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Reo-Coker will never be the next Robbie Savage


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The Guardian


Good article. All the English managers have struggled except good old Redknapp and Allardyce. Although I would say this is very harsh to Aidy Boothroyd.


Another thing. David James is so far the best keeper not the in trend Jaaskelainen!


Reo-Coker will never be the next Robbie Savage


Now that Robbie Savage and Craig Bellamy aren't getting booed anymore, can Nigel Reo-Coker take over their mantle?

Paul Wilson

January 6, 2007 11:30 PM


While the Premiership takes a short break for the FA Cup, with a little more than half the league season now played, it is time to ask the burning question of 2006-07. Why hasn't Robbie Savage done anything daft recently?


With Savage's mate Craig Bellamy operating in a now-you-see-me-now-you- don't role at Liverpool, it's all gone a bit quiet on the irritating Welshness front, leaving England's Nigel Reo-Coker as the nearest thing to a Premiership boo-boy this season. That's still not particularly near, though. Reo-Coker has made himself unpopular with sections of the West Ham crowd and management with his questionable commitment and his fond hope of a move to somewhere bigger sometime soon, though you cannot expect people outside east London to hate him just for that. It's not as if he's had an Armani tattoo, claimed that Blackburn was handier for Wrexham than Birmingham, taken a dump in the referee's toilet, mistook his own importance on the international stage then climbed down embarrassingly in a row with John Toshack, or done anything else the whole country could laugh at.


It turns out that Savage has not retired or disappeared after all, but is quietly playing what Mark Hughes describes as 'his best football since he has been at Blackburn' and has been rewarded with a contract extension running until 2009. That, together with Blackburn's league position, makes Hughes one of this season's managerial success stories. Reo-Coker and his colleagues, charitably described by Yossi Benayoun as playing like a bunch of drunks in the 6-0 defeat at Reading, are currently making one of the Premiership's all-time managerial success stories look out of touch and out of his depth.


Alan Curbishley will probably survive, but for now he is in the surprising company of Alan Pardew, Aidy Boothroyd and Paul Jewell as managers with something to prove. Surprising because it is only a year since that quartet was being hailed as the future of English coaching. Who would have thought all four would go into 2007 below Neil Warnock? The brains behind Sheffi eld United has been good value this season, wisely resisting the temptation to step into the hate-fi gure void and, for the most part, talking reasonably and intelligently. The Blades might not stay up, but they have given themselves a good chance, delighted their fans and, by drawing with Liverpool on the fi rst day and beating Arsenal last week, they have done all Warnock's talking for him. Wigan rightly earned all the plaudits last season yet in 13 attempts they have still to take a point from any top-four club.


The two North-East managers are struggling, though both went in with their eyes open and no one said it was going to be easy. Both have the potential to pull the situation round and fi nish the season comfortably, though one fears either could be undone by a run of poor results and a sudden loss of confi dence. There is a world of diff erence between Steve Gibson's patient, trusting approach and the various panic attacks that have gripped Newcastle in recent years, but with the TV money on off er next season this is a particularly bad time to contemplate relegation.


In mid-table, Martin O'Neill is not struggling, Aston Villa will not be going down, although their manager is going to have to do a little better to get back on the England interview circuit. Perhaps this is unfair, as O'Neill came to the club late and has had very little opportunity to bring anyone in, yet it should be remembered England don't run to a transfer budget, either. O'Neill must feel like a witch on a ducking stool at times. Does he have supernatural powers or not? On one side of the debate are media pals who still use words such as inspirational and enlightened, on the other are fans who point out that David O'Leary might as well still be in charge and that Villa have no wish to become the new Leicester and survive by drawing every game.


Elsewhere, Chris Coleman, Stuart Pearce and David Moyes are doing well enough and Sam Allardyce is doing better than ever, although Tottenham fans are beginning to wonder if Martin Jol can take them any higher. Spurs badly want to break into the top four, and question whether the players Jol has brought in are capable of doing that. On the days when he plays them, that is. The top four themselves form a league of their own, judged by diff erent standards, and only Sir Alex Ferguson can be truly happy with the way things are going . So, without further ado, this column's manager of the mid-season FA Cup break is Harry Redknapp. Runner-up: Steve Coppell.


The pair are hardly similar in style or temperament, more like diametrical opposites, but that is all part of the fun of the Premiership. Redknapp gets the best out of the transfer market, Coppell gets the best out of his players. This time last year, when Redknapp arrived with relatively little money to spend, Pompey were in a relegation position. Reading were on top of the Championship, where they remained for the rest of the season, though cracking the Premiership with a fairly parsimonious owner and essentially the same squad is something few managers are destined to achieve. We won't have a third place, because it would have to go to Ferguson or Allardyce and might embarrass the BBC even more.


Moving on to the players, everyone agrees that the footballer of the year will be either Cristiano Ronaldo or Didier Drogba, depending on what exactly happens in the title run-in. Fair enough, except the unanimity of feeling on the subject suggests only two players have caught the eye this season, when this is very far from the case. Consider also the claims of, in no particular order - Jussi Jaaskelainen , Nicky Shorey , Nemanja Vidic , Linvoy Primus, Steve Finnan, Micah Richards, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Michael Essien, Paul Scholes, Cesc Fabregas, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, Ivan Campo and many more. This has been an eventful and entertaining season so far, with no shortage of excellent players on view, and since we highlighted a decline in the number of goals scored a few weeks ago nets up and down the country have been bulging anew.


So below is the pick of it at the halfway stage. One team of player-of-the-year contenders, if not overall then at least with their own clubs. And another team of far-better-than-average players who could still get in on the act if they turn in a storming second half to the season.


Team of the year so far


Jussi Jaaskelainen, Bolton


Nicky Shorey, Reading


Steve Finnan, Liverpool


Nemanja Vidic, Man United


Linvoy Primus, Portsmouth


Cristiano Ronaldo, Man United


Paul Scholes, Man United


Michael Essien, Chelsea


Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal


Robin van Persie, Arsenal


Didier Drogba, Chelsea


Best of the rest


Edwin van der Sar, Man United


Gareth Barry, Aston Villa


John Terry, Chelsea


Rio Ferdinand, Man United


Micah Richards, Man City


Ryan Giggs, Man United


Steven Gerrard, Liverpool


Kevin Nolan, Bolton


Jermaine Pennant, Liverpool


Thierry Henry, Arsenal


Wayne Rooney, Man United

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