'Relegation is such a negative word isn’t it? All those connotations implying failure, disappointment and the associated stigma that comes with it. So we’re not going to talk about ‘being relegated’, we’re going to refer to ‘invoking Prexit’. ‘Prexit’ is a voluntary state where a club can decide to step out of the Premier League for a period of time and can be defined as ‘a conscious decision by a small majority that, with the benefit of hindsight, may or may not be viewed as a good idea'.
And, as with it’s EEC counterpart, Sunderland were the first to cast their votes overwhelmingly in favour of Prexit, surprising the rest of the country at the speed of which we decided to opt out. ‘Yeah – go Sunderland’. And we probably will.
I like to think of it as a gap year, a time to visit new places, experience new and exotic things and have some fun for a change. Last time we tried it, in 2007 with Keane and Quinn, it was absolutely brilliant, and, if it’s half as much fun this time then I can’t wait.
But who’ll be joining us? Well, the chasing pack aren’t really taking it seriously by changing managers in an effort to affect proceedings. Already Leicester have fallen by the wayside and seem to be stranded in mid table, but after the ‘new manager bump’ – something I’m glad to say we’ve managed to avoid this year, both Swansea and Hull seem to be rejoining the race.
And don’t let me say ‘I told you so’, but did we not say Karanka was toast last week? Within 24 hours there he was, back in Spain smeared in marmalade - allegedly - and was replaced by Steve Agnew.
Agnew has a clear view of exactly what’s needed, and what he has to deliver, or in his own words:
I have a clear view of exactly what’s needed and that’s what I aim to deliver.
He doesn’t exactly say what that is, but it does involve hiring Joe Jordan, who together with Harry Redknapp and Kevin Bond formed an unholy trinity that cut a swathe through footballing principles at a spate of clubs in the south of England over the past few years. A welcome edition.
It also involves reinstating to the first team Stewart Downing – who Agnew referred to as ‘Stewy’ throughout the interview, and which immediately tipped me off my place on the fence and firmly into the ‘what a bunch of plonkers’ camp.
But it probably starts with winning their next two fixtures – away to Swansea, followed by away to Hull, and I can’t see it happening. Swansea can score goals - so Boro are knackered there, and I really rate Marco Silva at Hull. Not only did he start by dropping Elmo, which was immediately endearing, but he looks like the real deal, more than a match for whatever Boro and ‘Stewy’ throw at them.
So, we have to be careful, or we may not be at the head of the pack when Prexit comes around in a couple of months time.
Elsewhere, West Ham – not a team I pay much attention to, truth be told. I don’t like their attitude, their part of London, their supporters or their style of play, so not a lot to go on really. However, I don’t dislike Slaven Bilic. I think he’s a decent bloke trying to do a good job, and what struck me watching their game at the weekend was that he looks like a dead man walking. Not because of results, but because of his image.
Every institution - be it a football club, a company, a school, whatever - is defined by the people or person at the top. They set the culture which disseminates down through the structure until it reflects their values, their ideas and their personality.
And you can see it happening at West Ham. They have their new ground, designed not with the football spectator in mind - it offers the same ‘up close and personal’ viewing experience as the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on closing night - but to appeal to a global audience, to enhance the ‘West Ham brand’, and to improve their marketing effort.
Unfortunately the sight of Bilic hunched on the touchline looking like a victim of the benefits system was an anathema just didn’t fit in with the image being portrayed, and I fully expect to see a clean cut sharp Italian suit draped around his replacement come the start of next season.
And the bubbles? What’s all that about? It looks like a kids birthday party. Every week it’s the same – two sets of coaching staff greeting each other, shaking hands, and getting a mouthful of detergent. Classy.
I can’t stand West Ham.
All season it’s been interesting hearing the rubbish that the top managers come out with in interviews. Klopp and Conte maybe not so much, and Pochettino still can’t speak English, but Guardiola and Mourinho - I really do question what planet they’re on sometimes.
This week Mourinho was explaining his new found maturity as a manager and how he was able to transmit his serenity to the Manchester United players - ‘Zen and the Art of Manchester Maintenance’.
I’ve matured, I’m more at peace. A win no longer represents the moon to me, and a defeat no longer means hell. And I think I can transmit that serenity to the people who work with me, my players. I have the same ambitions as before, the same involvement and the same professionalism. But I am more in control of my emotions.
Said the man who was banished to the stands about a month ago for kicking the fourth official up the touchline, and who retaliated by giving one word monosyllabic answers to every interview for the following two weeks, who continually rants about refereeing decisions and fixture congestion to anyone who’ll listen.
But Pep, Pep is still out there somewhere, yet to land. His team crashed out of the Champions League knock-out stages last week – the first time he’s exited the competition at this stage. They then hosted Liverpool at home and could only draw, which meant Chelsea pulled further away at the top of the table. Pep was suitably eclectic.....
Today is one of the happiest days of my life as a manager. I am so proud of my players.
I have a theory that the real Pep is buried somewhere within the body that we see, squirreled away working on his master plan and that a prototype communications app – ‘Pep Talk 1.0’ is employed to handle all of the external communications. It’s improving but it still comes out with phrases like this:
John Stones has more personality than anyone in this room – more balls than everyone here. I am delighted to have him. With all his huge amount of mistakes, I love him. He is under pressure. The people criticise him. They said he wouldn’t play again. It is not easy to play central defence for this manager but I admire my central defenders.
No doubt the process of choosing totally random phrases and throwing them together into meaningless sentences will be addressed in ‘Pep Talk 1.1’ but in the meantime it’ll just have to continue to make Google Translate sound like Shakespeare.
And the one positive to come out of the City – Liverpool game this week, apart from it being a cracking match with more misses that a girls school graduation, was that I worked out that ‘Adam Lallana’ is an anagram for ‘Am La La Land’.
OK. Please yourself.