Has He Luck? – By MerseyPete
Posted on December 5, 2007
Filed Under Articles By MerseyPete
“Has he luck?”, Napoleon used to ask of new generals. We might ask the same of Alex McLeish, who’s generally thought to have had a lucky start to managing Blues. If there’s any such thing as a ‘lucky’ leader (and here I have to part company with Bonaparte) we could certainly do with one.
But, as it happens, I didn’t think we were especially ‘lucky’ on Sunday. We certainly had the worse of the game but there was nothing freakishly lucky about our goals – especially not THAT goal, though I promise not to add to the acres of newsprint already devoted to it. It might be more useful to look at what has so far distinguished “Big ’Eck” from Ol’ Big ‘Ead. Also, I need to have my say about The Most Irritating Man On Television.
I wouldn’t venture a match report – we all saw the game anyway, and Baz has already done that. But I think it’s pretty well agreed where McLeish took different options to Bruce. First of all, selection. No way would Bruce have left Kapo out – in fact I’m not sure I would have. Bruce was committed to Kapo as his quality buy of the summer; to leave him out would have cast doubt on his basic judgement. McLeish started with a blank sheet, owing nothing to anyone, and made a bold judgement on the evidence of a few videos and a week in training. He was rewarded with arguably Kapo’s best 20 minutes of the season. (Interestingly, though, the team’s shape did have a Bruce-like look about it; solid centre midfield, pace on the wings, one up front.)
Secondly, the point everyone spotted – substitutions. When Jerome scored, Bruce would – absolutely no question – have told the Forss to put his tracksuit back on. He would have settled for the point. Even after Keane’s red card – of which more later – I doubt if he would have put a second striker on. McLeish’s boldness certainly paid off, with three great chances in the last three minutes.
Thirdly, the issue of attention to detail has surfaced since the game, with Gary McSheffrey’s comments. Now McSheff is a level headed, intelligent guy, and I doubt he was just having a pop at Bruce or sucking up to the new boss. He just doesn’t seem that type; his comments are usually a model of thoughtfulness. So he may have spotted something that was missing with Bruce. I certainly like the idea of the team that McLeish has bought with him, rather than the usual manager/deputy set up. Bruce, nice guy though he is, never really seemed like a team player (as a manager, if you see what I mean). He got rid of Bowen in mysterious circumstances, apparently because Bowen was thought to have gone behind his back. And Eric Black – quiet and intelligent – has never seemed the sort to challenge Bruce’s authority. Maybe McLeish’s experienced team of battle hardened Scots will be Blues’ equivalent of the old Anfield bootroom, which produced a string of managers and football thinkers… Oh, all right, I’ll calm down now; we’ll learn more as McLeish gets to know his new players more.
And now for that prize berk Andy Gray. Sorry, is my prejudice showing already? If there’s a more irritating football summariser on telly I’d like to see him. Or rather, I wouldn’t. Yes, yes, I know there’s Mark ‘humorous’ Lawrenson too, but Gray really does take the biscuit for sheer smugness. When he’s on with Martin Tyler, it’s Smug and Smugger; the only surprise is that they don’t eat themselves. On Sunday, Gray’s performance over the Keane incident was truly pathetic. OK, the sending off was marginal, maybe a yellow would have been enough. But it was a bad foul – only Gray doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to that. And his conspiracy theory about Dowd’s ‘instructions’ from the fourth official (together with his straight man Richard Keys) was breathtaking. There was never any reason to think that Dowd had asked Uriah Rennie his opinion – all that had happened was that he spoke into his mike. On that slender evidence Gray found enough to go on not just during the game but long after it had finished.
Of course, this is an area where technology could help football. It seems to me that most scientific research is devoted either to developing better ways of blowing people up – A Bad Thing – or curing diseases – no doubt A Good Thing. Could not a smidgen of that mighty effort be diverted into developing a Selective Commentator Mute Button? You could eliminate troublesome commentators at a stroke, without losing crowd noises and any good commentators. Imagine – no more Gray, Lawrenson, Motty, or that irritating bloke who used to play on the wing for Arsenal. Now that’s something I’d pay good money for.
And finally – yes, I know I said I wouldn’t mention Larsson’s goal but what the heck – I can’t get it out of my head. Until now my best Blues’ goal was one of Trevor’s – a 25 yard volley from a Latchford knockdown at Bloomfield Road. TF mentions this in his biography. It’s not on film so it’s preserved in all its perfection in my head and it can’t really be challenged. Second, of course, John Gayle’s Wembley winner. But Larsson’s strike is now up there with the best of them. If it doesn’t win Goal of the Month/decade, whatever, then I’ll ………..oh, I don’t know, I’ll “thcream and thcream until I’m thick”.