Only the good ones can survive the cruel, unpredictable game

2011-11-23 00:00

IT’S a cruelly unpredictable game, football. A team can go from flying high to rock bottom in a second. What’s worse is that nobody sees it coming.

There is seldom any evidence on the training ground that your season is about to do a U-turn of gargantuan proportions.

When things are going well it’s all smiles at practice and everybody involved in the team enjoys every second.

And so they should, but nobody knows more than Maritzburg United coach Ian Palmer how quickly things can change.

A little over a month ago he was named the PSL’s coach of the month for September/August after guiding United to seven PSL matches undefeated and third place on the PSL log. He has not won since.

In five competitive matches since Palmer’s first major award as a coach, United have been eliminated from the Telkom Knockout and have collected just one point from a possible 12 in League action.

It is still too soon to tell how dire a situation Maritzburg are in.

The fact that they have scored just once in these five matches is of most concern, but it is premature to assume that Palmer’s side are heading for an all too familiar war against relegation.

With matches coming up against Free State Stars and AmaZulu, Pal­mer will remain optimistic that his side can have a fair share of the points on offer.

A couple of wins would go a long way towards ending the current state of panic that Team of Choice fans may find themselves in.

It can change so quickly and the life of a football manager is hardly enviable. Watching Spurs boss Harry Redknapp drowning in a sea of photographers on Monday night just two weeks after undergoing heart surgery would have told you just that.

Each and every managerial decision has a consequence. And no bill of secrecy or any other kind can save the poor gaffers, for the calls that they make are there for all too see.

At 1-0 down against Sundowns on Sunday, Palmer substituted enterprising winger Felix Obada for the far less attacking Morné Davids.

Had Palmer’s decision paid off and had Davids inspired United to find an equaliser, then we would be calling Palmer a tactical genius.

But there was no equaliser and now the decision to take off possibly your greatest attacking resource when chasing the game becomes questionable.

I still think that United and Palmer will be fine.

He is a hard worker and has won half the battle already by ensuring that the players are on his side, as opposed to former coach Ernst Middendorp, whose training sessions I’m told resembled more of a military camp than a football practice.

I can’t say the same for Chelsea’s Andre Villas-Boas.

Apparently, the 34-year old Portuguese coach will be judged on his performance in Europe this season and not his League position.

He won’t mind that. But with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka battling to find form on the wrong side of 30, the future does not look bright for the Premier League’s youngest manager.

I imagine the form of John Terry to be a greater worry for Villas-Boas than Fernando Torres’s inability to do, well, anything. Because, let’s be honest, Chelsea have been okay without Torres for a while now.

The axe-wielder at Stamford Bridge may have a lot of things, but patience is not one of them.

The knowledge that it can all be over in the blink of an eye is what makes football management so ruthless.

All managers face it, but the good ones survive it.

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