x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Musical chairs of managerial world

We are in a close season, but football is open all hours, a roving and dastardly business that constantly craves fresh visualisations.

A flushed start to flaming June, even by football's agitated standards. We are in a close season, but football is open all hours, a roving and dastardly business that constantly craves fresh visualisations. Several clubs have hardly been reticent in seeking to frost themselves with glistening personnel. Some familiar faces have been busy picking up the cudgel in key battlegrounds. Carlo Ancelotti is in at Chelsea, Manuel Pellegrini has moved to Real Madrid and Steve Bruce is the Geordie now running Sunderland. Swansea City's Roberto Martinez, a mere slip of a Spanish lad at the age of 35, finds himself quaffing some riotous speculation. Glasgow Celtic and Wigan Athletic are in pursuit of his properties. Celtic apparently also long for West Bromwich Albion's Tony Mowbray to succeed Gordon Strachan.

Sir Alf Ramsay oversaw England's World Cup success of 1966. He said that managers receive too many plaudits in triumph, too much condemnation in losing. That may be true, but the absence of a good one can leave a club in a wretched state. A rudderless Newcastle United's fall into the undergrowth of the Championship has been a hellish decline. The foibles of a meaningful overseer cannot be overstated. Some appointments assuage the fears of supporters, others leave them shuddering. Tony Adams, a figure reeking of recent failure, said he was in the frame for Celtic position this week. It caused such widespread anxiety that the club issued a statement denouncing such a prospect, if only to alleviate the wailing sounds.

This game of managerial musical chairs is but a smallish fragment of a longer one. Announcing the identity of a new coach at the start of June allows a club three months to prune and restyle squads. The European transfer window for signing new players opens on July 1 and closes on Aug 31. Guus Hiddink rejected the chance to become Chelsea's permanent manager, but his five-month stopover gave them time to serenade Ancelotti. Chelsea will have discussed targets and budgets with the Italian. The England player, Shaun Wright-Phillips, was in Abu Dhabi a year ago. He spoke about his intention to impress the then new Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, but within days had rejoined Manchester City. Such transfers do not occur on a whim.

Scolari's ill-fated time at Chelsea saw him toppled in February, but he would have scribbled down a list of players to pursue before pre-season training began last July. Wright-Phillips was never in Scolari's plans. He probably knew as much before he visited this region. Real Madrid's £56million (Dh333.5m) pursuit of Kaka is legitimate. It is known that Milan are struggling to meet the Brazilian's wages. After a move to City collapsed in January, Milan have been emitting noises on the quiet suggesting that he would be available for half of that price this summer. £56m is about half of what City were ready to unload.

Kaka may well interest Ancelotti at half the price. He apparently possesses a budget of £100m against the £150m that will line Pellegrini's pockets. Bruce will not be in the dark at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland have a unique selling point. They are the only club in the Premier League who hail from England's North East after the demise of Newcastle United and Middlesbrough. These are thoughtful times.

Wigan and Celtic are just a few notable names chasing managers. There will be more vacancies in the weeks ahead. A tight ship needs a taut captain to run it. While the art of good management can be a perilous path, it remains a priceless commodity to those who seek it. dkane@thenational.ae