Defending Slaviša Jokanović

Yesterday’s post earned me some interesting feedback, and I thank those who took the trouble to read.

As most could see I was not in any way attempting to suggest that we replace the manager behind our legendary/extraordinary start to the season with an American baseball robot, and to that, I remain aware of the myriad differences between football and baseball. But I stand behind the view that there are decent principles behind what the Khans are attempting. Whether they get it right remains to be seen, and of course sceptical supporters have some reason to question things, but my opinion is that they’re at least facing in the right direction.  Whether their next step is forwards or backwards is anybody’s guess, but we can forgive fans for fearing the worst.

There’s a big elephant in the room here though.

Slaviša Jokanović has been very frank about his views on the subject of Craig Kline’s involvement. Shockingly so in many ways.

“I had an opinion from one of the best managers in the world [Jose Mourinho] on one of the players and he believes it is a good signing for us and I believe that too. Craig doesn’t believe it is a good signing for us and this guy is not with us.

“It generally depends on this guy [Kline] who is going to sign for us or not. The last decision is in the hands of this man. It is not my business.

“I’m a little bit disappointed because no one knows who this guy is. Instead he’s sitting in the directors box. I want to take responsibility for how I work with my team and how they perform but I am not part of the recruitment business. It is in the hands of people who believe they’re more prepared.”


If we go back to yesterday’s thinking, we can look at this a couple of ways:

1) it’s all true. Fulham have given Craig Kline veto power over transfers
2) it’s partly true. Craig Kline has a say in transfers and has scuppered this in some capacity
3) it’s partly true, in that Kline has a say, but here the deal wasn’t killed by him, but by other factors we don’t know about
4) it’s not true and an agenda of sorts is being played out in public

I’d imagine we’re looking at guess number two. If the Khans have given Kline full veto power then I’d be stunned.

So if it is #2 (or even #1), what reasons are there for the deal not going ahead?

Transfermarkt has Pereira as a 20 year old attacking midfielder of Brazilian descent. United bought him from PSV for £128k and he’s now valued at over a million pounds. Pereira scored a goal in one of his first team appearances, of which there seem to have been around half a dozen.

So why might we not want Pereira?

It could be that Kline simply doesn’t think he’s good enough. That would be a surprising conclusion given that United signed him and Jose Mourinho recommended him to us. In this situation it’s hard to envisage a situation where Kline’s perspective is given sufficient weight that his judgement would be backed over that of both our manager and Manchester United’s. Even if Pereira hasn’t developed a solid statistical base to Kline’s liking yet, Kline would surely appreciate that the player is developing, is 20 years old, and has his best years ahead of him.

It could be that Kline doesn’t think we need him. We have other attacking midfielders after all. Again, it seems curious that Kline could make that call. The manager would have a better sense of what he needs to make his squad functional, after all.

Maybe there’s a cost involved. If we look through United’s recent history we can see that they often do charge a loan fee to clubs taking their players. They often don’t do this – or if they do, the fee isn’t listed – but it’s a possibility. Perhaps Kline figures that Pereira’s not worth this fee. But this seems unlikely, too. Significant loan fees seem to apply to established stars like Chicarito, not up and coming players like Pereira.

None of these answers is satisfactory, really.

Unless Kline isn’t blocking the transfers at all.

In any case, this looks like a mess. Any organisation needs clear accountabilities, particularly when attempting to ‘innovate’. If your manager is mouthing off to the press about another member of staff then you have an issue. Whatever the rights and wrongs your manager does have an important role within the club (duh!) and if he is undermined then this will, in the end, impact how his players respond to him. He needs power, and to be seen to have power, too. If he’s emasculated by some shadowy outsider than this is clearly a very bad thing.

If I can return to the dangerous ground of baseball, this happened in that sport, too. There were many stories about how the very best analysts were able to work in ways that gained the trust of those they were attempting to influence. This would be a softer approach, not ramming numbers down the throats of those less inclined towards this kind of information.

Which is why I’m so puzzled here. The Khans must know all of this. They must know that they can’t just give someone with no football credentials more power over transfers than their most important non-playing member of staff. They must.  You can’t force these things.

Two conclusions then. First, I’m almost certain that the situation can’t be exactly as it’s being portrayed. But second, I’m equally certain that something isn’t right (duh!) and that the manager shouldn’t be in a position where he’s talking to newspapers as he is. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and family Khan need to take a long view here, build up the credentials of any new approaches they’re developing and find ways to blend them into the running of the club, even if this takes them longer than they’d like.

I get that they’ve probably lost trust in the old school way of doing things quite quickly, having been spectacularly burned by other supposedly well-credentialed managers in the very recent past. But if only for their own PR they need to find a better way of running the club, because at the moment it’s far too easy for fans to project their worst fears onto the ownership and senior management group. All this when the team’s winning, too. Just wait until results turn.