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Wishing on a star

28 Jun 10 | Re: Romanticised football appointments

If I was a Newcastle United fan, I would be following Argentina’s progress in this World Cup with some trepidation. Why? Because Argentina have resurrected the coaching appointment strategy that has blighted St James’s Park for the last decade and more, and what is worse, they look like they might even be about to succeed with it.

It was Paul Whitehouse with his Julio Geordio character who first noticed similarities between Latin football wizards and Newcastle United players. Now his prescience has been proven, as Argentina have gone into the World Cup under the leadership not of a giant of international coaching, or even of a holder of the notoriously rigorous UEFA coaching badge, but of Diego Maradona, an unarguable legend of a player with no coaching record whatsoever, whose main strength in the role is his ability to double as the team mascot.

Nowhere in the world can their logic have been endorsed more heartily than in Newcastle. For years the Magpies have spurned any kind of evidence- or results-based approach to appointing coaches, instead insisting on someone who (a) is a Geordie, (b) is remembered as a really good player, (c) has no meaningful coaching experience and (d) is willing to be appointed on a wave of wholly unrealistic optimism and then have results catch up with him a few months later and be sacked in favour the next ex-player and soon to be ex-coach.

Now Argentina have done the same thing, going for a man who had brilliant individual skill but has never shown any evidence of tactical insight or of being much of a people person. And they are winning. As if by magic, they might even win the World Cup. If they do, no doubt Newcastle will sack whoever is currently in charge the next time they lose two games in a row and call up Faustino Asprilla or Temuri Ketsbaia or Gazza to restore that old St James’s Park magic. But I fear that, just as Brazilian players always seemed to lose their otherworldly finesse when they got signed by Middlesbrough, so the sustained grind of the Premiership would see Newcastle’s coach turn into a pumpkin. Argentine success is to be admired, but don’t try this at home.

Posted by BILL MCCAI at 00:22

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