Following midweek Carling Cup embarrassments — Newcastle’s defeat to Wigan on a late penalty, Aston Villa being hammered by League One’s Doncaster Rovers — Villa’s visit to Newcastle this afternon might well have the jobs of two managers hanging in the balance writes the Independent’s Nick Harris.
Graeme Souness (above) and David O’Leary have both underachieved. In Sir Bobby Robson’s last three seasons at Newcastle, they finished fourth, third, and fifth in the Premiership. Souness led them to 14th last season, and after spending £50m this year, they are 12th.
Villa finished sixth in O’Leary’s first season, 2003-04, but fell to 10th last season, and are 15th today, only five points above the relegation zone. He has spent “only” £13.5m this year, £11m in the summer. “I feel I am under pressure with every game because the buck stops with myself,” he said.
Neither man can look to take solace in upcoming fixtures. After today, Newcastle face Arsenal at home, then trips to West Ham and Liverpool.
Villa face a trip to Bolton Wanderers, then games with Manchester United and Everton. And both men have heard the talk about replacements being lined up.
Newcastle have an eye on Bolton’s Sam Allardyce, and may appoint Glenn Roeder, the head of their academy, as a caretaker if Souness goes.
Villa know that George Burley, twiddling his thumbs since leading Hearts to the top of the Scottish Premier League and then being ousted, would welcome an approach to fill O’Leary’s shoes. Burley has also been linked to Newcastle, as has Martin O’Neill.
With less than a month until the transfer window opens, Freddie Shepherd and Doug Ellis are both aware that any managerial change needs to be made before January’s trading to be truly meaningful. For all these reasons, today’s match represents a make-or-break occasion.
Souness acknowledged yesterday that his future is in doubt. “I understand I’m getting a lot of criticism,” he said. “That’s the price on the ticket and I’d not argue with anyone who said we were bad against Wigan.”
With less than a month until the transfer window opens, Shepherd and Ellis are both aware that any managerial change needs to be made before January’s trading to be truly meaningful. For all these reasons, today’s match represents a make-or-break occasion.
Just in time to derail the grass roots campaign to elect Peter Crouch’s the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year, the lanky striker scored twice — his first Premiership goals since his transfer from Southampton — in Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat of Wigan.
Harry Redknapp has walked out on Southampton following the Saints’ decision to deny Portsmouth the opportunity to speak with Redknapp regarding their managerial vacancy. Dave Bassett is interim manager for today’s match with Burnley.
Redknapp’s defense, as quoted by the BBC’s Phil McNulty.
“I felt once I told Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe I wanted to speak to Portsmouth I had burned my bridges at Southampton.
“Once I’ve said that I can’t go back there. Their people wouldn’t want me back at the club. I understand that.”
He added: “Once I said to Southampton that I want to speak to Portsmouth, it was impossible to go back. If they can’t do a deal with Portsmouth then I’m left in limbo and I will have to accept that.
“It means I will have to walk my dogs every day, which I suppose I’ll have to do.
“I felt, to be honest, that I was only keeping the hot seat warm for somebody else. I had no future there and I would have liked the opportunity to speak to Portsmouth.”
Presumably, the somebody else being former England Rugby Union manager Sir Clive Woodward.