Chris Goreham: When change isn’t always good... apart from Ole of course
If there is one football myth that this season should help to bury once and for all it is the so-called ‘new manager bounce’.
Poor old John Eustace was the latest to discover that a change in the dugout doesn’t immediately lead to changes on the pitch.
Despite being on the far side of the ground from the QPR caretaker manager on Saturday, his body language was easy to read. If that was an audition to replace Steve McClaren on a permanent basis then it must go down as the latest aspect of Championship life to be brutally dismantled by a Norwich City side at their rampant best.
The pre-match mantra of “just make sure you don’t concede an early goal” had been rendered redundant twice inside the first 12 minutes.
Eustace isn’t alone. This season has been full of managerial changes that have had little to no effect on results.
Fulham have gone through three different managers and are 19th in the Premier League, having already been relegated along with Huddersfield, the only side beneath them. The Yorkshire club’s own attempt to breathe new life into a season that has been so doomed they still need to scored one more goal to equal the fewest ever scored in a Premier League campaign has so far yielded one win and nine defeats under Jan Siewert.
Then, of course, there’s Ipswich Town. With memories of what Paul Lambert did for Norwich City burnt deep inside my brain it was difficult not to see him as Ipswich’s knight in shining armour. No matter what he had inherited at Portman Road, I was convinced he would turn the tide and, at the very least, ensure they didn’t finish in the Championship’s bottom three. I imagine many other Norwich supporters felt the same in November, with more than 30 games of the season remaining, when Lambert was appointed even if they refuse to admit it now.
Ipswich are not mathematically down yet but the fact that Saturday’s win at troubled Bolton took them to 18 points from 25 league games under Lambert shows that if he saves them from here it will truly be the greatest of escapes. The fact they finish with matches against Sheffield United and Leeds United means that a Suffolk surge now could actually be quite handy as far as Norwich City’s promotion hopes are concerned.
Any Manchester United supporters who happened to have stumbled across this piece are probably now coughing loudly and pointing at the Red Devils badge on their chest. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the elephant in the room here. His sunny disposition has helped lift the Jose Mourinho-shaped dark cloud that was hanging over Old Trafford and there are times when a change of manager is absolutely essential when it comes to saving a season.
Fans, owners and sporting directors everywhere will cling to the Solskjaer example next season when they are either calling for or making a change after a dodgy start to the campaign. If the manager really is the obvious problem at your club then a well-thought through regime change can lead to a much-needed blast of fresh air.
Managers are not the be all and end all now. Modern clubs have many different facets to them and behind-the-scenes power struggles high above the manager’s head often ensue. Owners, directors, recruitments teams and all the rest have to be pulling in the same direction.
As QPR may be the latest to discover, if all isn’t well off the pitch sacking a manager can be like removing one slightly worn-out deckchair from the Titanic.
It’s got to be Teemu!
Commenting on a public vote can be a dangerous thing to do, as anyone who has ever searched for the word ‘Brexit’ on social media will tell you, but here goes anyway.
Voting closes later this week for Norwich City’s Player of the Season award. It’s not something that usually strikes me as worth getting worked up about – it’s always been a lovely way of applauding one particular player at the end of a campaign no matter how well it has gone. We all know that it’s the final league position that really matters.
However, I fear that a great injustice could be done this season. There’s no doubt that Norwich City have had many stand-out performers during what has been a sparkling campaign but, listening to fans discuss their voting plans, it seems Teemu Pukki may not be quite the shoo-in for this year’s Barry Butler Trophy that he deserves to be.
I am not going to start talking down other players, that would be churlish, and most of the squad have turned in performances this season good enough and consistent enough to have won the award in most campaigns gone by, but this time it simply has to be Pukki.
Let’s just look at what happened against QPR on Saturday. He scored twice to take his tally to 27 goals for the season, a figure that has been rarely matched in the club’s entire history. So, while it’s not unreasonable to expect strikers to score goals, he has delivered them at a rate rarely seen by Carrow Road regulars.
Not content with that, who could forget the moment that the Finn turned up as an emergency right back to bring a QPR counter-attack to an abrupt halt during the second half? I still have no idea how Pukki managed to get in that position and had wondered whether he has a Josh and Jacob Murphy style identical twin that Daniel Farke had been sneaking onto the pitch at times this season. The fact he had the energy and the desire to do that shows that Pukki is so much more than just a goal scorer.
He has made the biggest difference in that squad. Norwich City used to struggle for goals and I’m worried that he’s being taken for granted. Teemu Pukki has performed above and beyond expectations this season and deserves to be Player of the Season.
Vote for whoever you like, though. As long as the Canaries get promoted I’m sure Pukki won’t shed too many tears if he doesn’t win.