GRAEME SOUNESS: I don't miss the pressure of a relegation battle

GRAEME SOUNESS: The pressure at the bottom of the Premier League table is bigger than ever with Frank Lampard and David Moyes one defeat away from the sack. After leaving coaching 17 years ago… I don’t miss it!

  • The pressure is growing on a number of managers down the bottom of the table
  • Frank Lampard and David Moyes could face the sack if their teams lose again
  • I have not had a job in management since leaving Newcastle back in 2006
  • After 17 years away from the dugout, I don’t miss being part of a relegation scrap

It was only when I had finished at Newcastle that I realised management was no longer for me. The joy of winning did not compensate for the pain of losing. I thought, ‘This isn’t worth it any more’. It was time to find something else to do, and that was 17 years ago.

But let me tell you, when you’re in the job, you are fighting like mad to stay there. No matter how toxic things were, I always said to myself, ‘I’m here, I’m going to fight and do my very best for this football club’.

I would like to think that is the case with those Premier League managers who are under serious pressure right now. I list Frank Lampard, David Moyes, Graham Potter and Brendan Rodgers in that number. They are all vulnerable to the sack.

I don’t miss the pressure of being involved in a relegation battle 17 years after leaving coaching

I have to admit, this particular column is not the easiest to write. I have been a manager and I know what they are feeling. When it is not going well, you have to front up and take what comes your way, and it can be unpleasant.

A Saturday night would be a no-go for heading out if you’d had a bad day. The criticism was not something that particularly bothered me, given the time I had been in the game, but it does affect people around you.

Take this example. Because of the bad weather, I was sitting indoors this week and Frank’s wife, Christine, was on the TV. Not that I’m a great watcher of Loose Women, by the way.

But, out of the blue, my wife said, ‘Christine won’t be enjoying life at this time’. It reminded me, my wife went through that. That was her first thought, what Frank’s wife would be feeling. Looking back, I’m not sure I realised the impact it had on my immediate family.

There are a lot of emotions in play, but I do look at Frank at Everton and see someone who is still fighting. It is when you hear a manager say, ‘I’m not going to resign’ that he is putting down a marker to the decision-makers.

Frank Lampard is under serious pressure at Everton at the moment after a dismal run of form

It tells you that the vibes within the club are negative and they know the end is nigh. They want out but will not be leaving empty-handed. They feel they’ve been treated unfairly and the job description is not what they were sold on day one.

Frank has every right to feel angry in that regard, but I don’t think he’s at the stage where he is looking for a way out. He has played under the very best managers — fighters, winners. Most of his learning has come from them. He will still believe he can turn it around, and he can.

I have been where Frank is, when you feel let down and abandoned by the owners.

The biggest reason I never returned to management was that I could not be answerable to the type of people who are running football clubs.

But, while you are there, you have to remain professional and stick with it. Players aren’t stupid, they will know if you’re dropping off. If you lose your enthusiasm for the fight, they will see that.

Frank Lampard’s wife Christine won’t be enjoying watching her husband struggle at Everton

Yes, it still feels like Frank is one game away from losing his job — I thought it would be this week after losing to bottom-of-the-table Southampton at home — but sometimes these matches can be exactly what you need. And Everton at West Ham on Saturday afternoon is the biggest game of the day. 

The pressure on David Moyes is different. While Frank does not get a free pass and he should be coming up with a system to dig out results with the players at his disposal, it is still no great surprise they are in a relegation fight.

There are mitigating factors for him, given the mess the club are in at the very top.

But West Ham supporters will be mystified as to how they are in the bottom three. The optimism levels were enormous on the back of finishing seventh and making the semi-finals of the Europa League last season.

They then went out and spent a club-record £165million in the summer window. They improved the squad but, somehow, I now see a team who have got a lot worse. The manager has to carry the responsibility for that.

David Moyes will also be feeling the pressure with West Ham inside the bottom three

In an age where clubs are so dependent on staying up to protect their television revenue, if you are in the bottom three at the halfway stage, the owners have a big decision to make. The pressure at the bottom is like never before and it is often a bigger story than what is happening at the top. The very best of sport is about jeopardy — and the risk of Armageddon that comes with relegation from the Premier League means there is a real fascination with the teams down there.

To that end, the loser of Saturday’s game will do well to survive. But if there is a winner, it can be the start of something. Both David and Frank will be clinging to that. Don’t forget, Sir Alex Ferguson was one match from the sack at Manchester United when Mark Robins scored a winning goal at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round in 1990.

And look at Eddie Howe’s recent journey. He got Bournemouth relegated and was out of work for 18 months. Even then he was not first choice at Newcastle. He went into a losing team and won one of his first 10 in charge. Now, he is flying, and Newcastle are fourth in the Premier League.

He is not approaching his football too differently to what he did at Bournemouth. His philosophies have remained the same. If you keep believing, there is always a way out of trouble.

They say a week is a long time in politics, you can apply that to football, too.

Tottenham stars have stopped listening to Conte

For 45 minutes at Manchester City on Thursday night, Tottenham looked the real deal. They were steely, aggressive and played with no inferiority complex. Then, they went all Spursy.

They were so good in the first half that I did not see it coming, City scoring three times by the 63rd minute to lead 3-2. All of a sudden, from the first whistle after half-time, Spurs looked like a team who cannot get in the top four. They crumbled.

You can bet to a man that the one thing Antonio Conte and his coaching staff said at half-time was this: ‘We’re 2-0 up. There is a storm coming in the first 15 minutes. Weather that and you’ll be fine. The crowd will turn and we’ll get another goal.’

Antonio Conte is struggling to get his message across to his Tottenham players

Tottenham were fantastic in the first half against Man City but then they reverted to type

They should have been super aggressive, more of the same from the first half, risked a yellow card, even. They should have got in City’s faces and let them know they weren’t going to have it easy. Instead? They reverted to type.

It is little wonder they conceded the first goal in 10 games straight. That is not a coincidence, it is a real problem with mentality and the ability to start a game properly. That very first pattern of the game, in either half, sets the tone. Spurs are so poor at that.

Their players need to take a good look at themselves and ask, ‘What is wrong with me?’ They are giving the initiative to the other team every time. The first half at City was different, and I thought they were fantastic.

But whatever Conte said to them at half-time, they were not listening. The same way they have not listened before the majority of games this season. That is a big worry.




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