The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Me and Juande down by the schoolyard…

Despite the Champions’  League games going on today, the big news is that Juande Ramos has been appointed the new manager of Real Madrid. Our friends on Fleet Street can’t help but snicker to themselves about the appointment, given that Performance in Job A = Performance in Job B = Performance in Job C 100% of the time.

Err…except the only problem there is that it is entirely presumptuous and just plain wrong to assume that it always goes down like that. As thorough and even-handed as British news reporting tends to be, their sports reporting is equally as lazy and needlessly provocative. In their tiny little minds, the fact that Ramos failed at Spurs (and boy oh boy, did he ever fail epically) leads to the conclusion that despite the different country, league, group of players, playing style, opponents and opposing managers, he will fail equally in his new role…despite a proven track record of success in Sevilla (which is the same country, league, group of players, etc and so on).

If anything, Juande and Gus’ Bogus Journey (which unfortunately didn’t involve besting Death at Twister and Battleship) can have us safely conclude that adaptability is not a trait that Ramos possesses. Fair enough…no manager is world-class at everything.

The frenetic pace of the English game, one that relies less heavily on tactics than their continental counterparts, is well-documented. Ramos inherited a fairly dreadful squad, and then proceeded to spend heavily on the way to making them even worse. That, I think, only proves my point further. While it isn’t unknown for a manager to pay well over the odds for an overrated flop, the truth is that on the whole, a player worth a certain amount of money will usually be somewhere around there in terms of quality. However, quality alone doesn’t make for a strong team – the players’ strengths have to complement each other, and the weaknesses have to be covered by their comrades’ ability in those areas. With Spurs, that wasn’t the case…and I feel that comes down to Ramos not understanding the English game.

So, if Ramos were taking the helm at Sunderland, it wouldn’t be out of order for Black Cat supporters to assume that he’d fail until proven otherwise. His track record in England is fairly pungent, after all. But, he’s not trekking to the northeast corner of Blighty –  instead, he finds himself plunging deep into the heart of España. In that environment, he’s weighed down with silverware as opposed to failed expectations.

Don’t get me wrong…the Madrid job is a crown of thorns for any manager. The list of world-class skippers who have been thrown overboard from the good ship Merengues since 1997 is a ludicrously distinguished one: Jupp Heynckes, Guus Hiddink, Vicente del Bosque, Carlos Queiroz, Fabio Capello and Bernd Schuster. Going back to the appointment of their first professional manager in 1910, every single one in the history of the club has won at least one trophy. Capello was relieved of his duties milliseconds after guiding them to a championship. Of course, should he do so in his current job, our great-grandkids will one day be bored of reading about it in the papers. Digressions aside, as much as the media here in New York smugly congratulates themselves for making life tough on the Yankees and Giants, they can’t hold a candle to what life must be like once Marca gets its talons into you.

Of course, Schuster had to go – not only for the indifferent performances that Madrid have come up with so far, but I think this gem has quite a bit to do with it too:

“The Barcelona game worries me less than any other because it’s impossible to win at the Camp Nou right now. Barcelona are rolling over everyone. It is their year. Given the state we are in, all we can ask for is to go there and put on a decent display.”

Are you kidding me? Fourteen matches into the season, Real find themselves trailing in Barcelona’s wake to the tune of 9 points. It’s a daunting task, but it surely isn’t impossible. Look, it is one thing for a manager to privately believe that his squad is hopeless and has no chance of catching a club rampaging their way through the league like Frank Lampard at a buffet. But, to publicly come out and say it…how is that acceptable? What was he THINKING? I am typically in the camp that believes that most chairmen are gibbering monkeys who fire managers because they lack the intelligence to come up with other alternatives. Schuster made his position untenable with those comments, though.

In the end, we don’t know how well Ramos will acquit himself in the cauldron that is the Santiago Bernabéu. However, I have a suspicion that he too may find himself heading to the unemployment line one day bearing a large, shiny object or two.

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December 9, 2008 - Posted by | Other Soccer

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