest fee in the history of the game for a player who would not get into a World XI. Let us not forget that Coutinho had moved position this summer in order to be accommodated in the team.

Selling a key player at his maximum value is not an admission of weakness but an acceptance of reality. The success or failure of the deal for Liverpool comes not in its completion, but how they reinvest the proceeds. Do so logically, and they can be stronger.

Pellegrino hardly cheered by cup progress

There is a chance that Mauricio Pellegrino may have been sacked had Southampton lost to Championship Fulham on Saturday, but the Argentinean will hardly have slept soundly after a 1-0 victory. Southampton supporters chanted sarcastically when they took the lead and told Pellegrino that he didn’t know what he was doing when making his second substitution. The mood is mutinous.

After years of selling yet still succeeding, Southampton are struggling to convince supporters that Pellegrino deserves any more patience after a wretched run of league form. The inevitable fallout of changing managers regularly is that loyalty is diminished. Why does Pellegrino deserve patience when Claude Puel didn’t get it?

The question is particularly pertinent given the situation Southampton are in, at the start of a transfer window and with £75m to spend after selling Virgil van Dijk. Reported interest in Monaco’s Guido Carrillo - who played under Pellegrino at Estudiantes - would suggest that the manager is playing a key part in transfer negotiations.

If that is indeed the case, Southampton cannot really afford to sack Pellegrino before the end of the season. The notion of a manager giving long-term contracts to players he believes fit his system when he is the favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked is a difficult one to balance.

Nolan reaping rewards of taking the plunge

It may be a little presumptive to sell Kevin Nolan as ‘coming to a Premier League club near you soon’, but the former Bolton, Newcastle and West Ham player - and Sam Allardyce disciple - is certainly on an upward curve. Notts County had already beaten League One Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup first round, and knocked out Championship Brentford on Saturday.

Nolan has an infectious personality that has transformed Notts County.

At 35 he is very much one of the lads, but the players speak of a manager who is capable of being both good cop and bad. Notts are second in League Two, aiming for promotion to the third tier having finished 17th and 16th in their last two seasons.

Nolan clearly has ambitions of managing higher up the league ladder, but why shouldn’t he?

At a time when high-profile ex-players seem reluctant to drop down the divisions for fear of failure, Nolan shunned punditry and coaching roles in order to learn his trade in tough circumstances at Meadow Lane and Leyton Orient. He deserves all the praise coming his way.

Don’t look back into the sun

West Ham goalkeeper Joe Hart requested to borrow a cap from a visiting supporter to avoid the sun getting into his eyes and negatively affecting his performance.

Given his displays this season, it might be the last cap he gets for a while.

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