Saturday 20 September ~
Chelsea's new signing will be on the bench for their match with Man Utd. It's Ray Wilkins, back where he started his career, but in a role whose precise nature has not been established. A couple of papers announced that he is now Chelsea's assistant manager and Wilkins himself implied that he'd been summoned: "I was thrilled when Peter Kenyon called me up" although he had in fact applied for the post, left vacant with the departure of Steve Clarke for West Ham. One of the reasons for Clarke leaving was that he felt sidelined since the arrival of Felipe Scolari whose large coaching entourage includes his son-in-law, Darlan Schneider, as fitness trainer. Wilkins' official role is the distinctly minor sounding "assistant first team coach". While he was photographed on the training pitch with Scolari on his first day in the job on Thursday, the next day's Daily Mail suggested that his duties will mainly involve "research on opposition teams and a media role".
Essentially it's a PR appointment, though Wilkins appears to think that he has struck a blow for overlooked stalwarts: "Football now is almost a closed shop, so anyone who has been out of the game is finding it almost impossible to get back in". It has only been a year, however, since Wilkins last worked in football, having helped Peter Taylor with the England under 21s for the years. Prior to that, he been assistant manager at Watford, preceded by a two-year stint as a coach at Chelsea and spells as manager with both Fulham and QPR. Wilkins's old England midfield colleague Bryan Robson was prone to making similar complaints when he was out of work for a long spell after leaving Middlesbrough, although he gained ample opportunity to show what he could do in subsequent stints at Bradford, West Brom and Sheffield Utd, all of which ended badly.
John Barnes, by contrast, had just the one coaching job in football - at Celtic for eight months in 1999-2000 - until earlier this week when he was made Jamaica national coach, a role he will take up in November. Barnes seems to be widely regarded as one of Celtic's least successful managerial appointments, but he is one of the very few former England players to have been given just the one chance in management. Another player from Barnes' era, Terry Butcher, is now Scotland assistant manager having been sacked from his previous job with League Two Brentford. That's the sort of career leap that would be inconceivable for any manager who hadn't had an illustrious playing career. Barnes has worked in television since leaving Celtic but has frequently complained of not even getting interviews for managerial jobs he has applied for. If there is a "closed shop" in football, Barnes suggests that it remains closed to only one category of former players.