We live in a culture in which fans (and some owners) expect instant success.
Gone are the days when a manager is given time to build a team in his own image a la Shankly or Ferguson, allowed to embed his football ideology from the U14s through the 1st team, creating a seamless flow of talent to support his transfer policy, with coaches at all levels teaching one and the same thing. That sort of approach takes time, patience and some money (to invest in the first team while the core is being built). It doesn’t demand instant fruits – rather it invests in deep roots, like a patient landowner with faith in a talented gardener giving him time to build a quality vineyard that will reap a bountiful harvest over time.
Unfortunately, we now live in the era of Roman Abramovich, when even Jose Mourinho (mr “special”) is shown the door because he needs a bit more time to deliver the champions’ league trophy. As Chelsea fans can now tell anyone who’ll listen from their own rough experiences, frequent managerial changes create major upheaval at team level and that sort of instability does not translate into on field success.
Fans who like to take a long term perspective often point to the 7 years it took Alex Ferguson to mould a winning team out of a bunch of promising underachievers. Ferguson arrived in England a young manger with a promising track record from an inferior league, much as AVB did when he took over at Chelsea. Their fates couldn’t have been in starker contrast: one was given time and money to build a successful team with a long-term vision of success. The other was expected to hit the ground running and to rebuild a winning team instantly. We all know how that turned out.
Of course the usual retort is not all managers deserve the 7 years Fergie got. Perhaps he got that time because they knew he was quality? Perhaps you’re best firing a crap manager and bringing in a quality one and then giving that guy time and money. Kenny’s current critics often point to Roy Hodgson as a prime example of a manager who just about all of us agreed didn’t deserve any patience or time as he was out of his depth.
These critics then point out that Hodgson was given the booth when we were sitting in 7th place, and then point out that Kenny has us in 7th place, and triumphantly declare that as Kenny is doing no better than his predecessor, he ought to meet the same fate and be sacked while we go off in search of a new saviour, be it AVB, Capello, Hiddink or some other flavour of the month heroic coach who will swoop in and rescue us from mediocrity. (Of course, they are all too keen to ignore that under Hodgson our performances were crap, and our league position was flattering, whereas under Kenny we’ve played good football, created bags of chances that we haven’t taken, have the 3rd best defensive record in the league, and our 7th place position doesn’t really reflect some of the performances we’ve put in. But 7th is 7th, we’re told, and damn it – time to find a new Messiah!)
Kenny’s critics insist that the only reason we’re not all baying for his head the way we were impatiently crying for Hodgson to get the chop is because Kenny is a legend. Now I’m not denying that Kenny’s legend status provides him with some level of security. Indeed it does. Just as Wenger’s track record (though it’s fading into history) also provides him with security with fans growing impatient after years of failure. That security is a luxury that none of the Chelsea managers had (not even Jose) and that Hodgson certainly didn’t have.
But it’s important to ask, what is that security against? It’s against a culture in which everyone expects instant success and managers aren’t given the time to build a team from the ground up, with deep roots, let it gel and reap the rewards over the long-term. That’s what Fergie got at UTD because the culture was different back then. If Fergie started today, he certainly wouldn’t be given the 7 years it took to build his legacy – he’d be marched out in much the way that AVB has been.
So yes, Kenny’s legend status means he will get more time than the modern day, fickle, idiotic, short-minded culture would give some other coach without that legend status – be it Capello, AVB, Hiddink or Hodgson.
As such we should be thankful that we have a coach who has the CV and the persona to resist the kneejerk reactions for a beheading when (surprise, surprise) we don’t achieve instant success. Personally, I’d rather invest in a proven manager like Kenny and give him the time he needs to rebuild and get us back on course for long-term success, than go chasing short-term success that can disappear overnight when a manager decides he wants a new challenge or gets wooed by an exciting opportunity to coach Lionel Messi.
In Kenny I Trust. And I’m glad I’m not alone on this one.