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ROKER RAMBLE: The weird new faces coming through the revolving door of football management

Out with the old, in with the new - the run-down the new kids on the touchline, controversial and otherwise, with the season almost upon us. It’s time for the Roker Ramble!

Chelsea FC v Perth Glory
Sarri - seems to be the hardest word?
Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images

Say what you like about Maurizio Sarri, but he’s not going to go unnoticed for long in the Premier League. There are managers who were successful professionals and managers who had long and illustrious playing careers. Sarri had neither. He worked in banking until he was made redundant at which point he decided to take up his hobby – football coaching.

And he’s been quite successful. Hailed as one of the most exciting coaches in Europe, friend of Pep Guardiola, renowned as a tactician and a great motivator of his players - many see it as a coup on behalf of Chelsea to have attracted him to the Bridge.

Chelsea FC Training Session
So what language is he speaking?
Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images

He’s also never actually won anything, doesn’t speak English, chain-smokes continually and has been accused of being both a homophobe and a sexist...

I am an extremely open person. I do not have these kind of problems.

He said, although presumably not in English.

He called Roberto Mancini a ‘faggot’ during an Italian cup game last season. It could’ve been worse - he could have mimicked Alan Pardew’s choice words against Manuel Pellegrini a couple of years ago - but regardless he was still given a two game ban and fined €20,000.

Sarri was also criticized for making an offensive comment towards a female journalist named Titti Improta after a game in March. But just imagine what David Moyes would have done in the same situation.

People make mistakes. One of these mistakes was made when I was angry.

Another was not even a mistake… it was misconstrued.

Whatever. I hardly think the Premier League is going to throw it’s hands up in horror at a spattering of Anglo-Saxon on the touchline, even if it is in Italian.

Now if he lights up a fag, mind you…

Already familiar with the more colourful language of English football, the Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo was told to f**k off by Neil Warnock following his promotion clinching match against Cardiff last season. Warnock went on to label Nuno “a disgrace” and accused him of having “a lack of class”. Presumably, the presence of class doesn’t preclude you from telling your opponent to f**k off on live TV, just so that we’re clear on that point.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship
And if he wins the title again this season, they can call him ‘Santo Clause’.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Unlike Sarri, Nuno did have a professional career – just. He was a goalkeeper, which is unusual for a manager. He was third choice keeper under Mourinho at Porto, and is famed for winning both the UEFA Cup and Champions League without actually playing a game.

He reckons he learnt everything he knows about football from sitting on the bench and observing. It hasn’t done him any harm as he was offered the Everton job last year, which he turned down to stay at Wolves. His other claim to fame was that he was super-agent Jorges Mendes first ever client, encouraged him into the football world, where he now represents Ronaldo amongst others and drip feeds promising Portuguese talent into the Wolves set-up.

The loss of the big coat that was Arsene Wenger can never be replaced, but trying to fill those hallowed sleeves is Unai Emery - another who can’t speak English, and will probably never understand why people have started calling him ‘Dick’ all of a sudden.

The thing I don’t understand is, if the manager doesn’t speak English, how does he get through the interview? How does he convince the board that he can manage the team when he can’t even understand being asked if he wants a drink?

Arsenal v Paris Saint Germain - International Champions Cup 2018
Do you feel motivated?
Photo by Paul Miller/Getty Images for ICC

Anyway, ‘Dick’ is another great motivator:

Emery has one great quality: he is an extraordinary motivator.

Said someone who was motivated by him once (I forget who). And he has won things – three consecutive Europa Leagues at Sevilla, but a Champions League exit when at PSG saw him become fortuitously available just as the great Wenger star in the sky was starting to fade.

The most telling quote I could find about him came from Jacob Steinberg in The Guardian:

Emery is not a genius like Guardiola, a forceful personality like Jürgen Klopp or a ruthless winner like José Mourinho.

However he did move Jack Wilshere out of north London and across to his spiritual home in the east, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can motivate the team on from the general decline which characterized the latter years of his predecessor.

They did manage to remove the life-size cardboard cut-out of Arsene Wenger from the tunnel at the Emirates before he arrived. They could probably use it as a stand for the coat now.

Reading v Fulham - Pre-Season Friendly
You looking at me?
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Slaviša Jokanović of Fulham is of course familiar to the Premier League faithful as one of the many former managers of Watford. He got them promoted to the Premier League on a one year contract and was then offered an improved salary of a £1 million per annum plus another million in performance payments. He turned them down flat, said he was worth £2.5 million in salary alone, and walked out.

Given that Fulham were 18th in the table, three points above relegation when he took over, he may have a point. He’s also done a fabulous job of retaining their best players, playing with a really attractive attacking style, and he looks like he could take the job of any other manager in the Premiership no problem.

Into the Championship and Frank Lampard is the one everyone will be watching. He’s already beaten Southampton and Wolves in pre-season, but you can’t help worrying about the Derby owners who’ve had plenty of previous failings with their managers. A great player, a good reader of the game and a proven communicator, I’d have bet on him being a success if it wasn’t for the memory of Gary Neville under similar circumstances.

Derby County v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Pre-Season Friendly
Some signs you get straight away, others you had to have been in the briefing.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Graham Potter also catches the eye, having been lauded across the media for what he achieved at lowly Östersund in Sweden.

Recognised for his “progressive” and “unconventional” coaching methods, he had his players and staff performing in theatre and music productions designed to take them out of their comfort zone. If he tries the same in Swansea, he may find himself out of more than his comfort zone. And will the US owners give him the time to make a difference?

He was at Östersund for eight years - I doubt very much he’ll have the same length of time to build a new reputation in South Wales.

Arsenal v Ostersunds FK - UEFA Europa League
May need help from his name-sake Harry.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa has just become the highest paid manager in Leeds history, and is unlikely to be forgotten as quickly as some of the previous incumbents.

He has press conferences that can go on for three or four hours, he paces out opponents pitches before deciding on tactics for the game, has his strikers and defenders train separately and believes that there are no less than twenty-nine distinct formations in which a team can play. In other words he’s an obsessive, stubborn, individualist, and so should suit Leeds down to the ground.

Atalanta BC v LOSC Lille - Pre-Season Friendly
This is what an Argentinian Yorkshire man looks like.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The great thing about back-to-back relegations is that we now have points of reference throughout the football leagues. Not that that was necessary to follow the fortunes of Joey Barton at Fleetwood Town, nor Steven Gerrard at Rangers, but there is one more manager to keep a keen eye on this season.

Childrens’ author, ex Scottish PFA Chairman and last season’s Scottish Manager of the Year, Jack Ross. I for one am backing him to do very well.