Jim White

Managerial merry-go-round in top gear for Christmas

And so the managerial merry-go-round spins on. The bookies reckon Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on his way to the Hawthorns to take control of West Brom, while nobody seems particularly keen on working with Daniel Levy at Tottenham, as reports suggest both Frank de Boer and Guus Hiddink have turned down the opportunity to manage Spurs.

Meanwhile, unlike his increasingly rabid chairman Vincent Tan, the likeable and talented Malky Mackay is retaining his dignity as the end of his time at Cardiff rapidly approaches. So who goes where next? Though they usually know what they are doing, in this instance, I’m not so sure the bookies have got it right.

Suddenly everything has changed in the succession stakes at the Hawthorns. Of course, the prospect of Solskjaer coming to manage in England is an appealing one. Sir Alex Ferguson always reckoned the Norwegian had the sharpest tactical brain of any of the players he coached. While others might direct their attention to their mobiles or the good looking woman in the fourth row of the main stand, Solskjaer – a career substitute at United - would use his time on the bench to make forensic analysis of an opponent.

He would sit there working out precisely how he could make a difference were he to get on the pitch. More often than not – as he proved in venues as diverse as the City Ground and the Camp Nou – he would put his homework to devastating effect, a one-man wrecking crew.

At Molde, he has proven equally adept at communicating his tactical awareness to his players. In his first managerial position, he has won the club the only two titles it has recorded in its 102-year history, plus the Norwegian Cup. He has made a fortress of what is undoubtedly the most picturesque stadium in European football, sited as it is on the banks of a fjord with astonishing views across the water. More to the point, with his couple of English assistants, he has produced an excellent footballing side.

And, just as was the case when he was a player, anyone underestimating his youthful appearance does so at their peril. He may look elfin like, but there was nothing sweet about his striking ability. He hurt opponents with the most ruthless finishing (not to say an ability to look after himself in the hurly burly of the box which often involved getting his revenge in before any offence had been committed).

Now he is hurting opponents with his planning and preparation. This is a man who needs to win. And will stop at nothing in the pursuit of victory. The Baby Faced Assassin has shown no signs that his thirst to make opponents suffer has been slaked.

As such he would be an excellent choice for West Brom. Indeed, the interesting thing about his potential appointment there is that it has come now. For the past couple of seasons his name has been mentioned in connection with virtually every vacancy in the Premier League. Blackburn Rovers, among others, have offered him the chance to bring his expertise back to the country where he played with such distinction.

So far he has always turned down any approach. He has appeared to be biding his time, not so much in order to build his experience, but to ensure he was getting the right job.

Just as he used to from the Manchester United bench, he has been studying his options with great care from across the North Sea. He knows that his next position is vital. Pick the wrong club – and clearly Blackburn were the wrong club – and his career could be over in England virtually before it had begun. Get it right and he could be on the upward trajectory to the big time.

In many ways West Brom looks the perfect role for a man like him to make his mark. Although form is currently in a sufficiently downward spiral to account for the previous coach Steve Clarke, this is no basket case club. There are good players there, a good infrastructure, a sustainable future. This is not one of the Premier League’s poisoned chalices.

Unlike Cardiff. Poor Mackay. He has done absolutely nothing wrong in his time in the city. It is hardly his fault that he is clearly working for a lunatic. Tan’s latest proclamation is that if Mackay doesn’t resign he will sack him. His offence appears to be suggesting that a couple of buys might be a good idea in January.

This, seemingly, is a crime of sufficient scale it outweighs trivial accomplishments like steering the club to the Premier League for the first time, or beating Manchester City, or getting one over the local rivals Swansea.

Unjustified as it may be, however, Mackay’s imminent removal from Cardiff does somewhat change the managerial selection stakes. From appearing to be a one-horse race to replace Clarke, suddenly there is another rider to back.

Mackay’s imminent availability might give pause for thought at the Hawthorns. Here, after all, is someone with significantly more experience of managing in England than Solskjaer, a man, moreover, with a more than adequate track record in the Premier League. And if the Baggies decide that Mackay might be a better fit, what then for Solskjaer?

His ambition is clearly to secure a job in the Premier League. But, if Mackay snaffles the West Brom post, the two jobs then on offer, at Cardiff and Tottenham, look very different propositions. Daniel Levy or Vincent Tan: as potential bosses go, that is the very definition of Hobson’s choice. Suddenly staying put on the banks of his fjord would look rather more appealing.