#sports MARTIN SAMUEL: Scott Parker's Bournemouth sacking was not about results

#sports MARTIN SAMUEL: Scott Parker’s Bournemouth sacking was not about results

#sports MARTIN SAMUEL: Scott Parker’s Bournemouth sacking was not about results

In the end, it does not come down to results, or relegation, or performances, or any of the many factors we think get a manager sacked. It would not matter if Scott Parker had lost the dressing room, or could not even find it.

He was dismissed by Bournemouth owner Maxim Demin over blame. Demin didn’t fancy taking any, if Bournemouth went down. Not that he was greatly against going down. If anything, Bournemouth rather appear to have budgeted for it, as Norwich did. They see relegation as an occupational hazard, much as habitual criminal Norman Stanley Fletcher viewed prison in the ancient sitcom Porridge.

So Bournemouth have invested in squad improvements like a club that do not expect to be in the Premier League for long, but do not like it when this is pointed out because it makes the fans unhappy. And Parker kept pointing it out. So this was a doomed marriage of modern custodians and a modern manager because Parker does not need the job.

When Harry Redknapp managed Bournemouth, it was still necessary for his wife Sandra to work as a hairdresser. That places certain limitations on free speech. Redknapp had to stay employed.

It is different for those who have enjoyed modern Premier League careers. So if Demin wishes to run his football club without accepting the responsibility of making it comparatively successful, Parker is too independently wealthy to just keep quiet about that. They don’t need him, but he doesn’t need them either. Not financially. They are better off apart.

Bournemouth had three points after four matches. So how many points should they have had? None, really. They have visited Manchester City and Liverpool, and played current league leaders Arsenal at home. So no expected points there.

Scott Parker was sacked as Bournemouth manager after he fell out with the club's hierarchy

Scott Parker was sacked as Bournemouth manager after he fell out with the club’s hierarchy

Additionally, they have faced Aston Villa, who have again invested in remaining a Premier League club. Were Villa expected to beat Bournemouth on the first day of the season? Yes. The result: Bournemouth 2 Aston Villa 0. The only fixture that Bournemouth were perhaps fancied to win was a Carabao Cup tie, away at Norwich. And, after a penalty shootout, they did. So Parker is par at least, maybe a little better, and still sacked.

Explaining the decision, owner Demin delivered a pious lecture on sustainability. That is the boardroom’s new catch-all excuse, the equivalent of bad companies blaming poor service on Covid, or over-officious security men confiscating toothpaste while claiming to be fighting terrorism.

Club owners now declare they are prioritising financial stability when in reality they are no longer as keen to invest. Football is an expensive business. Nottingham Forest have sunk £140million into remaining a Premier League club, and Fulham have spent £50m, but Bournemouth’s outlay is £22m, plus three free transfers. And it does not look anywhere near enough. Parker said so, and was sacked.

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. That would appear to be the lesson here.

Amazingly, he is even attracting criticism for sending out negative messages, as if chuckle-headed boosterism is ever the answer to a genuine crisis. Parker stands accused of being defeatist having failed to embrace the sunlit uplands of a 0-16 aggregate across three league games to protect his owner’s fragile ego.

Maxim Demin's decision to sack Scott Parker was a decision to do with blame and accountability

Maxim Demin’s decision to sack Scott Parker was a decision to do with blame and accountability

And, yes, lower league managers can talk up the possibility of an FA Cup giantkilling because where’s the harm? Yet Bournemouth are facing 38 games — not an escapist 90 minutes — of morale-sapping reality, and were coming off a 9-0 defeat at Liverpool.

Yet that was still not what got Parker fired. What probably did it was his extended and thoughtful ‘Ummmm…’ before answering a question about whether he would get what he needed before the transfer window closed.

It went out on television. Jeff Stelling remarked on it. Parker didn’t want to be negative, but couldn’t lie. And that embarrasses Demin and his technical director Richard Hughes, even more than those nine goals.

Defeats can be blamed on the manager, particularly if he refuses to widen the conversation. Yet if he points to broader issues, if he talks about being ‘ill-equipped’ as Parker did, attention may turn to those supplying the equipment.

Chief executive Neill Blake (L) was unhappy with how Parker turned down potential signings

Chief executive Neill Blake (L) was unhappy with how Parker turned down potential signings

They are very thin-skinned, these guys. Bizarrely, it is what draws some people to have slivers of grudging admiration for unpopular owners like the Glazers or Mike Ashley who, for all their faults, at least do not play to the gallery or court popularity.

Demin wants to be liked. And he cannot be liked if the manager keeps pointing out the gulf between the raw materials at Bournemouth and those made available to rivals.

Given the team finishing bottom of the Premier League will still receive more money than the winners of the Bundesliga, given the soon-to-be-phased-out parachute money equates to a refundable £40m cheque, why was Parker’s budget so inferior?

Bournemouth is a small club without the revenue available through much of the league, but it can do better than that.

Relegated in 2020, Bournemouth sold £80m-worth of players. A profit was turned in 2020-21 too. But the club wasn’t promoted, so Jonathan Woodgate, the interim manager who had got the club into the play-offs, left. He no doubt felt hard done by. He did not point to the savings the club had made since relegation. It did not keep him in a job. So that is the thanks you get.

Parker did not need to enter into the games the club's hierarchy was playing this summer window

Parker did not need to enter into the games the club’s hierarchy was playing this summer window 

At which point Parker arrived with the clear brief to restore Bournemouth’s Premier League status. Had he not done so, he would almost certainly have gone in the summer. And had he stayed in the Championship, but kept his head down, smiled politely and talked up his employers as the best in the game? He would still have gone.

So this is the modern way. Parker had to make Bournemouth a Premier League club, or get the sack. And when he did that, he had to pretend they were not really a Premier League club, or get the sack.

This is not about sustainability: it is about having cake and eating it. Fortunately, Parker has a cake of his own, so did not have to play that game.

Now the biggest league in the world doesn’t work weekends 

Deadline day was the usual whirlwind of panic, failure and the odd transaction that might genuinely improve a team, depending on which of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s personalities turns up at Chelsea.

Yet the most surprising deal took place last week. Neal Maupay, £15million, Brighton to Everton. Not because it captured the headlines, and who knows what difference it will make given the extent of Everton’s problems? But it revealed that in a sport largely taking place on Saturday and Sunday, with marquee matches on Bank Holidays, the Premier League doesn’t do weekends.

Maupay’s papers were filed by Everton at 4pm last Friday and, while the club knew that was too late for Saturday’s game at Brentford, they were aiming for a debut at Leeds on Tuesday.

Neal Maupay could not be registered in time for Everton's trip to Leeds despite signing last week

Neal Maupay could not be registered in time for Everton’s trip to Leeds despite signing last week

No, they were informed, players must be registered by midday on the working day before a fixture — and Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday were all days off for the Premier League. Are they just lazy, or stupid? How can the administrators for the biggest league in the world shut down for three days coming up to such a crucial time? A referee makes a mistake and it is claimed he could cost a team the title, or get them relegated. Yet the Premier League knock off for 72 hours, three days before the window shuts, and this is considered inconsequential.

Somebody should be manning those phones. It is not as if they can’t afford the overtime.

Fixture stitch-up for Bournemouth

There is no Premier League fixture computer randomly shaping the schedule, we know that now. The biggest clubs don’t face off against each other on the final day of the season, television is guaranteed pairings of the Super League six clubs almost every weekend for Super Sunday purposes, and the whole programme is as carefully choreographed as Tiger Woods’s apparently chance meeting with Rory McIlroy during his final Open round at St Andrews. 

So, considering the season can be managed with one eye on the broadcasters and the need to keep Manchester City and Liverpool apart on matchday 38, how did Bournemouth end up playing Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in consecutive games in August? If the fixtures are genuinely random, that’s pot luck. But if there is a plan — and there is — why isn’t it at least fair?

The fixture computer cannot possibly be random - so why have Bournemouth been stitched up in their first five games?

The fixture computer cannot possibly be random – so why have Bournemouth been stitched up in their first five games?

Erling Haaland will ensure Manchester City score more than whoever their title rivals may be  

Between his first goal against Crystal Palace after 62 minutes and his third goal 38 minutes into the match against Nottingham Forest, Erling Haaland was on the field precisely one hour and scored six times — which advanced mathematicians will recognise as one every 10 minutes. So, five games into the season, this much is clear: if anyone is to take the title off Manchester City, they will have to be at least a point ahead. Nobody is beating them on goal difference.

Leicester deserve better than the selfish antics of Wesley Fofana 

It is to be hoped Leicester’s supporters are not quite as gullible as Wesley Fofana thinks. Having left for Chelsea, he thanked them for the constant support ‘even in the moments you were led to believe I didn’t respect the club’. Yet Fofana didn’t respect the club. He sat in the stands, unavailable, as Leicester sunk to the bottom of the league, trying to force a move to Stamford Bridge. 

Wesley Fofana should have shown Leicester more respect when trying to depart the club

Wesley Fofana should have shown Leicester more respect when trying to depart the club

Harry Maguire could have done that when Manchester United came calling, but didn’t. That’s respect. Fofana wants it all ways. He wants his move to Chelsea, and understandably so, and was prepared to act up to get it, but now he hopes his status remains unchanged at Leicester. Maybe the locals will have forgotten his antics when Chelsea arrive in March. Probably not. His empty words were entirely self-serving but people aren’t fools. They know what he did. 

Heat is on Steve Cooper to ensure Nottingham Forest’s almost entirely new-look squad click

Nottingham Forest have used 55 players since the start of last season, more than any other club in England’s top four tiers. The money thrown at their survival places Steve Cooper under undoubted pressure but, equally, with a churn of playing staff as great as that, it will still be a fine achievement if he keeps them up. Forest sold 13 players and bought 20 this summer. That level of turnover didn’t work for Watford

Midweek afternoon kick-offs seen during the three-day week can’t be ruled out

Roughly one month ago, the Isthmian League put to their clubs the option of kicking off earlier to save on energy bills, particularly those involving the use of floodlights.

It was a practical response to a looming financial crisis so, of course, as time slips by, the EFL are still delaying and discussing.

Peter Ridsdale, an adviser at Preston, recalls midweek afternoon kick-offs during the three-day week and says that shouldn’t be ruled out. Accrington chairman Andy Holt doubts it would make much difference as heating bills remain.

The point is, if the part-timers of the Isthmian League were dealing with this in early August, where is the sense of urgency at the EFL? No doubt chairman Rick Parry was busy with his own brilliant solution — another £250m begging letter to the Premier League, via Nadine Dorries.

Ollie Robinson was not fat-shamed by Jon Lewis 

Turns out there is a correlation between staying fit and having a career in elite sport, and not staying fit and becoming a liability. England cricketer Ollie Robinson was not ‘fat-shamed’, as you will read in some quarters. He was just told to do his job.

Jon Lewis did not fat-shame Ollie Robinson - he told him to do his job properly and adequately

Jon Lewis did not fat-shame Ollie Robinson – he told him to do his job properly and adequately

If you’ve got the skill to ball juggle, ball juggle away, Richarlison

When Lucas Paqueta wished to ingratiate himself with the West Ham supporters, he knew exactly what to do. He kicked Richarlison up in the air. The only surprise being he was so soon to the front of the queue, given how many were in line.

Richarlison has always been an irritant, but particular ire is reserved for a player who juggles the ball to waste time, as he did during Tottenham’s victory at Nottingham Forest.

There was little wrong with what Richarlison did at Nottingham Forest - it is unclear why it is such a taboo

There was little wrong with what Richarlison did at Nottingham Forest – it is unclear why it is such a taboo 

Had Richarlison just slowly knocked it around with his team-mates, that would have been fine. But to attempt something mildly entertaining, and really quite unusual, is now taboo. Why?

If you’ve got the skill to ball juggle, ball juggle, everyone does it. If you have the skill and poise to do it mid-match, even more so. The claim is this represents a disrespectful attempt to embarrass the opposition. Nonsense.

It was a damn sight more embarrassing for Forest to ship eight goals in two games. They need to face more ball jugglers and fewer Erling Haalands.

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