For any footballer at a mid-ranking club, bereft of the sort of the perceived talent and reputation that attract admiring clubs like moths to a light, and a defunct contract, there’s an obvious fork in the road. To the right lies the safe path. Your club wants to offer you a new deal. It’s safe. It’s guaranteed. It means you can still provide for your family. The other road – the one leading to all sorts of left field possibilities – is solely reserved for the brave, or the foolhardy. It leads to, well that’s the whole point. You simply don’t know where it leads, and if your briefly itinerant excursion into the exploration of the unknown is a dead end, there’s no guarantee that you can retrace your steps and opt for the other road afterwards.
Such a choice faced Motherwell’s Scottish midfielder Paul Lambert, at the end of the 1995-96 season. Lambert chose left path, having “…always wanted to try to play abroad.” As he later remarked, “I had nothing to lose at the time and never knew how things were going to pan out.” Sometimes the right path is the wrong path. Lambert chose left and twelve months later with a Champions League winner’s medal in his pocket after a Man of the Match performance negating the talents of Zinedine Zidane, no-one was questioning his sense of direction. Continue reading →
I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Thomas Tuchel at the time, but a while ago, he was linked with a move to take over at Aston Villa. After a little research, it quickly became clear that Tuchel was not, as perhaps Jose Mourinho may say, ‘one from the bottle.’ Here was a coach who had a different approach. Someone who had a penchant for engendering respect among his squad, with a novel approach practice sessions, and who had experienced working under the influential Ralf Rangnick. It seemed an inspired appointment if it had taken place. Tuchel had taken unfashionable Mainz to the top level of German football, and even at one stage had them sitting atop of the Bundesliga. I’ve also seen it reported that in the five year period running up to the end of the 2013-14 only three Bundesiga cubs had gained more points than the small club from Rhineland-Palatinate. There seemed the germs of a good story, so I made a few notes and thought I’d progress it when – or if – the appointment happened. It didn’t and as other events took prominence they sat in a virtual folder gradually accumulating virtual dust. Continue reading →
On the 25th May last year, Borussia Dortmund came with an ace of taking the Champions League crown and being regarded as the best team on the continent. Just as with the final of Europe’s premier club competition, the same was true of the Bundesliga, as the Westphalian club had finished as runners-up to Bayern Munich. Their coach, Jurgen Klopp, was very much flavour of the month and was linked with a number of top jobs in the Premier League. Now, just over 18 months later, after 16 games of the new season, and Bayern again cantering to the Bundesliga title, Dortmund lie in a relegation spot at the foot of the table, a single point above the bottom club. It all begs the question: ‘What went wrong? Continue reading →