Blackburn turn to “Graeme Soonest,” while talks of a Chelsea mutiny may send Scolari back to Brazil

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I hate to name drop, but I was having a drink with Gerrard on Saturday and we talked about Keane. They share the same agent [Struan Marshall] and quite honestly he thinks something is going to happen with Keane in January. Sounds like he could be moved on… He [Benitez] got it wrong. If Liverpool were playing a Champions League final, FA Cup final or a massive game that they had to win tomorrow, you know Keane wouldn’t start. He’d not get in the team. Why pay £20m for a player who doesn’t suit the formation or system? He’s not going to improve at 28. You just wonder if Tottenham will come back and do a bit of a deal and Liverpool would go for someone else.” – Mark Lawrenson.

Runner-up: “You have to understand that we are a very popular and ultra-sensitive club. On a human level, what happened with William was the toughest thing I had to deal with in my career because I regard him with a lot of esteem. He was stuck into a media frenzy, a witch-hunt that isolated him so much that it was becoming a handicap for the team. He has recovered the balance regarding his football. But I’m not convinced that, in his head, he has recovered his balance and the happiness to play.” – Arsene Wenger.

Today’s overview: After constantly warning that Paul Ince was on the verge of losing his job, yesterday Blackburn finally cut the Guv’nor’s chord. But before we get there, The Times’ Matt Hughes has an exclusive on Chelsea, as a whiff of mutiny is in the air.

According to Hughes, “Luiz Felipe Scolari is facing a growing challenge to his authority from the dressing-room.. The latest worries to emerge centre on Scolari’s substitutions against West Ham, with several players demanding to know in a dressing-room meeting why Michael Ballack was replaced at half-time rather than the underperforming Deco, who stayed on for the entire 90 minutes.” Complicating the issue further is Martin Lipton’s article in the Mirror, writing “Luiz Felipe Scolari is set to be offered a return ticket to Brazil if he falls out of love with Chelsea.”

Paul Wilson, wise after the event, wonders why Blackburn appointed Ince in the first place arguing “the club board seemed to opt for the powerful playing persona rather than the proven managerial force.” Such sentiments are echoed by Want a job in this country? It’s about who your friends are and how good a player you were.”

Bucking the trend and offering support to Ince is Henry Winter. “Ince deserves sympathy not opprobrium. No one can call him a bad manager, just a promising young coach who joined a decent club that ran out of money, top players and, yesterday, patience.”

James Ducker believes that sacking was inevitable taking in account that Ince presided over “a team that finished seventh last season into one flirting with relegation six months later.” The same inevitability argument is also espoused by Mark Ogdan who penned “from day one, however, the former England captain appeared to be fighting a losing battle to stamp his authority on a club and dressing room still mourning the departure of Mark Hughes to Manchester City.” Ian Herbert rounds up all the residual factors pointing to Ince’s sacking including “his lieutenant Archie Knox has not been popular,” “the signing of Keith Andrews.. raised many eyebrows” and “tactically, Ince has seemed limited too.”

Tim Rich looks at the money-end of the argument explaining why, financially, relegation would be unthinkable for Rovers. “Since winning promotion to the Premier League under Kenny Dalglish in 1992, they have never made a profit. In terms of operating to stadium capacity, only Bolton and Middlesbrough are emptier than Ewood Park. On the last available figures, 85% of their turnover goes on the wages of players.”

On those looking to step into the breach, Andy Hunter reports that “Souness, Allardyce and Alan Curbishley are among the leading candidates for the post.” Steve McClaren… Dave Jones, the Cardiff City manager, and Roberto Mancini, the former Inter Milan coach, are also thought to be under consideration [while] the odds on Roy Keane shortened from 16-1 to 7-1 with Ladbrokes last night.”

With the Premier League current negotiating its next TV deal, Nick Harris announces that “the Premier League will ‘recession proof’ its most important income stream – television money – by launching its own TV channel from the summer of 2010 if the value of bids for live rights plummets when the auction for 2010-13 opens in the next few weeks.” In a supplementary article however, The Independent’s Harris points to the more likely outcome that “Premier League will not suffer a dramatic fall in TV income.”

In other news, Sandy Macaskill reports on why Kettering Town had to repay a loan after their bank terminated the banking facilities of the club’s shirt sponsors – Interpal – a charitable organisation with links to the Palestinian territories and Hamas.

Search aimlessly for “Pocket Napoleons,” Rob Biachi yearns for charismatic footballers who are trend-setters. “Eric Cantona may not have been a veteran when he went to Manchester United but he was the last player to have the charisma and self-belief to single-handedly alter the culture of a club.”

Lastly, Martin Samuel attempts to inject some common sense into the Club World Cup by explaining how the competition needs to be reformed to gain graviotas. “Six teams, two groups of three, winners only going through to a final, so each club play two games minimum, three maximum in a competition spread over 12 playing days… Three sets of seeds (Oceania/Africa, Asia/Central America, Europe/South America), with one seed from each pairing in a group, the top two seeded clubs always scheduled to meet last, probably having won a group game each, to avoid dead rubbers. Hey presto, a straightforward tournament that makes sense.”