Early Doors

Wild West a danger to managers

Early Doors

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West London has never had the deadliest reputation.

The East End boasts Jack the Ripper, the Krays and Dirty Den among its seedy, crime-ridden underbelly.

The sophisticated West however, presents no health threat greater than the choking hazard of an over-cinnamoned cappuccino.

So it comes as a slight surprise to see the Premier League's two most at-risk managers dodging the slings and arrows on the leafy side of town - Mark Hughes and Roberto Di Matteo.

Up to a couple of weeks ago, Nigel Adkins was sack race favourite - a clearly preposterous notion.

If Southampton look out of their depth, it is because Adkins has led them to two consecutive promotions. Go down and they will still be better off than when he arrived.

The same cannot be said of QPR's Hughes.

After narrowly keeping the Hoops in the top flight in May, Hughes promised no such dramas in future and enjoyed a barely-deserved toot on his own horn.

He said: "It's a huge achievement because no one has any idea of what I walked into when I started the job."

Early Doors is no Loftus Road insider, but it probably has at least some idea.

For example, he walked into a club lying 17th in the Premier League - that's precisely where they finished the season, and three places better than they are now.

He walked into a club with mutinous fans and an indisciplined dressing room - who can forget Adel Taarabt's meeting with fans at a bus stop during last season's 6-0 defeat to Fulham?

Now supporters brandish 'Save us Harry' banners and Djibril Cisse offers fans out on Twitter. Not exactly turned things round, have we Mark?

Much as it's fun to taunt Hughes with his own misguided confidence, he is far from alone in expressing bullish sentiments.

Football management has become a confidence trick. Great when things are going well. But when the mask slips, things change quickly.

If you're starting to think a manager is the wrong man for the job, he's almost certainly the wrong man for the job.

Some observers (well, Rodney Marsh) have suggested Hughes be given four games to turn things around. But what, really, can he prove inside four games? If you cannot guarantee him at least until the end of the season, you need to cut him loose now.

The cynic in Early Doors puts the delay in canning Hughes down to the lack of an agreement with his successor.

Harry Redknapp appears a clear number one choice. If you are in talks with him, why sack Hughes until a deal is reached?

It's exactly what Spurs did in 2008 when they binned off Juande Ramos and installed 'Arry in the same press release.

On to West London's second endangered gaffer, Di Matteo.

The Italian finds himself in a uniquely difficult situation. Without Chelsea winning the Champions League last season, he would never have got the job. But their cup double obscured some colossal flaws.

Thus he cannot fall back on the Hughes/Redknapp special of reminding everyone what a dreadful state he found the club in.

If Di Matteo goes on about what a mess Chelsea were last season, Abramovich might ask himself why he gave him the job at all.

He is the bloke who won the Champions League BEFORE getting £80 million to spend.

So let's do Di Matteo a favour and recall just how rotten they were.

They won less than half of their Premier League games last season and finished sixth, 25 points off the pace - that's closer to Wigan than either Manchester club.

Worse than their record was the apparently fetid atmosphere at the club. Here was a squad in desperate need of renewal, but with a dressing room refusing to accept Andre Villas-Boas's changes and an owner unwilling to back his manager.

Change has now taken hold - Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda have gone; age and injury have lessened the influence of John Terry and Frank Lampard.

Yet that quintet have left big boots to fill - and strangely, for such a well-financed club, Chelsea lack squad depth.

Di Matteo attempted to mix things up at West Brom on Saturday - resting Juan Mata, Oscar and Ramires after long trips on international duty.

Chelsea were awful, and only sparked into life when all three came off the bench.

Consequently, Di Matteo is having to use his best players far more than his rival bosses - even allowing for the fact they have played both the UEFA Super Cup and Community Shield.

Eight Chelsea players have started 15 or more games this season (Cech 19, Torres 19, Mikel 18, Ivanovic 17, Mata 16, Hazard 16, Luiz 16, Cole 15).

Compare that to Man City's three (Kompany 16, Hart 16, Tevez 15) or United's one (Rafael 15) and it's clear that Chelsea's first-teamers are being overworked.

Di Matteo spent a fortune in the summer - though this being Chelsea, you cannot be certain whether Di Matteo selected these players, or someone else.

Yet he only brought in two bona fide first-teamers (Oscar and Hazard) a pair of promising talents (Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta) and a player he clearly does not rate (Marko Marin).

Lose at Juventus tonight, and Chelsea could easily find themselves out of the Champions League by Christmas.

But before Roman Abramovich dispatches Ron Gourlay to the Cobham training HQ, he should remember there is no disgrace in finishing third behind Juve and Shakhtar Donetsk. Disappointment yes, but no disgrace.

What's more, after the outrageous luck his side enjoyed en route to winning the thing last season, you might hope he would take a setback in relatively good grace.

You might hope, but not expect. This is deadly, dangerous West London after all.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Rumours suggesting Mark Hughes has been sacked as #QPR manager tonight are NOT true #QPR" - Ian Taylor, head of media at QPR, sorry, #QPR.

It's not quite the usual ringing endorsement from Tony Fernandes, who had this to say: "On my way home from amercia. Long long flught to think of many things. Just stopped of at osaka. Now back home to kuala lumpur."

Ominous. And mistake-riddled.

MELTDOWN OF THE DAY: Steve Claridge had an odd evening commentating West Ham versus Stoke for BBC Five Live last night. The droning ex-journeyman threw a strop in the first half - about somebody not doing a thumbs up or something, it wasn't clear - and decried the Five Live team as "the most unprofessional group of people I have ever worked with".

RANDOM SHIZZLE OF THE DAY: Snoop Dogg claimed last weekend to be a Celtic fan. A word of warning - he likes to put it about a bit. In a sporting sense, of course.

Here are 25 of the many sports kits in which the great man has been pictured.

FOREIGN VIEW: The Russian government will introduce tougher legislation, which could carry jail sentences, to prevent crowd trouble in sport, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday.

Medvedev ordered government officials to act after a top-flight game between Dynamo Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg on Saturday was abandoned after the Dynamo goalkeeper suffered an eye injury from firecrackers thrown by fans.

"It was a deliberate criminal act, therefore we must change the legislation to try to prevent such unlawful acts in the future," Medvedev told senior ministers at a meeting.

"Such crimes cannot go unpunished, you have to go to jail if you commit them."

Police arrested 53 people, including three female Zenit supporters, on Saturday and charged them with throwing the firecracker that injured Anton Shunin.

The 25-year-old Russia international suffered burns to his cornea in both eyes and some loss of hearing in his right ear.

Full story.

COMING UP: Paul Parker's views on life, the world and everything will be with you at lunch time. And later on we've got mega Champions League coverage - live text commentary of all eight games including Juventus v Chelsea and the rather less potentially hilarious Galatasaray v Manchester United.

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