Big reputations and bigger expectations mean nothing in PL

Date published: Tuesday 12th April 2016 10:10

Slaven Bilic & Louis van Gaal: Arrived with differing expectations

Slaven Bilic & Louis van Gaal: Arrived with differing expectations

Louis van Gaal and Rafael Benitez have shown that big reputations count for little in the Premier League, as TEAMtalk columnist Derek Bilton talks up the achievements of those in which little was expected.

Monday mornings in our office are normally sombre affairs. But there was a lively debate last week concerning the difference between character and reputation. It got me thinking about John Wooden’s succinct quite that “Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are”.

And with this in mind has there been a more fascinating season in the Premier League when it comes to managers? The man of the moment is of course Claudio Ranieri. Eyebrows were raised when the ‘Tinker Man’ was given the Leicester gig in the summer, with bookmakers quick to make him among the favourites to be the first manager to lose his job and pundits such as Gary Lineker and Richard Keys even quicker to jump on Twitter and question the appointment. All this before a ball had been kicked.


The Foxes, with Ranieri in charge, are proving to be an immovable force at the top of the league and are on the cusp of doing something truly special. Nobody really expected it, especially given Ranieri lasted less than four months in his last job as manager of Greece, a stint that saw them lose at home to those bastions of the world game, the Faroe Islands.

But if this season has proved anything it’s that finding a boss to achieve success in the top flight is an inexact science.

When Louis van Gaal took over at Manchester United, given his glittering resume and the fact he had just overseen a 5-1 thumping of reigning champions Spain at the 2014 World Cup, Manchester United fans would have been forgiven for thinking the good times were about to roll. How wrong they were. United have been bang average under LVG while playing a brand of football that is anathema to their fans. If he walks this summer his reputation, at least in this country, will be forever tainted.

Rafael Benitez: Rued repeated mistakes from Newcastle United

It’s no different down at the bottom. Rafa Benitez took over at Newcastle last month and the choice was considered an inspired one. The story went that Benitez, a Champions League winner, had the CV and the reputation to save the Toon Army. However at time of writing he’s yet to record a win as Newcastle boss and the club sit in a rather perilous position some six points from safety with six games to go. The big Iberian even admitted in the wake of another shambolic defeat as they went down 3-1 at Southampton that anxiety is “killing” his players. Poor things.

Down the road at Sunderland Sam Allardyce has for a long time had a reputation as the go to guy if you were in relegation trouble. A manager who uses ‘modern’ methods and who knows how to handle a dogfight at the foot of the table. However since his arrival at the Stadium of Light Sunderland are just one place in the table higher than they were when he took over and, like Newcastle, currently staring into the Championship abyss. His win ratio on Wearside is a rather pathetic 24% and yet the usual suspects on Match of the Day and Sky continue to laud ‘Big Sam’ despite growing evidence he is ordinary at best as a football manager.

Remi Garde rode into Aston Villa with a reputation as a forward-thinking European coach. He left with his tail between his legs several months later after one of the most ignominious top flight reigns of any Premier League boss. In stark contrast Slaven Bilic was considered a massive gamble when he took over at West Ham but he’s transformed the Hammers into a superb, easy-on-the-eye footballing side.

It would be the ultimate irony if the two coaches whose appointments were most criticised by the footballing cognoscenti in this country last summer – Ranieri and Bilic – walked off with a league title and FA Cup between them less than 12 months later. And if it does come to pass it will have precious little to do with the reputation of the aforementioned duo. For as Oscar Wilde once mused “Success is a science; If you have the conditions, you get the result.”

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    James Marshment

    Louis van Gaal and Rafael Benitez have shown by their failures that big reputations and bigger expectations count for very little in the PL.

    [See the full post at: Big reputations and bigger expectations mean nothing in PL]



    “In stark contrast Slaven Bilic was considered a massive gamble when he took over at West Ham but he’s transformed the Hammers into a superb, easy-on-the-eye footballing side.” Who considered him a gamble? He’s earned a reputation as a solid manager prior to his appointment. Who the heck considered him a risk or any eye brow raising appointment? Even I, with my tendency of calling things wrong…said he’d make them a hard to beat team. Sure, I had no idea he’d do what he’s done…but never did I have the reaction that say I had when Ranieri was appointed.

    You really think it’s fair to bring Rafa into this…this soon? I’ll give you Remi Garde…but Rafa, c’mon? How are you assessing this – that he hasn’t had an immediate impact? That Newcastle should already be 6 points clear of the drop zone? His first PL season for us was very poor – who remembers the FA Cup exit that season? Sure, we got to the LC final and won the CL…but we stumbled through the early stages before getting stronger in those competitions..later in the season. Point is, he needed a little time to get something going. I don’t think he’s got that here and I expect him to fail. I certainly wasn’t (am not) expecting him to get it right…there’s just not enough time.

    In recent seasons, we’ve seen people like Mauricio Pochettino, Koeman, Laudrup (for a short while) come in and make a difference – we’ve seen, mostly via Chelsea, big managers come in, and not do so well (relatively speaking and literally speaking) – there’s nothing new – nothing is for sure – I certainly don’t think any sane person should be banking all their hope on just reputations.

    Klopp came in…there was a super overdose of optimism – just listening to him was enough to motivate me and have me charging head first…at a steel wall. A little while in, and we (well, at least, I) quickly realised it’s going to take actual hard work to make things better (that said, I’d have more faith in this happening with him in charge).

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