David Unsworth has been at the centre of the media debate during recent days after he was given the Everton manager’s job on a temporary basis. The Toffees have lost both of his matches in charge so far and there has been little sign of improvement from the team that regarded as a failure under Ronald Koeman.
The main opposition to Unsworth has been Joey Barton and the boyhood Evertonian hasn’t been shy in coming forward in his criticism of the 44-year-old. The former player turned radio pundit is an explosive character and there could be some sense of sensationalism in his comments, but he has given an interesting take on the situation during the TalkSPORT Alan Brazil breakfast show.
“He’s a glorified PE teacher. He’s an academy coach who shouldn’t be managing a men’s team. I watched him waddling on to the coach. How can you get players to exert themselves physically when you’re out of shape? I used to watch him as an Evertonian and he was the most immobile left-back I’ve ever seen. He’s not a manager and doesn’t look like one.”
This comes across as a personal attack on Unsworth and his appearance, which will make several uncomfortable. Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of criticism on Barton and the reference to the caretaker manager’s weight, as that shouldn’t have any impact on an individual not getting a job. If this comment had come from a fan on the terraces, it would rightly be taken with a pinch of salt, but as it comes from a former player, it deserves to be taken into consideration.
It remains unknown whether Barton truly believes this view or if he was saying it to get a reaction, but if it is the former, it is a worry for Everton supporters if Unsworth gets the job. It is an abhorrent opinion and one that shouldn’t be present in football, but if Barton holds the view, then there will be current players with it too. There are a lot of biases that remain at large in football and they need to be accounted for when making decisions at the very top. Later into his attack, the former Newcastle United and QPR player makes a more pertinent point regarding the 44-year-old’s suitability for the job.
“He’s talking a big game in the papers saying he wants the job and thinks he can handle the job full-time. He is saying this on the back of having never managed a senior side, not really done an apprenticeship and gone down the leagues to ply his trade and work his way back up into a position to manage a Premier League club.
“In my opinion, he has cosied up to Bill Kenwright, who he knows is a romantic, who he knows likes former players to be involved in the football club, and is attempting to take a shortcut. He doesn’t look right to me. He is not the right man for the Everton job. If he takes the Everton job, Everton will get relegated.”
Barton clearly believes that Unsworth isn’t suitable for the Everton job and this point carries a lot more relevance than the first. It is becoming a common theme for British managers to complain about lack of opportunities at the highest level, but they aren’t willing to drop down and earn experience to develop as a manager before taking a top-flight job.
Unsworth has done a great job at youth level and brought through a lot of players to the first team, but it is completely different dealing with senior players. They have bigger egos and it is a much bigger challenge to keep all of them happy. Another difference is the tactical demands on the manager in the Premier League. He is now coming up against the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho rather than other inexperienced managers.
The pressure difference is chalk and cheese. The attack on Unsworth’s appearance leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but it is difficult to argue with Barton on this view, as the Everton caretaker hasn’t managed in senior football before.
The alternate view
Not every ex-footballer shares the thoughts of Joey Barton and former Everton player Phil Neville has come out in support of Unsworth, stating that he deserves the job on a full-time basis in his BBC Sport column.
“I would love to see David Unsworth get the Everton job on a permanent basis and it riles me when I see him described as not having enough experience. Unsworth has done the hard yards as a coach and has done a fantastic job with the Everton Under-23 side, where he has done everything that was asked of him. He won the Premier League 2 title with them last season and has also produced a lot of the young players that are now playing for the Everton first team. The next step now is for him to go and do that at first-team level in the Premier League and hopefully that is at Everton, because it seems the perfect match.”
It is an interesting counter-argument to the one put forward by Barton, but ultimately a lot less convincing. Unsworth has done a great job with the Under-23 side and deserves to be in the discussion for the permanent position as a result. However, he shouldn’t be regarded as a leading candidate as he has never been in a senior management role. People who have never been in football can attest to the huge difference between youth football and senior football, which is why some players can’t make the step-up.
As a former footballer, Neville should know that better than most. The next logical step is senior football, but it should come lower down the pyramid as the Premier League is a highly pressured environment and Unsworth would be learning on the job. Caretaker managers that are given a permanent deal are rarely a success. The recent dismissal of Craig Shakespeare is a great example of that. The BBC Sport pundit follows it up with a point on the lack of opportunities for English managers.
“From an English coach’s perspective, we are not getting opportunities. We are seen as second-class citizens at the moment, and that has got to change.”
This is a lazy narrative that is being pushed by a number of British pundits. Welshman Ryan Giggs recently put himself in the running for Premier League jobs, despite having never held a management position in senior football. Phil Neville has done similar and tried to get into coaching at Valencia and Manchester United. It seems that these British players that want to go into management are only interested in taking posts at the highest level. Their arrogance is preventing them from making progress.
Back to Unsworth, he has been a good servant to Everton, but it would be a mistake to give him the job permanently. It would send out the wrong message to the players and undo a lot of the good work that the club has done in recent years. They have the ambition of breaking into the top-six and they need to match that with an appropriate managerial appointment. Unsworth isn’t that.
Is Bojan Krkic the perfect player for Gary Rowett to build Stoke City around?
The 27-year-old has been an outcast at the Bet365 Stadium.
As Gary Rowett continues to rebuild the Stoke City squad over the summer there will be plenty of speculation regarding who will be arriving and departing the Bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have already dipped into the transfer market by signing Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Benik Afobe whilst Egyptian starlet Ramadan Sobhi was sold to Huddersfield Town last week.
Xherdan Shaqiri, who is currently representing Switzerland at the World Cup in Russia, has confirmed that he will be leaving the club whilst, in contrast, Joe Allen has signed a new long-term contract to remain.
There are still plenty of question marks over current players. The likes of Jack Butland and Badou Ndiaye are expected to attract interest from Premier League clubs whilst the expensive pairing of Saido Berahino and Giannelli Imbula may not fit into Rowett’s plans but will be short of offers.
But what about Bojan Krkic?
The diminutive Spaniard was once one of the most promising young forwards in Europe after he rose through Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy system and made his first team debut at the age of 17.
He made over 100 appearances for the Catalan’s prior to loan spells with Ajax, AC Milan and Roma before eventually moving to Stoke in the summer of 2014.
Bojan has certainly made an impact at the Bet365 Stadium, particularly during his first two-and-a-half years with the club, but he fell out of favour under Mark Hughes and has spent the last eighteen months on loan in Germany and Spain.
At his best, the 27-year-old was a magician who produced moments of sublime skill and was a central creative influence in the team.
He was technically magnificent and would often glide across the pitch, weaving between defenders and was a genuine threat whenever he received the ball in the final third.
Bojan was one of only a handful of Stoke players from the last decade that would bring supporters to the edge of their seats in anticipation and expectation when he was in possession.
For anyone who requires a reminder of what the forward can do, simply look up his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur form 2014.
Much has been made of his injury in January 2015. The Spaniard suffered severe knee damage in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale that meant that he was out of action for the remainder of the season and the common narrative is that he was never the same upon his return.
However, this storyline is incorrect. In fact, Bojan was at his peak over the Christmas period in 2015 when he was the centre of Stoke’s attacking trident which also included Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.
Such was the effectiveness of the trio that The Potters picked up the nickname of ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to their attacking brand of football.
So where did it all go wrong for him?
He fell out of favour with Mark Hughes and, after being dropped from the starting line-up, was never able to regain his position as Stoke City’s creative hub.
The Spaniard subsequently has spent the past eighteen months on loan with Mainz and Las Palmas but has struggled to make any significant impact either in Germany or Spain.
In many respects, Bojan’s stock has never been lower. He has fallen off the radar somewhat in the past year and it appears that any hopes that he may have had of returning to a prominent European club are all but over.
However, this opens up a potential return to Stoke despite their relegation to The Championship.
Last season The Potters were desperately short of creativity and goals – something that Bojan can provide.
The Spaniard man be the perfect figure for Gary Rowett to build his new look team around.
Joe Allen and Oghenekaro Etebo will provide defensive security and energy in the centre of midfield whilst Benik Afobe will make be the focal point in the final third.
Bojan could be the perfect link player if deployed as a number ten and you would imagine that he would be more than capable of causing chaos amongst defences in The Championship.
There is, of course, the question of whether the 27-year-old would be prepared to play in the second tier of English football, although Allen’s decision to sign a new contract and remain at Stoke would suggest that Rowett is capable of being persuasive.
If Stoke are serious about challenging for promotion, then keeping Bojan and reigniting his career at the Bet365 Stadium would be a serious statement of intent.
Jack Wilshere is West Ham’s most realistic midfield target this summer
The 26-year-old seems the best option for Manuel Pellegrini at the moment.
Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly put signing a new midfielder high on his list of priorities this summer, having been linked with some stellar names, but is Jack Wilshere (Sky Sports) his most realistic target?
The Chilean has expressed his desire to get the Hammers playing attacking and progressive football again next term, and views a quality midfield addition as vital in achieving this.
Initially, the suggestion was made that Pellegrini would attempt to move for two-time Premier League winner Yaya Toure (the Telegraph), before stories broke claiming his interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore (Sky Sports).
However, talks for both have stalled, with Toure’s preference to join a top-six side (Sport 24) and Pastore’s reported wage demands of £190,000-a-week (Sky Sports) to leave the French capital, with it now looking more likely Roma will land the 29-year-old’s signature.
Wilshere would employ the tactics Pellegrini is after and would instantly inject technical quality into the current functional midfield trio of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang. His ability to carry the ball past defensive counterparts and to spot a final pass would add extra dimensions to the Hammers’ play, and at the age of 26 he could still have his best years ahead.
The ex-Bournemouth man has revealed he will not sign a contract extension at Arsenal with his contract set to expire imminently, meaning Pellegrini could land his signature on a free.
Tottenham should elevate reported interest in Leicester City protege Demari Gray
The 21-year-old could become a superstar if nurtured properly.
Tottenham Hotspur were reportedly interested in the possibility of signing Leicester City‘s attacking protege Demari Gray a few months back, according to reports from ESPN. And after a fruitless period in the search for attacking reinforcements, Mauricio Pochettino should revive his interest in sorting a deal.
Gray contributed four goals and three assists in 30 Premier League appearances last term, and is currently the captain of the England U21 squad. But he is likely to evaluate his future with the Foxes this summer, due to his lack of regular game-time. And Tottenham seems a great fit for the winger.
Spurs have pursued multiple attacking targets since the window commenced, without gathering any real traction on any of their targets, and it seems Pochettino – for once – is more concerned with making a marquee signing, than bringing in a player with the scope to develop and grow into a top player at White Hart Lane.
Talks for Anthony Martial, Christian Pulisic and Ivan Perisic have all stalled in recent times, and a move for the Leicester City man could be just the ticket for Spurs. He brings all the attributes they’re currently looking for; blistering pace, exceptional balance, end product, a cool head and notably the ability to hit an absolute cracker if awarded space.
If he reaches his peak under the guidance of Pochettino, which is more likely than not given his immense talent, the player could double in market-value and could become a key player for the Lilywhites for years to come.