When Liverpool legend King Kenny Dalglish lost his job at the end of the last season I couldn’t help thinking it had nothing to do with football. He’d won the League Cup and taken the team to the FA Cup final, yet was dismissed on a failure to do well enough in the League.
I have a sense of déjà vu when I now think of Stamford Bridge. Just six months after Roberto Di Matteo resurrected a dismal looking Chelsea and guided them to the FA Cup and Champions League winners enclosure, he finds himself out of work. Third in the Premier League, transitioning to a new more attractive approach and sacked after an ignominious three nil thumping in Turin by Juventus.
Both Kenny and Di Matteo were playing legends but dismissed with such lack of dignity that it really makes it difficult to love top class football. The awful approaches by two of the biggest clubs in the world make me admire even more the Arsenal board and their support for Arsene Wenger.
Di Matteo’s departure heralds the arrival of the great Rafa Benitez, as interim manager. As a Liverpool fan, he’ll always be great in my mind following the heroics in Istanbul to win the Champions League. Following that triumph with an average team, he assembled what could well be the last great Liverpool squad in my lifetime, which at its height had Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres in its ranks.
Regardless of his success at Chelsea, I don’t expect Benitez to remain for long. Given the chance, I think he’d build his own dynasty there but I’m not convinced the powers that be can see beyond the flawed dream of a younger, more attack-minded coach.
That feeling also made me wonder, why not a black candidate for such a prestigious post. No. Stop laughing, I’m serious!
I’ve been advocating for black coaching and administration quotas for some time and now the PFA is pushing for interview quotas, similar to those of the American football favoured Rooney Rule.
So, who would I interview for the job, which so many have suggested is being left available for former Barcelona maestro Josep “Pep” Guardiola.
Perhaps we should not forget that Di Matteo’s right hand man was Eddie Newton, a cultured former Chelsea player who’s own career was cut short by injury. A good coach, he’s proven an ability to work with top players. His association with Di Matteo makes his elevation unlikely.
Top of my list of potential young black candidates would probably be Claude Makelele, the gentleman that often sits to the right of Carlo Ancelotti at Paris St. Germain as his assistant coach. One of the finest footballers ever to have played for France, he more than any other player was, in my mind, responsible for the early success Chelsea had under Jose Mourinho. The former Chelsea and Real Madrid star would be a fresh and innovative choice.
Before Benitez was appointed interim manager, bookmakers had current Chelsea captain John Terry in the running at 20-1. For me, an equally good candidate would be former Chelsea goal scoring legend Didier Drogba. Why is it that most top black players are never seen as potential managers.
An influential player on and off the field, Drogba is a passionate blue, intelligent enough to grasp the finer details of management and astute enough to cope with the tactical demands of the game. Word is that Chelsea is seeking to bring back “Tito” to Stamford Bridge on a short-term loan. Why not as manager in waiting?
In that bunch of young potential coaches should be former Inter and Man. U midfield dynamo Paul Ince, who felt the sting of rejection at Blackburn. Of course, former Man. U and England captain Rio Ferdinand seems like a player with the mental fortitude to step up to the coaching ranks at the elite level. Not sure even I can imagine him in the dugout at Chelsea given the recent past.
On the more experienced side, I have always been amazed that a top team hasn’t tried to bring in African football’s “Emperor” Hassan Shehata. Just as Arsenal plucked Arsene Wenger from obscurity in Japan, Shehata has long since deserved a top job in Europe. His club sides won consecutive titles in Egypt and he took the national team to three consecutive African Cup of Nations.
Current Norwich manager Chris Hughton might not be the sexy choice but has pedigree at difficult to manage places and would bring a quiet dignity that might prove persuasive. Chelsea has already tried Ruud Guillit, with mixed results and Fulham fans didn’t always enjoy Jean Tigana’s team.
Perhaps, Chelsea should look closer to home. When they appointed Michael Emenalo as assistant first team coach in November 2010 there was a storm of protest that he would be sitting on the bench next to Ancelotti – following the departure of Ray Wilkins. The former Nigeria international was promoted in July 2011 to technical director when the influential Frank Arnesen left the blues.
Admittedly, the pool of obvious candidates is thin but that’s because it’s one of, if not the toughest, jobs in world football.
Given Chelsea owner Roman Abrahmovic’s past he is not afraid to look outside the box and go against the conventional wisdom. Benitez’s appointment is a classic example. He is a figure decried on Stamford Bridge due to his contentious relationship with Jose Mourinho. And Emenalo’s role points to his ability to choose unexpected people for top jobs.
Emenalo, who played in Tel Aviv, came to Chelsea under former Israel manager Avram Grant in 2007 and has risen rapidly to hold an influential post.
Amid the current racially dubious cloud hanging over Stamford Bridge, what better way to make a point on principal and interview some candidates of colour.
Delroy Alexander- MB: 17585198190
Chairman, Sacred Sports Foundation
Delroy Alexander is the Chairman of the Sacred Sports Foundation, a not for profit charity based in the St. Lucia. He is a seasoned sports administrator and is a former Chicago Tribune senior investigative business reporter and a Pulitzer Prize nominee journalist. Founded by former Peterborough, Lincoln City and Macclesfield Town manager Keith Alexander, the Sacred Sports Foundation uses sport to work with disadvantaged Caribbean youth. As well as having partnered with the St. Lucia Football Association, the Foundation signed a three year agreement with Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and secured important grants from UNESCO and the Australian Government among others. In 2013, the Foundation will host a major conference, Sport in Black & White, focusing on actively looking for and implementing game changing solutions. We will be writing regularly on issues of importance to help spark the debate and to be a catalyst for change.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.