Further to Chopper’s excellent work, the field is thinning out and we seem to be left with a shortlist of Sven, Slaven Bilic and Mark Hughes.
Sven, as I’ve said elsewhere, would be the continuity choice. He learned the game in Sweden at a time when Roy and Bob Houghton were very influential. Sven took their methods and used them to make Gothenberg successful. He has, more or less, adhered to the same kinds of approach ever since, staying true to defensive solidity at the expense of attacking fireworks (look at Ivory Coast 2010 and England 2006 for evidence of this). There are parallels with Roy’s situation pre-Fulham (success, financially inspired wilderness, Fulham), so if his wages aren’t an issue, and if he can convince the board that he is serious about Fulham, he’d be a good choice. Sven’s career win percentage as a manager is 52%, bolstered by some devastating teams at Benfica (77% and 68%!). At City he won 42% of his games. (Roy’s winning percentage at Fulham was 39%, by way of a benchmark, accepting of course that different quality players affect these things).
Mark Hughes is another good option in that he has a decent track record at Wales, Blackburn and Man City, and his playing career at United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and even Chelsea would command respect. His career win percentage as a manager is 42%, 46% at Man City (although he was starting to ‘benefit’ from the Arab billions here).
Slaven Bilic is the other candidate, and my favourite. Here are some quotes from when Croatia beat England:
“Wake up. You didn’t lose the game because of the tactics. I admire your team but we’re simply a better team.”
“I read in your papers that no Croatian would start in the England team – that’s ridiculous, wake up.”
And he was right (he then went on to say that “there are good players in small countries too”).
This honesty is refreshing. It’s not overblown “look at me” tubthumping, but an honest (and correct) reaction to a game in which he felt his players had not received the credit they deserved. Bilic knows English football, is an intelligent man (good chapter on him in Jonathan Wilson’s “Behind the Curtain” book), and has that something about him. While Roy was brilliant in his post-match interviews, Mark Hughes is a blamer, and I don’t like that. Sven is the master of the non-statement, beaming vacantly and saying absolutely nothing (“Weeeell..”). Bilic would be different, a good ambassador for the club, and if his record as a club manager is untested (relative to Sven’s), he has shown enough gumption to suggest that he is worth a crack. I think MAF might see something he likes in the slightly “out there” Bilic, while Sven might seem somehow unsubstantial and Mark Hughes somehow… well I don’t know.
If it’s all about Premiership survival then Hughes would appear to be the most solid choice. If it’s about building on what Roy has achieved, going to a ‘next level’ then we need MAF’s Harrods money and Sven. Otherwise, Bilic intrigues me and I’d like him to have a go.