I wrote this for the now probably never to be published TSLR059 - The (online only downloadable festive) Seabird (roast) Love Review. We asked for articles earlier this month from all of our contributors and, needless to say, they all pretty much focused on one thing, our Finnish(ed) manager. With today’s news this article is therefore out of date. So I thought I better publish it. Quick. Read it.
As I flicked through Twitter after yet another unmemorable and interchangeable defeat earlier this season, I saw Sami Hyypiä’s win percentage compared to Albion managers of yesteryear. The Finn sits below the reign(deer) of the returning Micky Adams. He is even close to Martin Hinshelwood’s horrific division 2 run of the early 2000s. To make Hyypiä’s brand of bland a little more palatable for all of us in the second half of the season, I have penned a letter to Sami Claus: The Ten Avoid the Sack Commandments with some poorly executed festive puns.
1. Pretend to care. This is the easiest one. The next time Albion score, charge down the touchline to join the players in a ‘bundle’ in front of some Albion fans. High five a couple of fans as you head back to the technical area. When (or perhaps if?) we next win a game (an away draw will do), walk towards the Albion fans upon the final whistle whilst simultaneously pumping your fist to your chest (the more your chest is bruised the following day, the better). Kiss the Albion badge. Be careful not to kiss the kit manufacturers badge - they have a poor worker’s rights record and this will prove you don’t care about underpaid children in Malaysian factories so how could you possibly care about a football team?
For more detailed instructions on how to look like you have an appetite for desire, watch the Saints 1 Albion 3 DVD - Gus Poyet’s first match in charge. You don’t actually have to care, just look like you might. Gus did it for years. That DVD might also give you a few hints as to how football is allowed to be played (warning: footage does include a now rare Albion victory). It might additionally help to stop denying you lack passion (of the Christ) in EVERY SINGLE post match interview. Just stop bringing up the subject of passion until you have carried out at least one of the above instructions.
2. Play to the team’s strengths. A lot of focus following the Derby defeat was placed upon your decision to play Rohan (M)Ince (pies) only after we were 3-0 down. Don’t be too concerned with the result - we lost by three goals at the Old Pride Park only last season - but do be concerned by not playing AS MANY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS AS POSSIBLE away at league leaders who have had the beating of us in recent seasons. That tactical error isn’t the first…
There was the early season 2-5-3 formation that tended to backfire despite my initial all out attacking excitement. There was the not playing a holding defender since Danny Holly (and the Ivy) lost his form, and despite us being in the year 4AD (Anno Defensive Midfielder) - an era when the whole world plays holding midfielders (if not two). There is the continuing reluctance to play any creative players when we are CRYING OUT FOR (Christmas time) CREATIVITY. All these tactical naiveties (nativities?) relate to each other. A holding midfielder can allow more freedom for players to attack elsewhere - counter intuitive, perhaps, but give it a go. You current tactical nous makes no frankinsense. Chris O’Grady is not a striker.
3. Wear the flair. Of the three foreign born managers who have been in charge of an Albion team at Falmer, you, Sami, are quite simply the dullest of all of them. Where is the flair? Gus had it off the pitch and created it on it, Oscar dressed flair (chinos!) and still managed to sort of entertain us. Compared to you, even Garcia was fantastically exciting. You are lacking in flair. You have no song (even Chris O’Gravy has three, although two are less than complimentary because of his regular donkey pantomime act).
You also seem to be rehearsing for THE SAME PRE-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE EVERY GAME. Don’t tell us that form doesn’t matter because you once won at Bayern Munich with Bayer Leverkusen. Again. We don’t care. We are all prepared to go along with you being flairless but in return you have to deliver more than three wins in five months. If you can’t deliver wins, punch a referee, square up to an opposition manager, throw a strop, grow a ponytail or take you pet dog in the dugout for yet another home defeat. Do something.
4. Build some hypothetical bridges. There is no doubt that at least 75% of Albion fans have now lost the faith in your management skill or perhaps just your personality. Either way it’s time to take drastic action. Follow the lead of Paul Beirne, Albion's new commercial manager. This bloke works for Paul Barber yet has managed to get Albion fans onside. He seems human, he responds to people directly on Twitter, he posts on North Stand Chat in non-official club led threads and he would probably share a beer with any one of us.
If you want to be liked again without winning, Sami, you have to do something extraordinary like Beirne. Let those keyboard warriors know that your management technique is inept. Post a thread about which Albion players might do well on Strictly Come Dancing. Join a thread that talks highly of you as a manager (dated June 2014 but you can still add to it). Act human, have a beer. What have you got to lose?
5. Insist on inappropriate fancy dress at the club Christmas party. I haven’t seen any team bonding session photographs laden across the club website since you became manager. In fact, the highest placed go karter still at the club was Lewis Dunk in seventh. It’s time to reinvigorate our low IQ footballers teambuilding. But, seeing it’s not quite the weather for paintballing, and Christmas party season is upon us, why not unite the players in a show of defiance against decency? It’s fancy dress time.
Convince Gordon Greer to turn up as Fred West by threatening him with the loss of the captaincy. Perhaps two youth teamers could turn up as Holly and Jessica (blonde wigs, Manchester United shirts, easy). Bruno could come as Rolf Harris. Stockdale as Jimmy Savile. Or maybe CMS could come with a cricket ball stuck to his neck pretending to be Phillip Hughes? OK so the last one is probably too soon, but the disgrace that the non-football world will heap on the club if just one of those costumes is used will work in our favour. It will finally bring that togetherness we’ve all been looking for since May as the players are forced to stick together against a common enemy.
6. Do some defensive training. An obvious one really. For such a long-serving (and actually quite good) defender when you were a player, your Albion team looks horrifically vulnerable to conceding at ALMOST ALL MOMENTS OF EVERY GAME. Even when we attack, opposition teams look most likely to score. The only thing the defence has consistently got right this season is scoring goals. This is some weird reversal of how football is played. I’m all for new methods, and exciting new ways of playing football, but if a defender is playing they need to primarily defend. The same goes for attackers and attacking. Some are called strikers because they strike the ball towards goal, though there are none currently in your squad. The clue is in their titles.
7. Renounce your nationality. Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not xenophobic. Albion’s foreign managers down the years have been jolly successful. It’s not like we have some English complex in which as soon as things start to go wrong we blame your nationality. We’re not like many of our comPATRIOTS who sounded like (Saint) Nick Griffin just as soon as Sven had an affair with his secretary or Fabio presided over abject failure. Brighton is hardly a UKIP hotbed - it’s basically in France anyway.
You haven’t got lost, we’re not in Rochester, but we are talking about social media. Seeing as how #BinTheFinn has become such a hit (it’s probably trending worldwide because the Albion are so important) then maybe it’s time to change nationality. It is nigh on impossible to find a nationality that fits a rhyming hashtag so well. Avoid Bosnia because #ScrapTheBosniak has a nice ring to it. Equally avoid Mexico for #CanTheMexican references. But almost all other nationalities are un-rhymable. Unfortunately for you, nothing can prevent #DumpTheChump.
8. Listen to yourself. Your post match comments are gold. If by gold you mean meh (myrrh). After the Derby match, you promised we will be ‘working on our defensive side’ and we will ‘tighten up a little bit’. Following the Fulham match you suggested ‘everyone has to toughen up and be more concentrated’. We proved how much the squad listened to that piece of advice in the first 25 minutes at Derby. ‘We were guilty of lapses in concentration and they cost us. It's just a case now of analysing the game and seeing how we can do better.’ Which game you ask? Those words fell out of your mouth, Sami, after conceding three at Norwich. What reaction the following week? Nothing but a home defeat by Fulham.
Be honest with yourself, you are just saying words, they don’t actually mean anything. Actually perhaps there’s a career for you yet: in politics. And your Scandinavian, it could be like BBC4’s Borgen. Sorry, I digress. Don’t get me wrong, Sami, Gus would utter whole mouthfuls of tripe nothing too but he would then spend the week making sure each player knew exactly where they had gone wrong and, more often than not, it would be rectified the following week. One thing you will probably never have the opportunity to say at Albion is what you uttered after Leverkusen played PSG: ‘I’m very proud of the way my lads played. You said after a defeat. Pride in defeat would actually be preferable to bland defeat.
9. Buy you and your family TSLR t-shirts. This will back up points 1 and 4 as well as shamelessly make us a few quid in the process. You see, wearing a North Stand Social Club t-shirt will allow you to a) pretend to care about the club and b) show you can laugh about yourself. Humility is a (Santa’s) helper when you need to buy affection from people that deride and loathe you. All our t-shirts will also suit the eminent Scandinavian style of your WAG too so why not dress the whole family for around £10 (plus postage and packing) per head? If you want to go the whole hog then why not pop in after another dreadful home performance for a Harveys in the North Stand Social Club? Wear your brand new TSLR t-shirt and at least two Albionites might not spit on you.
OK so perhaps number 9 was just a marketing exercise for us. But Sami, t-shirts are available to purchase from the TSLR shop (www.theseagulllovereview.com) - we have a sleigh load of new stock for all the family to enjoy - as is the sole remaining official TSLR mouse mat that we have had in stock since 2011.
10. Don’t get sacked before the TSLR Xmas Special is published. Sami, we know this special Xmas fanzine is only in PDF format but you really will save the editors a load of time if you hold on until Boxing Day. Otherwise all the jibes that come your way, like the ones in this article, will be rendered redundant. And Christmas will be ruined. If you somehow manage to do all the above in January, we will almost certainly survive relegation to our spiritual and traditional home in Division 3. We all know you probably won’t make it that far and as such I’ve got a joke for your cracker this year. Why did Santa not have his sack on Christmas Eve 2014? He gave it to Sami.