Monday 9 February ~
The most hackneyed line used about any television programme is that Doctor Who was so scary it would make kids hide behind the sofa. Tony Adams had had a similar effect for many of us during his three months in charge at Portsmouth, which was brought to a merciful end this morning. Adams worked as a pundit briefly on Match of the Day 2 but if he did receive any tips about how to come across well on TV he didn't pay any heed. He has been a thoroughly unsettling presence over the past couple of months, his bafflement at each new defeat being expressed in ever more bizarre ways.
In mitigation Adams could point to the fact his team has been dismantled around him as the clubs' owners sought to make Portsmouth attractive to new buyers. But, while he deserves credit for recovering from addiction, there's no more cause to feel sorry for Adams than there would be for anyone who has been receiving a five-figure sum as his weekly wage and will now get a large payoff.
The broader issue is that, yet again, someone has been given an opportunity in top-level club management on the back of his playing career rather than having shown previous aptitude in the job. Adams's one previous role as a manager – a year Wycombe in 2003-04, during which they won only 12 out of 53 games – simply did not equip him to take over a club three levels higher. Although he should have been give more time at Blackburn, Paul Ince found the same gap difficult to bridge and his spell in League Two, while brief, had at least been a success.
This sort of favouritism towards the famous is not restricted to Britain. Frank Rijkaard's one season in club management before he took over Barcelona was with Sparta Rotterdam, who were relegated in 2001-02 for the first time in their history. Prior to that Rijkaard had spent two years as Dutch national coach, a role recently filled by his former team-mate Marco van Basten, who is now having a horrendous time in his debut season as a club coach with Ajax. Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus, who would rate alongside the Dutch pair as one of the best players of his era, has spent the last 15 years demonstrating that he has no discernible ability as a coach yet he keeps getting offered work.
Still, that is less surprising than the fact that Bryan Robson, who seems to have conclusively proved himself to be unemployable as a club manager, is now earning a crust as a "football ambassador" for Man Utd – in which capacity he has just declared himself to be unimpressed with Jose Mourinho. Newcastle fans who clamour for the return of Alan Shearer should be careful what wish they for.