Newcastle Black-Out Whilst Rovers Send ‘Big Sam’ packing

Waving Goodbye

This past week has seen the unfortunate axing of two English managers from England’s premier division. First Chris Hughton of Newcastle was sacked in shocking fashion only then for ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce to be dumped by the new owners of Blackburn Rovers. Both managers have steered their respective previous employers to Premier League mid-table security having taken the helms in far more adverse circumstances.

Allardyce, rather a stalwart of Premiership football, has taken Blackburn from relegation certainties to mid-table security in his relatively short stay at the club. This turnaround in fortunes is all the more admirable given the shoestring budget afforded to ‘Big Sam’ amongst the inflated mega-money climate that has dominated the transfer markets of recent seasons. While the likes of Manchester City have had the financial scope for spending well into the eight-figure territory on big-money flops, Allardyce’s ‘big’ signings have come at a tenth of the price. However, one would argue as much improvement has been evident in his stay at the club as there has been at Eastlands since their rise to financial prominence. If management is meant to be a ‘results business’ then Allardyce should still be in the hot-seat.

The likes of Sir Alex Ferguson have come to Allardyce’s support labelling the decision “absolutely ridiculous”, meanwhile, the whole footballing community are mourning the departure of Hughton. The toon faithful have for so long yearned for the sort of stability Bobby Robson provided them with only for it once again to be snatched away from them. Football management is renowned for it’s ruthless nature, however, Ashley’s actions have gone beyond this into the realms of insanity.

You're fired!

Hughton’s managerial experience has come under the microscope of the owners at St.James’ Park and though experience is indeed thin on the ground as a a manager his record is outstanding. He has led Newcastle to promotion from the Championship and up into the heady heights of mid-table status in the Premier League in a tenure that has sadly lasted just eighteen months, also, he boasts a convincing win percentage of over fifty percent. Does past experience really matter when he has brought nothing other than success to the club? His reign has seen a title win and the notable Premier League wins of 1-0 away to arsenal and 5-1 at home to fierce rivals Sunderland, clearly this just isn’t good enough for owner Mike Ashley.

Another bone of contention in the Hughton saga surrounds the issue of race. Having guided the club back to the top flight he became only the second black English manager ever to lead a Premiership outfit. The first, Paul Ince, endured a torrid time as Allardyce’s predecessor at Ewood Park sacked within a few months with his side rooted to the foot of the table. Though the eventual outcome of his reign was marred with failure the very fact that he had been appointed was celebrated as a ground breaking moment for the black community within the game. Ince has this week spoken out in support of Hughton who he believed had done “a remarkable job in such a short space of time.” Quite right too.

Rarely has there been such collective uproar in response to the axe-wielding of football’s money men as we have witnessed this week. Where now can aspiring young members of the black community gain inspiration if their role models are being so negligently treated? Reckless decisions like these can impact upon the hopes and dreams of so many and are taken far too lightly.

Festive spirit is in short supply it seems, however, it is clear that Sam Allardyce and Chris Hughton have left behind a legacy with each club and the fans will forever look fondly upon these two fine English managers.

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What a debt we owe to the South African production Line

England/South Africa's Finest...It is easy to ignore amidst the euphoria of Adelaide glory that four of ‘English’ Cricket’s seven batting heroes are South African by birth. It is a much reported upon subject and I am not here to criticise the English selection policy but more to thank whole-heartedly the magnificent talent production line that is South Africa. Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior, both South African by birth, spent only small amounts of their youth in their native country. In contrast, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott are South African through and through. Pietersen’s case is a much publicised tale of trial and failure in domestic South African cricket but Trott’s story is lesser known.

Trott is a real product of South African cricket having starred in the U17’s and U19’s youth sides. Following on from this were a couple of stuttering and starting spells in South Africa and New Zealand’s domestic leagues. However, Warwickshire gave him his break in 2002 when they signed him as a non-overseas player due to his family’s English descent. Upon his arrival Trott had to bide his time whilst plying his trade in the 2nd XI but soon Trott’s class came to fruition in his record knock of 245. Trott had proved his worth and since then has never looked back. To show for his efforts in domestic English cricket he had amassed over 8,000 runs an admirable if not  exceptional average of 44.

Due to a horrible loss of form from promising young batsman Ravi Bopara in the 2009 Ashes Series Trott, averaging 97 for the 2009 season with Warwickshire, was called upon for his high pressure Test debut in the fifth and final test. He managed a confident first innings 41 before being run-out and then a steely match winning century in the second. How better to introduce yourself on the international stage?

Trott’s burst to international prominence has been cemented over his fifteen month test career. Having endured a somewhat disappointing tour to his native South Africa last winter he has come back strongly with impressive performances against the testing attack’s of Bangladesh and Pakistan. Highlights of his first British summer as  a test batsman included a test high of 226 and a world record eighth wicket stand of 332 with Stuart Broad. Such brilliant achievements have instilled a level of confidence in Trott that has served him beautifully down under.

Trott has recovered from a poor first innings dismissal in the twenties at the GABBA to go on and post a record unbroken partnership of 329 with Alistair Cook in the second innings. Also, he has contributed to Englands record breaking first innings total of 620-5 with a hard-fought 78 having come in following Strauss’ early dismissal, yet again proving his ability to perform in a pressure situation.

Here we have then a man who has in the space of fifteen months gone from county performer to test match record breaker. Trott has made the number three spot his own and is the rock around which England’s batting successes of recent times have been built. An unconventional and at times ugly style has irked opponents far and wide but he is without doubt a class act that, for now,  proudly boasts the  all-time best test match average of any Englishman, the highest current ranking of any English batsmen and an average in excess of 100 in the current Ashes series.

Australia beware. One more major score from England and their South African contingent and they could regain The Ashes. Surely the thus far toothless Australian side will not give up their quest to regain the little urn so easily? Or do they simply have no means with which to fight back?

*Something to consider…  South Africa’s most recent test line-up with the addition of the Anglo/’Saffers’:

Smith, Strauss, Amla, Kallis, Pietersen, Trott, Prior, Botha, Steyn, Harris, Morkel