So – we have a new manager. Welcome on board Sami Hyypia, a name not many were expecting though he was put in to the frame a couple of times when people weren’t really noticing thanks to the bookies declaring it a two horse race between Paul Clement and Tim Sherwood. Hyypia is an exciting and very Tony Bloom appointment. More of all that in a bit.
Since I last wrote, Oscar Garcia has rejoined Maccabi Tel Aviv. Some have said this demonstrates the Spaniard’s lack of ambition. Others have said that’s harsh on him. I’m firmly in the first camp. It shows he didn’t really want to leave there in the first place and that he’s happy to be a big fish in a small pond. Sure there’s Champions League football but with zero expectations. Another job in England – or perhaps back in Spain – would have pushed him and shown to the world just how much of Brighton’s successful season was really down to Garcia. Instead he’s retreated to his comfort zone, rather reinforcing the stories that he was last in and first home and unreachable at key times. I can’t imagine Maccabi Tel Aviv have a hectic January transfer window.
Successful season did I say? I did, and I think, in hindsight, it was. The playoffs would have been a minimum achievement and it’s what we hit. Ultimately we were undone by lack of belief and the defence that had been so solid all season finally cracking in terms of injuries. There just wasn’t quite enough fuel left in their tanks. As I write the main rock, Matt Upson, has left for Leicester (good luck Matt, the fans will always appreciate your efforts) and my own personal player of the season, Stephen Ward, is in limbo. In fact the team has disintegrated with only thirteen first team professionals around currently. Luckily it is holiday season unless you are involved in the World Cup. The new manager should have plenty of time and budget to bring in his own players in conjunction with David Burke.
And what a new manager. Who saw that coming really? Mentioned a few times on Twitter by a fellow blogger Not Worth That but largely out of the betting markets and discussions, Hyypia’s name suddenly crashed in to the frame this week and he became a firm odds on favourite. For a change there seemed to be more to it from the start with Sky Sports News reporting him to be in talks and hints on twitter that he was the one.
Astonishingly some fans seem underwhelmed. When Oscar was appointed last summer I wrote on this very blog that I had little idea what to expect, not being the greatest fan of Israeli football. But most of us have watched a Hyypia team. Whether it was the Bundesliga on satellite or cable (or perhaps a trip over to Germany as many English fans do now) or his Champions League campaign, the chances are that, like me, you caught at least one Hyypia game last season. That’s right. Last season Hyypia was coach in the German top division and Champions League with Bayer Leverkusen where he had a win ratio (during the time he was sole coach) of 51% (56% when sharing the lead role with Lewondowski). Though he was fired after a series of defeats put qualifying for this season’s Champions League in doubt he still had a winning percentage better than Garcia in a much tougher environment.
What’s more it is a very Tony Bloom appointment. Like his two predecessors Hyypia is young and with an impressive pedigree as a player. He has worked with the Finnish national side and will come with contacts in the German and Finnish game as well as a bundle built up in his many seasons in England playing for Liverpool. Also, like his two predecessors, he is being given his break in Englsih football. One can only hope he repays us.
A few things point to the fact that he will. Unlike when Garcia joined there is no large shadow looming over the club. So unobtrusive was Garcia in fact that there are no real “Garcia” players at the club. Oscar clearly had favourites and not so favourites and this might be a time for clear the air talks with Kemy Agustien and to work Buckley and Lua Lua back in to roles that suit them better. The departing PIG and Upson will free up a large amount of wages and, with the signing of Nzuzi Toko there may be no immediate need to resign Keith Andrews.
Furthermore the new training ground is about to open with its replica Amex pitches, something that will hopefully reduce this season’s injury list.
So there we have it. A genuine new appointment and a clean break with the Spanish style (though not the possession football that is part of the club’s philosophy). An ex Liverpool stalwart who has coached at the highest level with a majority win percentage. A chance to rebuild the squad and heal some bruised egos. This may just be a very exciting season indeed. If you are underwhelmed you are probably not going to be happy until Sam Allerdyce, Billy Davies or Neil Warnock rock up at the Amex. Trust me, that’s not going to happen.