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Monday 23 October 2017

The interim role is even worse than a lame duck manager

Chelsea’s interim manager looks animated during their defeat to PSG in the Champions League last-16, second leg tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea’s interim manager looks animated during their defeat to PSG in the Champions League last-16, second leg tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Unless my radar is badly off beam, I would bet a small fortune that Zinadine Zidane will run back to the bosom of his under-age teams at Real Madrid as soon as he can.

That's the lesson I learned from the Champions League this week and there was one other very significant message from the week's action.

If Ireland fans have any notion that Sweden will provide Martin O'Neill with best chance of three points in France in June, Zlatan Ibrahimovich is is a good enough reason to dump that kind of thinking.

For years he was a fitful talent, absolutely brilliant one moment and absolutely awful the next but I think age has worked its magic and he has become an even more dangerous player because he is now willing to do a shift for the team.

PSG beat Chelsea and dumped them out of the Champions League and I was very impressed with how well they played under Laurent Blanc, a man who quietly goes about his business and looks the real deal to me.

I'm not saying they will win the Champions League but no team, certainly not Real Madrid, will want to draw them from now on.

I watched Real beat Roma 2-0 and on the face of it, their 4-0 aggregate win points to an easy passage but I don't think it was and I saw some very worrying signs.

I saw Madrid players who wouldn't track back, lads who took the easy options every time. Mark my words, the last thing Zinadine Zidane wants to be is the manager of Real Madrid and that is now showing.

If there's one position in football which is worse than being a lame duck boss, it has to be when a club needs an interim manager.

Zidane was happy enough coaching kids at Madrid, and I reckon he had no intention of putting himself forward for the job when Rafa Benitez was sacked.

There's a big difference between Zidane and Guus Hiddink at Chelsea. You could say that the Dutchman has acquired a certain expertise in this area but even he is not immune to the difficulty the role creates.

Chelsea needed to stay alive in the Champions League but they lost to PSG and with that defeat, the ring of confidence Hiddink has given his players could easily evaporate.

Human nature cannot be suppressed and good as Hiddink is when he comes to a club, almost immediately bringing an atmosphere of stability, players will be players.

When someone is in an interim position they have no authority other than their own natural ability to lead and that's why Hiddink was the perfect choice for Roman Abramovich to steady a ship which was not just out of control but ready to sink.

José Mourinho left a right mess behind when he left and Hiddink took on PSG with many, including myself, beginning to think that the Dutchman had done good enough work with players who were in an emotional battle zone since August, to have a right go at the Champions League.

PSG were too good for them, however, and Hiddink now has a difficult few months ahead of him trying to keep players who have already been involved in turmoil on an even keel until Chelsea choose a new manager.

Everything is in limbo until they make a decision and much as I admire Hiddink, I wouldn't want to be doing the job he's doing now for any money.

Normally, the assistant boss at a club steps into the interim role and apart from a few notable exceptions, Steve McClaren being one, it's the last place he wants to be and a new appointment can't come fast enough.

But when you're someone like Ryan Giggs, who wants to become a manager in his own right, a caretaker role is a poison chalice.

A month ago when the pressure on Louis van Gaal was very fierce, Giggs was put forward as an option in an interim role but I noticed in reports out of Manchester at the time that he would only take over if he was appointed as full-time boss.

I know many people look at Giggs and see him as someone caught in the same headlights which made Van Gaal blink and cannot see him as a manager one way or the other.

Appointed

My answer to that is that you just never know. When Gary Neville was appointed interim boss at Valencia, I didn't expect him to do very well because he's only really dipping his toe in the water.

Giggs wants to dive in and until he's actually running a team to suit his own vision, there's no point in judging him.

He was right to reject the idea of a second interim role if that's what he did. He would simply have been facilitating a run at the job by Mourinho.

Now, with Van Gaal more than likely to see out this season at least, Giggs can continue his education and perhaps the next time the cry goes up for the Dutchman to be sacked, he will seem like a more credible replacement.

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