Jacko, Dalglish, Deano, Oba, Arsenal and Mystic Meg
Ethiopia manager and self-confessed journeyman Iffy Onuora continues his exclusive blog
Let's start with some good news: my old gaffer and best mate Peter Jackson is back in management at his spiritual home, Bradford City, and I couldnÃ¢ÂÂt be more pleased. ItÃ¢ÂÂs always tough losing your job, and heÃ¢ÂÂs worked hard away from football in picking up the pieces. But footballÃ¢ÂÂs his first love, and thereÃ¢ÂÂs no better fit right now than Bradford, his hometown club, where he played with such distinction in two spells. With them near the bottom of the table, his big personality is just whatÃ¢ÂÂs required to lift the dressing room and the whole club.
BLOG, Fri 4 Sep 2009: Iffy on he and Peter Jackson being fired by Lincoln
That said, I was sad to see the Valley Parade hotseat made vacant by the departure of another old gaffer, Peter Taylor Ã¢ÂÂ for those of you unfamiliar with the Onuora opus, this is NOT a small list! Peter (Taylor) is also a fine man, a great coach with an excellent promotion track record, who IÃ¢ÂÂve no doubt will be back in management soon.
I donÃ¢ÂÂt know the reasons why it didn't work out for him at what remains a massive club in League Two. But if you'll forgive me for stretching a parallel, maybe thereÃ¢ÂÂs a little of the Liverpool story here going on. It could be that like Roy Hodgson, Peter Taylor was the right choice at the wrong time Ã¢ÂÂ and in turning to Jacko, theyÃ¢ÂÂve gone back to a former hero. ItÃ¢ÂÂs often the way in football that timing is everything, but I wish them both well in the future, and if Jacko emulates Kenny DalglishÃ¢ÂÂs effect at Liverpool, he should comfortably extend his caretaker role into one more permanent.
Four tops: the world's least likely boy band
What football is thankfully always capable of doing Ã¢ÂÂ for all the fervour it generates Ã¢ÂÂ is to put the game into its proper perspective. The untimely death this week of Dean Richards, a former Bradford player who went on to have a fine if injury-shortened career with Wolves, Southampton and Tottenham, was another shock to me.
I played against Dean and he was a terrific defender, big strong and quick with an assurance on the ball that set him apart, even at a young age, as someone destined to play at the top level. He was a gentle giant too, a nice guy who was always humble whenever you spoke to him. I read that Wolves and Tottenham are planning a tribute ahead of their upcoming game; he deserves nothing less.
Meanwhile, it's less than four weeks to Ethiopia's big game against Nigeria, and with the chances of a warm-up game receding fast, IÃ¢ÂÂm left to run the rule over the players here while keeping a nervous eye on the fortunes of the Super Eagles as their players perform in the big European Leagues.
Like I said to my driver approximately five seconds before Obafemi Martins bagged the winning goal in the Carling Cup Final, Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂll score, him: he always does against ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂ. Enter stage right the said Martins after the hapless Arsenal defence accommodated my Nostradamus-like musings with scarcely believable precision. Cue a world of silence in the bar, and a state of mourning in the Arsenal-loving Addis Ababa.
Oba dee, Oba dah, life goes on...
Now, I do confess myself to a soft spot for the Gooners Ã¢ÂÂ the mistress, if you will, to my good and long-suffering wife, Everton. However IÃ¢ÂÂve also got a lot of time for Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, and his core of fine professionals Ã¢ÂÂ like Stephen Carr and Barry Ferguson, to name but two. These guys more than deserved their winners' medals from their mighty efforts.
In particular, special praise is reserved for Roger Johnson, who I briefly played alongside at Wycombe during a loan spell in the autumn of my own playing career. Clearly injured for most of the second half, he kept going through sheer spirit and force of will. Even back then I could tell he was a forceful presence with a strong personality Ã¢ÂÂ and heÃ¢ÂÂs an example to other players playing in the lower divisions, who have the ability and desire to make the step up to the top flight.
That Cup final defeat could be the making or the breaking of Arsenal Ã¢ÂÂ an example to all of how to play the game in a manner that makes coaches want to coach and players want to play.
It could act as a spur to return to Wembley in the FA Cup Ã¢ÂÂ or dare I say the Champions League final Ã¢ÂÂ and find redemption. The not inconsiderable forces of Manchester United and Barcelona may have something to say about that, but thatÃ¢ÂÂs always the definition of true champions: the priceless ability to bounce back from disappointment.
IÃ¢ÂÂm sure someone like Arsene Wenger doesnÃ¢ÂÂt need the likes of me reminding him about that, but nonetheless heÃ¢ÂÂll probably be getting columns full of advice and admonishment. At such times it pays to have a stubborn belief in yourself and your team Ã¢ÂÂ and like all the great coaches, he yields to nobody on that score.
Ar-singed, but Wenger's belief burns bright
For the record, I still expect them to pick up some silverware this season from one of the three fronts theyÃ¢ÂÂre still competing on: Chelsea fans, for example, would swap places with them in a heartbeat, and for considerably more financial outlay expended.
In view of my correct prediction that my beloved Everton would prevail over Chelsea in the FA Cup last time I put pen to paper, and my Obafemi Martins moment, I'm hot right now Ã¢ÂÂ so feel free to head off to your nearest bookies with your life savings/kids college education fees/midlife crisis Harley Davidson/ill-advised trip to Las Vegas fund (delete where applicable).
As for Obafemi Martins, heÃ¢ÂÂs described his goal as the easiest of his career... well I do hope thatÃ¢ÂÂs still the case in a monthÃ¢ÂÂs time!