TEAMtalk Soccers: Manager of the Season

Date published: Wednesday 24th June 2015 11:12

Harry Kane, Charlie Adam, Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez have already secured individual player awards in this year’s TEAMtalk Soccers ceremony, but which Premier League managers impressed most last season?

Here are your top five…

5. Nigel Pearson (Leicester)

April’s Manager of the Month did enough in the final quarter of the season to overcome a wretched campaign up to then and come from nowhere to secure a top-five finish in this category.

The Foxes’ escape was truly great. As late as March 23, the relegation battle was viewed by everyone as Leicester and two others. At that point, they sat rock bottom, seven points from safety, seemingly without a hope or a prayer.

Up to then, Pearson seemed to carry a hefty chip on his shoulder and a desire to fight anyone who crossed him. Crystal Palace’s James McArthur will testify to that, as will the Leicester fan by Pearson’s bench who was told to “f*** off and die” by the manager.

This was after Pearson had seemingly been sacked then reinstated by the club, and before even ostrich-gate.

But despite those controversies, his players retained faith in Pearson, who inspired seven wins from Leicester’s final nine games to escape the drop with plenty to spare.

4. Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace)

Pardew is not a man short on self-belief, and this season showed why that confidence is not misplaced.

Newcastle fans never rated Pardew as highly as he does himself, and after a topsy-turvy first half of the season, the Toon Army got what a large portion of it craved – the manager’s resignation.

Sat in the top half of the table, the Newcastle support was desperate for an injection of ambition. What they got was John Carver, who made Pardew’s record look like that of Ferguson or Mourinho. Pardew-less Newcastle slipped almost into the Championship, with only a final-day win staving off another relegation.

But Pardew’s work at Palace is what should define his season. He returned to the club with the Eagles in 18th place. Not only did he lead them away from the relegation zone, the manager guided Palace to a top-half finish and their highest ever in the Premier League.

The 53-year-old earned 57 points from the 37 games he took charge of this season, which would have seen FC Pardew finish eighth in the Premier League table.

3. Garry Monk (Swansea)

The league’s youngest boss has led Swansea to their highest ever finish in the top flight, all while losing his main striker halfway through the season. Not bad for a managerial novice in his first full season.

Under Monk, 36, Swansea have retained their reputation for playing stylish, passing football and continued to progress, despite some major upheaval.

Monk lost Michel Vorm and Ben Davies last summer, only a few months after taking the job in February, then had to watch as Wilfried Bony joined Manchester City in the winter window. Monk responded by bringing in Lukasz Fabianski, Bafetimbi Gomis, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kyle Naughton for a fraction of the amount the club made on sales. His recruitment has been hugely successful, and that trend looks to have continued with the arrival of Andre Ayew, who you would not bet against moving on again for a huge profit in 12-18 months time.

2. Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)

Mourinho’s side cruised to the title and few can argue with the Portuguese winning the Barclays Manager of the Season award.

He may not have won any of the monthly gongs, but that is reflective of his Chelsea side’s consistency. Domestically, Mourino has created a winning machine, capable of playing with a swagger but also has enough steel to snuff out almost any opposition.

The ‘boring’ tag is just that. A manager’s primary function is to get the very best out of the individuals and the collective unit. Mourinho has done that everywhere he goes. His speech at the Chelsea end-of-season function answered his critics better than anyone else could.

The challenge next season is clear: extend Chelsea’s dominance from England to the continent. You wouldn’t bet against them in the Champions League next year, especially if Mourinho can recruit the players he wants this summer.

1. Ronald Koeman (Southampton)

Koeman either saw the funny side of Southampton’s player exodus last summer or he did not grasp the irony last July when his tweet of “ready for training” captioned a photo of a pitch with not a single player in sight.

The Dutchman’s work since then has been utterly remarkable. Tipped by many to struggle following the departures of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Callum Chambers and Dejan Lovren, Koeman not only steadied the ship, he built a better one.

Under Koeman’s watch, the Saints bought Graziano Pelle, Fraser Forster and Sadio Mane, while also doing a try-before-you-buy deal for Ryan Bertrand. They also persuaded Morgan Schneiderlin to put his Champions League ambition on hold for a season, with the Frenchman playing a major role alongside Nathaniel Clyne, Victor Wanyama and Jose Fonte as the Saints improved on their impressive finish the previous year by one place and four points.

It says much about the structure of the club itself that the Saints were able to thrive in the face of so much upheaval last summer. And they should be applauded too for giving Koeman his Premier League opportunity. But Koeman has more than repaid that faith.

The Dutchman seems ice-cool on and off the pitch, which is perhaps not surprising when you consider his achievements as a player. That can often count for little and as Bertrand revealed, Koeman is not the kind of manager to rule by his medals: “However good a career he has had on and off the pitch, he’s very humble. He’s approachable, you can talk to him and he gives off a calm feeling but strong encouragement.”

Europa League qualification offers Koeman and the Saints a chance for further progression next season, and as a result of the manager’s fine work, expectation at St Mary’s will be high. Not that the pressure will ruffle Koeman.

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