Monday, 1 October 2012

Gerry Francis: the worst manager in Spurs’ history

This is an article I wrote in January 2002:

Although Alan Sugar rightly takes much of the blame for Spurs’ slide into mediocrity between 1995 to 2001, the monumental role of Gerry Francis in this decline should never be underestimated. We are, in fact, still suffering from his legacy. Francis was not just the worse manager in Spurs’ history, but probably (based on his time at Spurs) the worse manager in the history of the top division.

To support my view, let’s first look at the players he bought, sold and missed (restricting all discussions to major transfers, above 0.5 million). Francis inherited a team with a number of truly top class players,  but he sold all of them: Klinsmann,  Popescu,  Barmby, Sheringham  - the first 3 were all sold  within his first 7 months. He also sold Dumitrescu – and, although this is widely assumed to be his one sensible transfer, it was not obvious that such a talent could not have blossomed under a proper manager.

But if his sales were bad then his purchases were nothing short of disastrous. From memory only I have listed GF's major signings and given my own subjective rating in terms of: unqualified success; moderate success; failure; total unmitigated disaster. They are:

Armstrong - total unmitigated disaster
Fox - total unmitigated disaster
Sinton - total unmitigated disaster
Scales - total unmitigated disaster
Vega - total unmitigated disaster
Iversen - failure
Dominguez - failure
Neilsen - total unmitigated disaster
Ferdinand - total unmitigated disaster until the current season under Hoddle
Ginola - moderate success

In case anyone disgrees with my assessment that almost all were total unmitigated disasters just compare the price paid for the failures with the price we either got for selling them or would get if we sold them today (25 million pound cost for a return of 1.5 million I reckon). I challenge anybody to provide any example of any manager in the history of football who conducted a worse sequence of transfers. GF actually signed Vega, Scales, and Iversen within a couple of days of eachother at the end of 1996 for a lot of money and I distinctly remember him crowing about how this proved he could attract the "world's very best" players to the club. While there were plenty of suckers who fell completely for this nonsense anybody with any knowledge knew that Scales was a waste of time, while Vega's incompetence was there for all to see on his first appearance. For me those signings - which GF regarded at the time as the high point of his career - merely confirmed his footballing ignorance.

But it doesn't just stop there. Look at some of the players who were offered to GF that he turned down:

Petit  -  apparently GF watched him on 6 separate occasions but couldn't make up his mind. When he finally invited him to transfer talks Petit was so unimpressed that he caught a taxi to Highbury and the rest is history.
Juninho  -  was available at the same time and for the same money as Fox. GF preferred Fox.
Berkovic -  was offered to Spurs for free in the summer of 96 - GF said he wasn't good enough for the premiership. GF then semi-reluctantly tried to buy him for £1.5million a year later but lost out to West Ham after obsessively talking about defending and  'tracking back' (Berkovic is quoted as saying he thought that he was a joke)
Gullit  -  was offered to Spurs in the summer of 95 when GF famously said 'what could I possibly use him for'
Bergkamp -  was offered to Spurs in the summer of 95 - GF said he was too great a risk.
Zidane and Djaokaef – offered to GF as a pair in the summer of 95 for less than half a million – GF said they weren’t good enough for the premisership.

Then there is the issue of Francis’s playing style. It was the worst ever seen at WHL. During a period of several matches in early 1997 he played EIGHT defenders. I remember Jason Dozzell saying that GF was obsessed with stopping the 'other team' and never concentrated on how Spurs could impose themselves on a game. This was also the same impression GF gave to several players who refused to join Spurs after meeting him.

Finally, we have to consider his record of achievement. It still bugs me that there are lots of people who think GF did 'pretty well' (saying crap like 'steadying a sinking ship left by Ardiles), while MOST people automatically assume he was better than Gross and Ardiles. This is nonsense. When he ‘rescued us’ from Ardiles in November 1994 we had, in fact, played 12 league matches of which 5 were won, 5 lost and 2 drawn. Moroever, this had included some of the most exhilarating football seen by Spurs in a generation. When GF left us over 3 years later we were just one point off the bottom of the table nearly half-way into the season. In the previous (1996-97) season we ‘achieved’:the following

  • lost 18 times -  the highest number of defeats in the premiership  (equal with Sunderland who were relegated)'
  • our highest ever defeat in a cup competition (6-1 at Bolton)
  • our worst ever premiership defeat (7-1 at Newcastle).
  • lowest ever number of goals at WHL in a season - just 19 in 19 matches

But  the most damning statistic of all is his record against 'good' teams. Here is his record  against teams who finished in the top six either in the season the match was played or the previous season:

Played 43 Won  3 Drawn 19 Lost 21

(The 3 victories were Arsenal in Nov 95, Man U in  Jan 96 and Villa in Sept 96).

GF's current stewardship of Bristol Rovers accurately sums up his level of managerial skill.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Comments on Chelsea's non-goal

People citing the photo on the Chelsea website and the Daily Mail as 'evidence that the ball may have crossed the line' are clearly ignorant of simple geometry and perspective. Any image taken at that angle where the ball is directly in front of the middle of the goal will appear to be inside the far post even if it is several feet in front of the goalline.

The decision was worse than any of the famous incidents where the ball crossed the line but a goal was not awarded (and this includes examples where the ball actually hit the net and came out again). This is because in ALL of those situations it could be argued that the ref/ linesman really did not see the ball cross the line). In this case the ref has no such defence as he cannot possibly have seen the ball go over the line. The closest analogy would be the Geoff Hurst goal, but in that case at least 50% of the ball was over the line. Yesterday NO PART of the ball was over the line.

Someone said:

"Not to stoke the flames, but if the situation was reversed, do you really see Ledley or Scott Parker saying "Hey ref, that wasn't a goal, let's call it 1-0 and play on"? 

This is the wrong analogy. The correct analogy would be 'what would John Terry and Ashley Cole have done if it happened to them'. I believe they would have gone as far as refusing to restart the game until the ref had properly consulted the linesman and fourth official. There is a lot of nonsense spoken about 'the need to bring in technology'. The fact is that informally it is already used. For example, managers watch the incidents on a TV monitor in real-time and if there is an obvious error they tell the fourth official what they saw - Fergie and Wenger do this all the time and even Harry has been known to do it. The fourth official informs the ref and linesman that there may be a problem and they should at least consult again properly etc (in this case the linesman has stated that he did not see the incident properly, so if Atkinson had spent some time just clarifying that fact with the linesman he would have realised it was safest not to give the goal). Chelsea would certainly have made it known to the ref that the TV showed an obvious no goal and Terry would have told the ref that he was going to look very stupid if he did not think again and consult further. At the very least Chelsea's whole team reaction would have been one of total fury at the ref. What I found astonishing from Spurs' reaction was almost no dissent at all. Even from the very top of block P where I was I could see the ball could not have crossed the line. However, the lack of protest by Spurs players made me think that I was possibly mistaken. Every fan I have since spoken to at the ground has said exactly the same thing. Hence the fans were not convinced an injustice of that magnitude had occurred and for this our own players take the blame. Had we been fully aware of what happened there would have been a very different reaction from the crowd who were really resigned to defeat after that but would otherwise have been really fired up. For example, when Chelsea's third goal went in about 50% of the Spurs fans left there and then with 15 minutes still to play. I don't think they would have done if they knew the full story.

In fact it all boils down to a lack of real leadership on the pitch which not only hurt us in the case of the 'goal' but also contributed to our collapse late on. Compare Ledley King as a leader to Terry, Gerrard, or even Van Persie. Those guys would have gone ballistic - and quite rightly so. King made no attempt to talk to the ref and after the match he was completely laid back about what had happened. In fact I am furious about the whole Spurs after-match reaction now because it has lent credibility to the Chelsea narrative that the phantom goal didn't really matter anyway.

I do not understand Harry's rationale for putting his reserve keeper in goal. Was Harry playing his strongest side or not? Clearly not in goal, but yes otherwise. Cudicini is competent but he is clearly not first choice. Harry presumably wanted to stay loyal to Cudicini as he had played in the previous FA Cup games. But then, on that basis, why not start with Defoe? It simply makes no sense.