Tag Archives: giggs

Saying Goodbye To English Soccer’s Long-Serving Scotsmen

On Wednesday evening, when Aston Villa finally sacked manager Paul Lambert, the Paul Lambert Aston VillaPremier League lost its one remaining Scottish coach. Since the 1950s, gruff Scottish geniuses have been a fixture in English soccer, engineering memorable league campaigns and delivering pithy sound bites. Lambert, a mediocre coach with all the charisma of a wrinkled warm-up bib, has little in common with Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson. But his sacking, the inevitable result of one of the longest goalless streaks in Villa’s history, carries symbolic weight. Over the last few years, as long-serving coaches like Shankly and Ferguson have become increasingly rare, what might be termed the “Scottish model” of sustained team-building, in which a visionary manager molds a squad over the course of several seasons, has given way to a new reality: a cutthroat league in which players and coaches never stay at one club for very long.

The Premier League’s growing volatility is especially pronounced at Manchester United, once a bastion of stability in the rapidly changing landscape of English soccer. In 2013, after 25 years in the Old Trafford dugout, Ferguson retired from coaching, and his final act as United manager was to anoint fellow Scotsman David Moyes as his successor. Ferguson, who saw traces of his own Glaswegian toughness in Moyes’ no-nonsense coaching philosophy, naively assumed that fans and journalists would wait patiently for the ex-Everton manager to blossom into Sir Alex 2.0. They didn’t, and less than a year later, Moyes was fired.

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700 Games Later

Last Saturday, Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0 in a run-of-the-mill Premier League game. Wigan are a small, slightly bizarre club from the north of England. Manchester United also play in the north, but they have more Azerbaijani fans than Wigan do season-ticket holders. This is football, the most monetized sport around, and Manchester United were playing at home. Wigan never had a prayer.

What made this game worth watching, what made it Saturday’s most endearing match – especially in contrast to John Terry’s return to Loftus Road, Anton Ferdinand’s childish non-handshake, and the dismal 0-0 draw that followed – was the shy-looking redhead who opened the scoring (a tap-in) and the almost-40-year-old whose darting runs and incisive dribbling troubled the Wigan defense all afternoon. If you don’t know where I’m going with this – if the names Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, or, as they’re commonly referred to, “giggsandscholes” (one syllable), don’t ring a bell – then either you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years or you don’t have cable. (Which is worse? I’ll leave that for you to decide.)

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