You know what they say. Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and most of them stink. It’s difficult to argue. We’re all entitled to our opinions . Aren’t we?
The American writer, Harlan Ellison might have you believe different though. “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Another famous American author Douglas Adams, backs him up. “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.”
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for people involved in football in giving their their opinions.
Some bright spark at Portman Road thought it would be a good idea for Ipswich to charge away fans £37.50 for the game at home against Wolves recently. Needless to say, it finished 0-0. Nice 600 mile round trip for the away fans there. It gets worse. Sheffield Wednesday had the temerity to charge Newcastle fans £42 for the dubious pleasure of visiting Hillsborough. They also made their own fans fork out the same amount. Consistent but fucked up nonetheless.
Brendan has been reasonably vocal about his thoughts on the playing surface at Celtic Park. As too has Scott McDonald. Perhaps the most disliked Celtic striker of recent years, in my opinion, reckons that the Fir Park surface is superior to the turf that Scott Brown leads the team out onto every other week. Say what now? Kris Boyd reckons that the Caixinha appointment is a strange one. I’d suggest that adding an ex Clyde manager into their managerial mix might be a tad more strange but each to their own. Martyn Waghorn thinks that the team that he plays for is the only one that can beat Celtic in the title race. They’re not in the race for the title but never let the truth get in the way of misguidedness. Derek McInnes was pretty vocal that he wanted to avoid Celtic in the cup. Refreshingly honest of him, he got his wish. Brendan Rodgers was fairly opinionated about his St Mirren comments. BBC Sportsound were quick to provide their reaction to said “calculated” comments, devoting half an hour of one of their shows discussing them. The panel weren’t short in chipping in either with what they all thought. Keith Jackson was “struggling to see what the fuss is about”, Graham Spiers posited that Brendan was “calculating, insulting and plunging the knife in”, despite actually admitting at the post match press conference that the manager’s words were “refreshing”. Steven Thompson, that bastion of Scottish football opinion thought “his comments were a bit of a joke” Jim Fleeting was asked for his comments on Caixinha despite the Portuguese taking his SFA badges a decade ago. Interesting though that Radio Shortbread didn’t devote half an hour to the Portuguese Joey Barton’s comments that he’s joined Scotland’s biggest club, has the best squad in the country and will be knocking Celtic off their perch.
Forget all of that though, the wonderful thing about some opinions is that some of them will make you laugh for days and days. The only opinion that matters really at the moment as the club chase a domestic treble is that of Brendan Rodgers. When he came out publicly after the Motherwell game and said that he’d asked for a Desso pitch, he pretty much promptly forced the board to deliver what he wants. The pitch, which is a combination of grass and artificial fibres, is good enough for the likes of the Parc des Princes, the Stade de France, Anfield, the Etihad, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, Wembley, the San Siro and Croke Park. Chuck in the likes of Lambeau Field, the home of the Green Bay Packers, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia as well as our very own Murrayfield and it’s easy to see why a lot of the top teams around the world have plumped for that particular surface. Swansea City have it installed at the Liberty City Stadium so it’s clear that the gaffer hasn’t just plucked a playing surface out of thin air. Can the board afford not to deliver on what he’s asked for? Nobody would deny that the current playing surface isn’t up to scratch so you can bet that Brendan will get what he wants. He’s the man in charge and his opinion clearly carries a lot of weight.
Another opinion of his that the board have agreed with and followed through on is to appoint Lee Congerton as the club’s new head of recruitment. After spells at Chelsea, Hamburg and Sunderland, much is hoped of our new guy. Bizarrely, much of his approach to potential signings may be rooted in basketball.
There used to be a young guy who lived in Bristol, over 300 miles from Paradise who decided to check out basketball. It wasn’t necessarily because he liked the sport but because he thought that the statistics involved in player performance could be translated to football, somewhere that he felt his long term future lay. His name is Steve Houston, a graduate of the University of Strathclyde. It’s a lovely coincidence that in 2004, he applied for a traineeship with the Houston Rockets NBA side and was working with their European scouts within 6 months. Less than 2 years later, the Rockets signed Daryl Morey to be their GM. I’ve never heard of him either until now. He’s a big fan of a statistic that is relevant: plus-minus. It describes what happens to the score when any given player is on the court. Houston is quoted as saying that “I learned a lot from Morey about how to translate data into information that will really help you to identify talent and find new players”. All good and any advantage is a benefit surely. A couple of years later, a guy called Mike Forde, who was the Director of Football Operations with Chelsea at the time, was suitably enough impressed with his scouting abilities to persuade the aforementioned Steve to swap Houston for London.
Back then, Frank Arnesen was also working for Chelsea, first as Head Talent Scout and then as Director of Football. When he departed Stamford Bridge to go to the Bundesliga to join Hamburg in May of 2011, he took Chelsea’s chief scout, Lee Congerton with him as well as Houston and a raft of Chelsea fringe players. As you might expect, Hamburg fans had initial higher expectations than getting in a few players who weren’t getting a game in London. Truth is that Congerton and Arnesen agreed 3 year contracts with the club but, when they actually arrived in Germany, the president who appointed them had gone, the coach had been replaced by his number 2, the promised transfer budget was no longer on the table and the wage bill needed to be cut. A hectic summer followed as 14 players left the Volksparkstadion, including the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Zé Roberto, Frank Rost and Piotr Trochowski. Tough start, right?
Congerton is pretty clear though about what his job is all about. He’s on record as saying that he doesn’t bring a player to the club that the manager doesn’t want, ultimately he has to play them in the team. The biggest part of his role is to try to minimise the risk, so that he and his team know the player and have gathered detailed information on him because the manager also has to understand that the Congerton has a responsibility to the club. Seems pretty simple. Rodgers clearly rates him but what can us as fans truly understand how he’ll work?
A good case in point would be the process behind signing the Latvian striker and former Celtic target Artjoms Rudnevs from Lech Poznan. As we all know, statistics have become increasingly more important in recruitment and Rudnevs’ numbers, sourced from a database of well over 10,000 European players controlled by the aforementioned Houston, were in quote, “exceptionally high”. This bespoke system was built by both men and is said to be similar to Scout 7. The next part of the process is for the scouting team to view video clips of the player and, if Congerton likes what he sees, as was the case with Rudnevs, a scout will go to watch the player and compile a dossier on him noting everything on him from language skills to his alcohol intake. Congerton and Arnesen then travelled to see Rudnevs in action before discussing the pros and cons of signing the player with then manager, Thorsten Fink.
It sounds like no little detail is left to chance. After Hamburg, Congerton spent time at Sunderland, with varied success but unfortunately for their fans, they seem to be a bit of a basket case of a club. He did bring in Jermain Defoe, whilst managing to send Jozy Altidore the other way so he’s clearly got something about him. Time will tell, whether or not he’ll be a success in Glasgow but if it’s good enough for Brendan, then I’m sure it’s good enough for all of us. Just my opinion though.