As usually happens when a Premier League job comes up, the opening at Aston Villa has inspired something of a scramble, as those out of work eye up the chance to have a crack at what could be quite a juicy gig. Big crowds, decent contract that will be paid up whether or not you’re any good, and the statistical probability that you can’t possibly be as bad as the last bloke. Or the one before him. Or the one before him.
The usual suspects are all in the running; we’ve got the continental choice of the nose-tappers and wiseguys (Remi Garde), the youngish up-and-comer from the lower divisions (Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink), the highly-rated sort who worked wonders with a smaller club (Sean Dyche), the tail-between-the-legs sackee from a bigger job (Brendan Rodgers), the cold-eyed killer who looks like he’d just as soon show you his knife collection but tear your larynx out with his bare hands as shake your hand (Nigel Pearson).
And then there’s the wild card, in this case Dwight Yorke.
“There are young people ready to break into management and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t put my name in the hat,” Yorke said on the wireless this week, to the general amusement of anyone who knows that Villa won’t appoint a gobby ex-pro whose previous coaching experience extends to five months as Ricky Sbragia’s interim number two at Sunderland and a brief spell as Trinidad and Tobago assistant.
Of course, giving this job to Yorke would be absurd. Obviously. He has never actually coached anywhere and has spent his retirement from playing expanding his wardrobe and squeezing legs on the Sky Sports punditry circuit. Clearly it would be absurd. Of course it would.
But would it though?
“People will say I don’t have any experience,” Yorke continued, “but we’ve seen people with experience go in there and struggle to do a job. I know that club inside out and I’ve looked at the squad, there’s enough in there to get them out of this position and there’s enough time as well.
“It’s whether the owners are prepared to give an aspiring young manager an opportunity. You look at the managers available now, it’s a merry-go-round. In the 30 years I’ve been involved in football it’s been the same people getting job after job, so why are young managers doing all their coaching badges but not getting that opportunity?”
And he’s right. It often seems as if the same faces are just shuffling around the mid-level clubs of the Premier League, an old boys network that displays a chronic lack of imagination and diversity. The appointment of Sam Allardyce at Sunderland might turn out to be the right one, but it was the most inevitable managerial move in the history of football. It was so obviously going to happen from the moment that Dick Advocaat changed his mind about retirement in the vaguely adorable hope that he could go round the block one more time. It was predictable and crashingly dull, even though it might secure safety for the club.
So why not mix things up a little bit? Yorke speaks well on TV, which is no qualification in itself but it’s about the same as some of his contemporaries seem to have. Yet the response to his punditry is usually centred around those loud suits, the derision for which carries some pretty unpleasant undertones that we won’t investigate at great length here, but are undeniably present.
Yorke doesn’t really seem to be taken seriously, but why? Perhaps it’s the clothes, perhaps it’s the previous association with Katie Price and a number of other notable celebrities, perhaps it’s the chunky volume of kiss and tell stories from way back when (a favourite being the one where he apparently convinced one young lady that he was a postman named Brian), perhaps it’s something altogether more sinister, but Yorke doesn’t seem to be taken seriously in the way that many of his contemporaries are.
It would be interesting to see him in the Villa job, at least. A Premier League club giving a chance to a young, enthusiastic black manager rather than going down the predictable old route. He might well be a disaster, but at least he’d liven Villa up a bit, a club who have been very slowly withering and fading away for a few years now, like a cliff gently crumbling into the sea. The life and excitement has been sucked out of the club by a combination of player sales and uninspiring managerial choices. At least Yorke might add some vim and vigour, in a different way to Tim Sherwood, who constantly looked like he was recovering from a hangover, eyes baggy and a tube of Berocca constantly poking out of his pocket.
Yorke could quite happily carry on picking up a few quid here and there with his stints on the telly, plus all the other assorted little earners that ex-footballers of his generation can enjoy. But he seems to want more, to do something tangible, to better himself. That should be applauded rather than mocked.
Obviously, Yorke won’t get the job; his is an appointment that wouldn’t be popular, partly because of his deficient levels of experience, partly because most managerial appointments are a reaction to the last guy and thus an older head will presumably be sought, and also partly because of his departure from Villa back in 1998. The potted history goes something like this; Yorke scores goals for Villa, he kisses the badge while doing so, Manchester United come a callin’, then Villa manager John Gregory declares that he would’ve shot Yorke when he asked to leave, he eventually does one to Old Trafford and promptly wins the treble. They did not, shall we say, exactly lay on tea and scones when he returned to Villa Park.
Obviously he won’t get the job. He probably shouldn’t get the job. But, you know, it might be quite good fun if he did. Refreshing. Different. A wild card. Lord knows Villa need something.