Monday, November 26, 2007

Could Keystone Cops defending cost Keane his job?

Premier League rubbing rags Derby County became the latest club to dispense with the services of their manager as Billy Davis received his marching orders (though officially Derby claim it was by mutual consent - whatever that means) after a pitiful return to the Premier League.

Derby County have the look of a ship that has been holed by an iceberg, no doubting the Rams board have moved before it's too late. Time will tell whether or not this latest sacking turns out to be akin to rearranging the deck-chairs on HMS Titanic. What odds on Steve "loads of money" McClaren returning to his former club?

Davis was of course a rookie Premier League manager, as is United legend Roy Keane whose Sunderland side defended like the Keystone Cops against Everton on Saturday when losing 7-1 at Goodison Park.

It wasn't so much that Everton played well, as they rightly did, but the Black Cats back four couldn't even stand up at key times, which led directly to at least two of the Toffees goals.

How difficult can it be for the players - aided by a small army of back-room staff to select the correct boots and studs for the conditions on the pitch? It's bad enough that players these days play in boots that resemble clown shoes without them performing like stars of the big-top.

United fans will no doubt recall that the very same thing happened last season in the semi-final of the Champions League in the San Siro against AC Milan. On the night it was tippling down with rain, but it was only the United players who were falling over - which again led to the home team taking the lead early on in the game after a passage of slip-ups and cock-ups. AC Milan had no problem playing attacking football on a rain sodden pitch. Our clowns couldn't even stand up.

If Keane isn't to become the seventh manager to part company with his Premier League employers this season, then things will have to change and quickly. There comes a point in troubled times when results are going against you, when all of the shouting and instructions from the manager starts to have little effect as everyone loses confidence from the board down to the players. This is clearly what happened at Bolton, Wigan, and Derby when Sammy Lee, Chris Hutchins and today Billy Davis walked out of the seemingly ever turning managers revolving door.

Football is in part an emotional business, but businessmen will only plough so much of their own money into supporting managers like Keane before hard headed decisions are made. There's no easy games in the Premier League, as United found at Bolton on Saturday, save for perhaps against Derby County who, ironically, face Sunderland this weekend.

Keane wont be panicking just yet, but he will know it is absolutely vital that his team takes all three points from the Rams game, as following that fixture they have some really difficult matches on the horizon with an away trip to Chelsea, home games with Villa and then the Red Devils on Boxing Day, in between those two massive games Sunderland travel to Reading.

Sunderland could easily be in the bottom two by the end of the year and if that happens I wouldn't bet against Roy Keane becoming the next managerial casualty early in the new year.

As a postscript to that scenario United's Jonny Evans might well have second thoughts about joining a sinking ship.

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