The Truth About Loyalty

News is coming through this lunchtime that Roberto Martinez wants to leave Wigan, shortly after leading them to both the biggest triumph of his career (an FA Cup win) and a biggest relative failure of his short and impressive career (relegation from the Premier League).

It’s easy to look at this as the manager leaving a sinking ship, but the infrastructure will still be pretty good, and Wigan have a number of players who can play ‘the Wigan way’. On the other hand, the next boss will have to work in the shadow left by Martinez’ reputation – he’s almost certainly both the most successful manager in the club’s history, as well as the creator of their most stylish football.

You’d think, on paper, that leaving last summer would have been better for the club, but would it? The new boss would have to take over a club that had punched above it’s weight to a degree, with many people doubting whether Martinez’s record of style and substance could be matched. A sense of decay, of internal division, would almost be inevitable… but the new manager next season will take over a club who have faith in their ability to return to the top flight, and who realise that changes will need to be made, changes that may take time to pay off. So which option is the better really?

Roberto Martinez - The Smiling Spaniard
Roberto Martinez – The Smiling Spaniard

At the other end of the spectrum, Pep Guardiola will inherit a finely tuned Bayern Munich squad, one that has won the league and European Cup, dropping only 11 league points, and will probably be the first German team to win the treble. And, of course, his rivals’ star player is on the way.
But the pressure will be enormous – how can he top his predecessor?

Alex Ferguson has left Manchester United on a high, but David Moyes will need to deal with underperforming wingers, a dissatisfied Wayne Rooney, and a central midfield where only Michael Carrick is anywhere close to being ‘world class’ on a consistent basis. He’ll need to make significant changes, while being careful not to disrupt the winning mentality that’s dragged his new club to titles they shouldn’t have won several times.

So, when’s the least disruptive time to leave? Any option is fraught wih dangers, not just for the manager, but for the club, and the pressures placd on the new man. That’s the truth about loyalty.

This article first appeared at SportLobster at midday on Tuesday 28th.


Harry’s No Houdini

In October, with QPR rock bottom of the Premier League, Mark Hughes was replaced as manager by Harry Redknapp.

Despite some big name signings in the summer who’d be underperforming under Hughes (Jose Bosingwa, Esteban Granero) existing talent (Adel Taarabt, Djibril Cisse) and January signings of Redknapp’s (Chris Samba, Loic Remy), QPR went down. Redknapp is well known as a social guy with friends in the media, so the common angle has been that Redknapp couldn’t do enough to save them.

Maybe SeagullMan could have saved QPR?
Maybe SeagullMan could have saved QPR?

But how true is this? Writing for Squawka, I’ve taken a statistical look at different parts to QPR’s style of play, looking at how they’ve performed under both men.

Click here to read Redknapp’s Lack of Impact at QPR


A Series of Hangovers

This weekend sees the release of the third in the Hangover franchise, with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifanakianakis set to spend a couple of days searching for a lost friend, and piece together their lost memories for the third time in 4 summers.

Writing for the Ann Arbor Review of Books, I’ve watched and reviewed the first two Hangover films.

Do you ever have one of those hangovers where your head feels like it's turned to stone?
Do you ever have one of those hangovers where your head feels like it’s turned to stone?

Click here to read Marathon Man: The Hangover

Analysis, Storytelling Geekery

Star Trek: Into Dumbness

A warning – below the dividing line is a long series of massive spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest film in the franchise, currently in cinemas worldwide.

During the last week I’ve watched the first 7 Star Trek films starring the original characters, as part of a review for Ann Arbor Review. This weekend I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in the cinema.

For those with only a superficial understanding of the Star Trek franchise, the first 6 films followed the original characters – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and all. There were then 4 film starring the The Next Generation cast – Picard, Data, Worf. The 11th film, directed by JJ Abrams has a time-travel/history-changing central idea, and stars the original characters at a younger age, played by different actors.
Into Darkness is the 12th film in the Star Trek franchise overall, following directly on from the 11th.

Star Trek Into Darkness is exciting, fast-paced, filled with obvious references to previous parts of the franchise, but there were a few times that made me laugh at how little skill the material was handled with.

I didn’t find Final Frontier, a notorious mess, as bad as Into Darkness. I’m pretty certain I laughed more at The Voyage Home, but that’s actually meant to be a comedy.

I’ve been thinking about what I liked and didn’t like in each, and have come up with 4 components to doing Star Trek right. It should be

  • Superficially exciting
  • Have strong character definition and interaction
  • Have meaty moral or philosophical arguments
  • Take place in a well-structured universe with understandable scientific and political rules, even if the science differs from what we know to be true.

Most versions of Star Trek don’t meet all four – for example the first film (The Motion Picture) is incredibly slow, failing the first requirement. First Contact doesn’t have much in the way or moral arguments, and there are notorious episodes  that fail all four, even from the classic series, such as Spock’s Brain, where aliens steal… Spock’s brain.
Into Darkness certainly meets the first requirement – being up there with the best of Star Trek in excitement, and achieves a pass on the second requirement, even though it’s a mixed success.
The third and fourth it fails miserably.

I’ve been thinking, both while watching and reviewing the first 7 films, and after seeing Into Darkness, about what I like and dislike about Into Darkness. I’m going to put a few thoughts down.

As a warning, the following is going to be absolutely packed with spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness. Read on at your own peril.

JJ Abrams, by Gage Skidmore
JJ Abrams, by Gage Skidmore

Continue reading “Star Trek: Into Dumbness”


Squawka: West Brom 5 Manchester United 5

Writing for Squawka, I’ve written a statistical analysis of Sunday’s match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United – a mad game that ended in a five all draw.

Too many more games like that would probably have given him a heart attack.
Too many more games like that would probably have given him a heart attack.

Click here to read my stats-based match report.


A Little Late Lower League Week

The second last Lower League Week went up late in the week last week, so appropriately enough, the link to it is going up late as well.

This edition covers John Hughes’ sacking by Hartlepool, James Beattie’s appointment as Accrington manager, and former Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler announcing his intent to return to management… and his belief that he would also have taken them up this year.

After two years of spending heavily, Swindon have announced their intention to make massive cuts for next year. Portsmouth will probably not be able to pay a transfer fee for a few years, as a result of being required to pay ‘football debts’ in full, and there’s the potential for a Coventry buyout by Preston Haskell IV, and investment as a result.

An Oxford supporters’ group, OxVox, have helped force the club’s ground to be designated as a ‘community asset’, protecting it against owners who want to sell it for a quick profit.

Aldershot and Wycombe have had financial problems, while a Yeovil fan has been denied the chance to take a flag into the playoff final… unless he paid £1500 for eight people to help him.

Yeovil manager Gary Johnson, immediately after having his flag yoinked from his fist. Possibly.
Yeovil manager Gary Johnson, immediately after having his flagpole yoinked from his fist. Possibly.

Click here to read Lower League Week – Managers and Money


Star Trekkin’ Across the Universe

The new Star Trek film, JJ Abrams’ second and the twelfth overall, is now in cinemas both in America as well as the UK (and presumably in one or two other countries).

Writing for the Ann Arbor Review, I’ve looked back across all 7 previous films starring the original characters, and reviewed them collectively, giving my thoughts on how the films measure up against each other, and purely as entertainment in their own rights.

While I don’t want to spoil what I have to say, Star Trek V is a total mess.

"I want to make a deep, serious film about the quest for God and the nature of free will, but with slapstick comedy!"
“I want to make a deep, serious film about the quest for God and the nature of free will, but with slapstick comedy!”

I hadn’t realised quite how much they vary in subject matter and style, but I enjoyed going back and rewatching some films I’ve not seen for quite some time.

Click here to read Marathon Man: Star Trek (Films I – IV)

Click here to read Marathon Man: Star Trek (V, VI, XI)