By Sir Hardly Anyone
Let’s face it, with a crowd like that at Arsenal the next manager is going to have to be immediately successful, and either very popular with the crowd, or a person who does not care one jot what others think of him.
For the situation, we have now is similar to that in on this self-same day in 1974. The crowd had totally turned on the manager (Bertie Mee) and the captain (Alan Ball), and were jeering quite a few of the Arsenal players.
There were differences of course – the jeering happened in the ground because there was no social media as an alternative outlet, but the newspapers of the day were the same as now – utterly anti-Arsenal – and they stoked up the feeling.
But there was another difference too. Because on this day in 1974 the league table looked like this…
|19||Queens Park Rangers||14||3||5||6||13||17||0.765||11|
Yes we were heading for relegation and were below such footballing luminaries as Coventry City, Carlisle United, Leeds United, QPR, and I guess I can add twice champions Tottenham Hotspur. Only the mighty Luton Town kept us off the foot of the table. The crowds were down to 25,000 by that time, and would slip down to around 17,000 before the season’s end.
(Maybe when the Arsenal Supporters Trust talk about what a soulless stadium the current ground is, they should remember some of the days we spent at Highbury – although perhaps they are not old enough to have been there at that time.)
Anyway, it took until the summer of ’76 for Arsenal to persuade Mee to retire, and yes we then got a new manager, Terry Neill. The problem was that although he lasted until the end of 1983 (six and a half seasons) he only won us one trophy – the FA Cup. Changing the manager turned out not to be the way to bring the success the fans desired.
Which shows that kicking out one manager, which according to the newspaper men down at the Toppled Bollard public house in Wapping Swamp is the only solution, it doesn’t always work. It hasn’t worked thus far in replacing Wenger, and in fact if you go back through the history of Arsenal, most of the time it fails.
In fact the only time that replacing the manager worked in terms of getting trophies was in the 1930s and 1940s.
Chapman (2 league titles, one FA Cup) was replaced by the temporary manager Joe Shaw (winning the league in his only season as manager), who was replaced by George Allison (2 league titles, one FA Cup) who after the war was replaced by Tom Whittaker (two league titles, one FA Cup).
But then on his sad death while still manager Whittaker was replaced by Jack Crayston, then George Swindon, and then Billy Wright, none of whom won anything at all. Not a sausage. 1953 to 1968. Nothing.
After that Mee won three trophies, (Fairs Cup, FA Cup, League), before taking us towards relegation, thankfully narrowly avoided. Then we had Neill, Howe and Burtenshaw, before we got George Graham.
Which tells us one thing: most Arsenal managers since the glorious 1930s and 1940s, when we had four in a row who all won the league, have won either nothing or very little.
Of course, you could argue that what we need to do now is get through the next three or four managers quickly so that eventually we can find a winner, and I suppose that is one way of doing it. But given the way the media and crowd are in relation to Arsenal I suspect most of the top men either won’t fancy the task or will be quite happy where they are.
Which brings me back to the only viable candidate I can see. I’m setting aside Jose Mourinho for the reasons I discussed yesterday. Although if you want to support him the one thing you can say for him (apart from the fact that he would be expensive to hire, play negative football and be expensive to sack) is that he doesn’t care a toss about what the fans or media think. Actually what you can also say about him is that he wins stuff. Not always, but sometimes. League three times with Chelsea in seven years, Serie A twice with Inter, La Liga with Real Mad. Trouble is that number series is declining because after the 3, 2, 1 we get 0 with Man U. Maybe he is burned toast – apart from the facts that most of his clubs do badly after he leaves.
So as the alternative there is Freddie who has managed Arsenal under 15s, Woflsburg (as assistant coach), Arsenal under 23 and now Arsenal as assistant coach.
Could he do the job? Who knows – he was sacked, as what the whole coaching, team at Woflsburg, but maybe that wasn’t his fault. At least the crowd at Arsenal would stay off his back… for a few weeks. The media, however, would go on the attack on day one.
And that’s really all the next Arsenal manager has before the blogs and media start on him again, and some of the people in the crowd follow on.
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