Winds of change by Begoña Pérez (Spanish Correspondent and Sports Journalist)
July 6, 2013
Until recently, Stoke City was known as the ‘King of shooting’ - they played the most direct football in the Premier League and, although it was unattractive for spectators, it proved effective when it came to achieving their aims of avoiding relegation.
For seven years, Tony Pulis fulfilled this purely pragmatic ambition with his scrupulous work. It wasn’t enough for Stoke City’s board, who decided this summer that a change of personnel was necessary, aware of the need to please the fans. Mark Hughes was the man chosen for the job. The Welsh coach, aware of the task at hand and his need to boost his own dwindling reputation after coming unstuck at QPR, didn’t hesitate in declaring his intentions at his presentation: “All I can do is take the club forward as best I can, my philosophy is playing good football and making it entertaining for the fans”.
The success of Barcelona and the Spanish national team has inevitably set the benchmark over the last few years. Manchester City decided to make some changes to their system and in doing so, apointed two former ‘culé’ directors, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain. Roberto Mancini won historic titles for the Manchester club, but his style didn’t exactly seduce football purists. Manuel Pellegrini has replaced him in order to impose a more lively style on a team that includes big-name players such as Silva, Agüero and Nasri. In this way, City intends to give a qualitative boost to a project that has strong economic backing in order to succeed amongst the European elite.
You don’t have to go very far in Britain to realise that attractive play can also be synonymous with winning titles - two of the more modest teams in the Premier League demonstrated that last season. Laudrup’s Swansea - known as ‘Swansealona’, won the Capital One Cup, and Wigan Athletic, despite being relegated, won the FA Cup. Both projects have one common denominator: Roberto Martínez, who laid the foundations of the Welsh club when he was with them in 2007 when they were still in League One. He didn’t give up on his principles with ‘the Latics’ despite the challenge of staying in the top flight. Just last season, Liverpool appointed another former Swansea coach in the hope he would implement his own version of Shankly’s ‘passing game’ - Brendan Rodgers, a coach who when in his twenties, would make regular visits to Barcelona’s La Masia (the former head quarters for their youth academy). The Reds own academy has evolved considerably towards that style thanks to the hard work of Pep Segura and Rodolfo Borrell - both former youth team coaches at FC Barcelona.
Even in the lower leagues there are examples of good taste bringing results. Gus Poyet’s Brighton reached the promotion play-offs in just their second season in the Championship. The Seagulls recruited Gerard Nus, to guide their youth academy, further proof that the winds of change are blowing in the direction of English football.