The Curse of the Front Five
Osvaldo Ardiles, Argentinian World Cup hero and Tottenham Hotspur manager has had his managerial name dragged through the mud once again this week, although the opinions of that classy fella David Sullivan always come with caveats. Current West Ham boss and, it’s implied, fellow Latin, Gianfranco Zola may be “too nice” to take West Ham forward, claims the producer of Emmanuelle in Soho; the Sardinian reminding Sullivan of the diminutive Ossie.
Ardiles’ time as a head honcho is chiefly recalled by his deployment of the “Famous Five” front men at Spurs, with Teddy “Edward” Sheringham and Jürgen Klinsmann hanging on the shoulders of the last defender, Nicky Barmby in the hole, and Darren Anderton and Ilie Dumitrescu on the flanks. It was a sweet combination indeed that flourished in buccaneering style for a brief Indian Summer in 1994, but was soon, in the common parlance, “found out”. Ardiles was sent packing, his reputation for leadership and tactics in tatters, an earlier spell at the Hawthorns forgotten.
But the more appropriate comparison this year is with Queen’s Park Rangers. On October 24, the west Londoners delivered one of their best performances in year in coming from 2-0 down to batter Derby County at Pride Park. That exhibition of vigour and vim elevated the Super Hoops to a play-off position and the streets of Shepherd’s Bush were humming to the impact of a blue and white feel good revival. At the vanguard of this were a latter day Five Star: Jay Simpson’s predatory nature supplemented by luxurious back up from Alejandro Faurlin, Adel Taarabt, Wayne Routledge and Ákos Buzsáky.
But a scarcely merited 2-1 win at Hillsborough two weeks later signalled the commencement of one of the most startling declines in recent years: this hasn’t been so much a finding out, as full scale exposé. A 5-1 home humbling by troubled Middlesbrough did raise eyebrows, but since, Rangers have been put to the scimitar by a bevy of clubs unable to believe their luck, with their 2010 form in particular looking very horrid indeed. They are now on a streak of 4 losing matches and are only two places above the relegation zone. Last night, a goal from Simpson proved insufficient to play catch up to Ipswich as the Suffolkers completed a double. Mick Harford doesn’t much resemble Ossie, but any manager needs to pick a few decent defenders.