Could romance dictate how managerial recruitment goes, going forward in the Premier League?

The Oxford Dictionary describes romance as a strong feeling of deep affection for somebody/something. There has been a gentle spike of romance in the latest managerial appointments in the Premier League which could start a trend if the league’s two top teams who are looking for managers stick to the current interim managers at the helm.

The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær on the 28th March 2019 got the ball rolling after the much-loved United legend had won 14 of his 19 games in charge before the offer. “Ole at the wheel” it rang out on social media and the hysteria was suffocating for the opposition and even when the Champions League place was missed the fans and club still believed he was the man. He seemed to be the first manager post Sir Alex Ferguson to get the team playing like the United of old played. Fast counterattacking play, going from coast to coast in the matter of seconds and getting opportunities to impose their will on the opposition have all been appreciated by the Red Devil faithful. Yes, one can rightly question the consistency of Ole’s philosophy, results and goal getting. But he has the backing of the manager and many fans even in the middle of a horrible run. Ole has relied on the youth prospects at Old Trafford something that is in the DNA of the club, he has shown that he is also not afraid to.

The appointment of Solskjær was soon followed by the somewhat surprising appointment of Frank Lampard to the Chelsea hotseat. With the decision to reinvent themselves in a season seen by many as a free hit season they turned to a romantic appointment when they retained the services of their legendary midfielder. The appointment was accepted well by the Chelsea faithful largely in part due to the success of Solskjær at Old Trafford. Lampard had enjoyed a fruitful season at Derby County the season prior to his appoint and there was a feeling that a step up was due whether it was him getting Derby into the Premier League or being picked up by a struggling side during the season.

Lampard has managed to overachieve thus far in the league sitting in fourth place nine points behind second place Leicester, three points behind Manchester City and five points ahead of fifth placed Manchester United. In the Champions League they are a win away from qualifying for the round of sixteen. Lampard has managed to get the best out of Chelsea’s Cobham bred players as they have seemed to have understood their roles in Lampard’s team and they have risen to the occasion many times despite a recent rough patch. The reliance on the youth which the Lampard tenure has been applauded for is as a result of the transfer ban that the team had on it in the summer transfer window. That said the results have been tantalizing and the Blues fan are backing their man all the way.

Fast forward to the dismissals of Marcos Silva and Unai Emery and look at the men asked to steady the ship as the executives work hard to find a new manager to carry the respective projects going forward. Everton have turned to former striker Duncan Ferguson who played for them over a six-year span making 123 appearances and scored 23 goals. In London the Gunners turned to winger and Invincible title winner Freddie Ljungberg who spent nine years at the club and scored 46 goals in 216 appearances.

Ljungberg just won his first game after two failed attempts prior to Monday’s clash away at West Ham, but one would have to acknowledge that in his limited time at the helm the style of play has changed for the better. The defensive effort and mentality need to be improved vastly to get positive results going to a complicated run of fixtures in the Premier League while the executives mull over options. The rampant nature with which the Arsenal clawed back and won the match scoring 3 goals in nine minutes was something that would have brought back the confidence in the squad. Unlike Ljungberg, it took Ferguson ninety minutes to change the feeling around Goodison Park. The relentless work with and without the ball led to a 3-1 thrashing of Chelsea in front of their expectant fans. You could see the connection between Ferguson, the fans and his players. Everton made 37 tackles vs Chelsea which was a league high for the weekend’s fixtures, this season and it also happens to be a club high over the past twelve seasons.

Both teams have a plan to get a bigger name manager in the dugout but if the two interim managers get their sides to perform well over the next three to four games could a romantic appointment overshadow the allure of a big-name manager? Both teams are looking for a manager who can connect with the fans and bring them back to the fans in mould that Jurgen Klopp has managed to do at Liverpool. Its hard to imagine that anyone either than a marquee manager will get the fans’ buy in from the get-go, respect in media and respect behind the scenes from the support staff like a former player/legend would.

Success for either interim coach will ask some interesting questions of the executives and their recruitment processes. And on the off chance that one of these legends (or both) get the job permanently, could romance dictate how managerial recruitment goes from the year 2019 and beyond?

Philani Mukwakwami


Sports are a hobby horse of mine, what happens in-between the lines is just as thrilling as what happens outside of them.