IAN LADYMAN: Where are the police as missiles rain down on the pitch?

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Imagine for a moment an England player had been felled by a bottle playing in somewhere like Belgrade or Sofia or Budapest. Imagine the reaction.

We would be calling for fines and stadium closures. We could be talking about barbarism. And we would be right, too. Throwing things at footballers is a barbaric act and it is happening here, in our own Premier League.

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So let us not ignore what happened at Everton on Saturday. Let us not pretend we have not noticed that mini-pitch invasions have become a ‘thing’ again at full time. On TV, Jermaine Jenas said we are going back to the dark ages. 

IAN LADYMAN: Where are the police as missiles rain down on the pitch?
© Provided by Daily Mail Aston Villa players Matty Cash and Lucas Digne were hit with a bottle by Everton fans

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That’s an exaggeration. In the 1970s and ’80s, it often felt like the whole home end had a missile in their pocket.

But the direction of travel is not good and at times — as we sit and watch poorly paid and minimally trained stewards failing to keep order — it is hard not to wonder where on earth the police are.

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WATFORD MANAGER MERRY-GO-ROUND IS DISMALLY INADEQUATE 

Claudio Ranieri says his Watford players must change their mentality as they plunge towards relegation but that is not likely to be the way the club try to find a way out of their current predicament. Watford will doubtless change the manager instead.

This is what Watford do and they may claim it works. Nevertheless the model of the owners, the Pozzo family, to switch coaches constantly at the first sign of a drop-off in results still feels very wrong.

The weekend that Ranieri prepared to take charge of Watford for the first time after the sacking of Xisco Munoz last October, goalkeeper Ben Foster was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph and said: ‘There’s no talk of the old manager. It’s like nothing has changed. That’s football. You just roll with it. You have to.’ 

IAN LADYMAN: Where are the police as missiles rain down on the pitch?
© Provided by Daily Mail Claudio Ranieri’s position at Watford is under threat following their 3-0 loss to Norwich

Foster is one of football’s most candid characters and likeable with it. But that was a desperately sad take on the way things work at Watford.

Ranieri is the sixth manager Foster has played under at Vicarage Road in three years. The club have employed 17 in the last 10 years. But this is not really about the Italian. He was a bad appointment, as this column suggested at the time.

No, this about a philosophy of rolling change at Watford that undermines and fails to understand what a manager of a football club means on two very clear levels. Firstly, footballers do not respond well to a leader who they know may not be sticking around. It is why caretaker managers only get good results for a short time. 

After an initial bounce, apathy sets in. At Manchester United they recognise this is one of the challenges facing Ralf Rangnick as interim coach.

Secondly, to move managers in and out of a club as regularly as England batsmen come and go through a pavilion door is to presume the only people they matter to is the players. And that, as importantly as anything, is to misjudge hugely the way that English football works.

Listening to Wayne Rooney talk at Derby last Friday was to understand fully the manager’s role. Rooney is not only the touch point for a group of footballers, he is a figurehead for a whole community. 

IAN LADYMAN: Where are the police as missiles rain down on the pitch?
© Provided by Daily Mail The rolling change at Watford undermines and fails to understand what a manager of a football club means

Derby, as we know, are in dire financial trouble and as such theirs is an extreme example. But the point holds. The manager of a team in England traditionally carries weight and influence beyond the pitch.

On Saturday in Liverpool, Everton’s Duncan Ferguson — in charge currently — left money in pubs near Goodison Park before kick-off. Whatever the result, the beer was on him.

Some may see that as a cheap PR stunt but those who know Ferguson would tell you differently. It was just a way of telling supporters their club still cares for them. It also, conversely, provided further evidence of why it was so unwise to appoint former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez.

How much does all this matter in an industry that remains results based?

At Watford, it clearly does not mean much at all. They reach their community in other ways and will argue that is enough.

Maybe it would be if it was working. Maybe it would be if they were in the top half of the Premier League. But they are not. Their recent history shows their model only works up to a point. It has delivered yo-yo status and not much more.

The whole thing just feels dismally inadequate. On many levels.

 

HEED HARFORD STORY AND GET CHECKED  

Matt Barlow’s interview with Luton assistant manager Mick Harford in Sportsmail on Saturday was moving and insightful.

Harford was a battering ram of a centre forward for Luton, Derby, Chelsea and Wimbledon but prostate cancer has stripped away the layers to reveal a humble man naturally anxious about what the future may hold.

I know two other former managers who currently have the same disease but it is treatable when caught early.

If in doubt chaps, get yourself checked.

IAN LADYMAN: Where are the police as missiles rain down on the pitch?
© Provided by Daily Mail Mick Harford’s interview with Sportsmail on battling cancer was moving and insightful  

KLOPP FINAL DECISION IS COMMENDABLE

Jurgen Klopp will stick with second-choice goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher for the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea. 

It’s a commendable decision, one that points to loyalty and an understanding of the need to keep a young player motivated and driven. It is typical Klopp in many ways.

I would never do it, though. It’s a cup final and as such it seems wrong to pick anything other than your strongest team.

IAN LADYMAN: Where are the police as missiles rain down on the pitch?
© Provided by Daily Mail Caoimhin Kelleher is set to start in goal for Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea

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