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Former legend Defends John Becks New FA Gig

Former QPR, Coventry City, Fulham, AFC Bournemouth and Cambridge Utd midfielder John Beck was a superb footballer – according to Huddersfield Town & Lincoln legend Big Colin Alcide – so it is wrong for the papers to slate his appointment as an FA coach due to his long-ball tactics as a manager. So says legendary Imp Colin Alcide who took him from obscurity  at Emley for £15,000 in December 1995 by Beck in the The Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

Thank you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs 

Following his appointment by the FA to a Level 2 and UEFA B coaching role, John has been pigeon-holed by the red tops and broadsheets alike based on stories and tactics from 20 years ago that fly in the face of his superb technique and vision. I saw him as a lad at QPR with my late father  operating within the passing midfield of QPR,  before he moved to Fulham and Bournemouth. Yes he might have make a few shudder at Lincoln but as the first to use icebaths in English football he was ahead of his time.

According to big Colin Alcide.

“The other interesting thing was that while his tactics might have been predominantly long passing, he had fantastic technical ability from his times as a player (with QPR, Coventry, Fulham, Bournemouth and Cambridge). Some of the things he could do were amazing.”

Colin’s full interview in The Huddersfield Daily Examiner is HERE

Stoke Dilemma: Can Hughes Or Di Matteo Eclipse Pulis Power

The Stoke City job appears to be going to former Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, QPR and Fulham boss Mark Hughes, although Roberto Di Matteo (who has managed MK Dons, WBA and Chelsea FC) looks to be the latest of the ex-Chelsea contingent (Gus Poyet has been approached too) to be linked with one of the Premiership’s toughest asks.  Chelsea charm comes with cash, whilst Stoke’s Premiership lineage has been forged as much through perspiration as inspiration. Pulis power is about physical prowess, under him the realism of the artisan’s toil, reaps hard won returns and the reliability of regular rewards. But that is not enough for some, who chastise long ball football and the stiff necks that come from looking skywards. But how many ex-Premiership chairmen later lament reaching for the very same sky.

Thankyou for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs.

Tony Pullis has never been relegated as a manager, but image and perception is so much more than substance, facts & stats and the boring, solid day-to-day stuff that goes on behind the scenes. We live in a media-orientated world alright, where the people’s game seems to be less and less about traditional values and the virtues of hard-work, particularly once  the Premiership glitz and glamour has caught owners in its midst.  Stoke’s owners may feel they are secure and ready to take the next step, but in reality they start on zero points in three months time like everyone else. Ambition may also be a great virtue, a wonderful way to fill a stadium, but failure empties a stadium of the fickle fans, faster than a winger can skin a full-back.

If carpet football is the top priority for Stoke City, then Roberto Di Matteo is the man to bring it. But he, like favourite Hughes, who will bring a more physically robust approach to the table, will need plenty of cash to take the Potters to the next level. Many have tried and failed to break into the Premiership’s platinum plated cartel.  Failure in the Premiership brings a short sharp shock to many sides who fall not once but twice before steadying the ship again. Ask Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City, Norwich, Charlton et al.  But football is about theatre, dreams and optimism, so here is a run down of the two who could take Stoke City to the next level.

*****

Mr Di Matteo started his career well at MK Dons, succeeding Paul Ince in 2008. He took the, perhaps unfairly nicknamed, Franchise club to the League 1 play-offs in his first season, losing the semi to Scunthorpe. It was enough to get him the WBA job, where he repaid the faith with an instant return to the Premiership, as runners up behind Newcastle.  Despite getting hammered at Chelsea on the opening day of the 2010/11 season the Baggies recovered well earning Mr Di Matteo a manager of the month award in the September. The swashbuckling style was superb, sweeping counter attacking carpet football, played, perhaps, as only a sweet-toothed Swiss-Italian can conjure.  The defensive side of the Italian game let him down when the wheels well and truly came off the cart. One win in ten cost him his job, with Michael Appleton replacing him, steadying the ship sufficiently to finish 11th.

After failing to get the Birmingham job, Chelsea cast him a lifeline as assistant manager to AVB. Upon his sacking in March 2012 Mr Di Matteo took the helm, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Although this was a fantastic and unique double, many will argue he did little but reverse the square pegs that had been put into round holes by AVB.  That Chelsea side was and still is, nothing short of breath-taking on their day, with a midfield that is a credit to world football. To follow that first three months anywhere, would be a tough ask, but then to please Mr Abramovich is a whole different ball game. After just 8 months in charge he was gone ,dividing fans and pundits alike. Even a champion of the glass half-full club five minutes before closing time, could not envisage Stoke being able to give him the head start he enjoyed at MK Dons and Chelsea. To change the style of the side to his way of thinking will take the sort of time and cash they will not have in the Potteries next season. The romantic in us hopes so for the underdogs sake, but surely it is to dream the impossible dream?

Roberto’s Record

Club Managed Start End Record
G W D L Win %
Milton Keynes Dons 2008 2009 52 27 11 14 51.92
West Bromwich Albion 2009 2011 83 40 19 24 48.19
Chelsea 2012 2012 42 24 9 9 57.14
Overall Record 177 91 39 47 51.41

Mr Hughes has a decent win percentage (39.53%) but he has had the money at every club he has been at. After the less than dreamy, perhaps impossible and deary, dragon’s den days in the fiery Wales job, he guided Blackburn to a top six finish and UEFA cup qualification. The expensive rebuild in the summer of 2005 saw Rovers finish tenth, with a somewhat physical reputation. In the four years Mr Hughes held the helm at Ewood Park his side finished bottom of the Premier fair play League, but never finished outside of the top ten and managed three FA Cup semi finals.  Mr Hughes then chose Manchester City over Chelsea (2008/9) but, despite spending tens of millions (Robinho alone cost £32 million) City could only finish a disappointing tenth. They did reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals but alas, decent home form cannot make up for frequent no shows on the road. Mr Hughes card was marked, much to the benefit of his bank balance one supposes.

After a year out he also managed just a season at Fulham,  before questioning the club’s ambition. Will Stoke be able to afford him that level, or will it end in a spat similar to the one at the Lillywhites, one that saw owner  Mohamed Al-Fayed call Mr Hughes a “strange man” and a “flop”? Mr Hughes soon returned to management with awash with money club QPR in January 2012 and kept them up. An expensive rebuild saw Rangers worst ever start to a top flight season, as they went 12 without a win. Stoke, at a crossroads, will certainly hope history does not repeat itself should he get the job.

The Mark Hughes Clues.

Club Start End Record
G W D L Win %
Wales Sep 1999 Sep 2004 41 12 15 14 29.27
Blackburn Rovers Sep 2004 Jun 2008 188 82 47 59 43.62
Manchester City Jun 2008 Dec 2009 77 36 15 26 46.75
Fulham Jul 2010 Jun 2011 43 14 16 13 32.56
Queens Park Rangers Jan 2012 Nov 2012 34 8 6 20 23.53
Overall Record 382 151 99 132 39.53

Tony Pulis Record

Just for the record, here is what Tony Pulis has done. One has to feel that some club will be lucky to have him. Bournemouth (Div 3 Champions 1986/87), Gillingham (Promoted as runners up Div 3 1995/96 and Div 2 Play-off winner 1998/99) and Stoke (Promoted as Championship runners up 2007/8, FA Cup runner up 2010/11) all did well under him, albeit ‘enjoying’ some physical, long ball tactics.

 
Club Start End Record
G W D L Win %
Bournemouth 9 June 1992 5 August 1994 107 31 38 38 28.97
Gillingham 31 July 1995 1 July 1999 216 94 62 60 43.52
Bristol City 5 July 1999 14 January 2000 33 10 14 9 30.30
Portsmouth 13 January 2000 12 October 2000 35 11 10 14 31.43
Stoke City 1 November 2002 28 June 2005 131 47 32 52 35.88
Plymouth Argyle 23 September 2005 14 June 2006 39 12 15 12 30.77
Stoke City 14 June 2006 21 May 2013 333 122 98 113 36.64
Total 894 327 269 298 36.58

John Beck Spirit Rekindled

John Beck….strange how a creative midfield influence at QPR,  Coventry City, Fulham, Bournemouth and Cambridge would become the architect of long-ball Lincoln. Mind you Glenn Hoddle had tarred him with that brush when Cambridge had brushed his Swindon Town side aside on the way to reaching fifth in the first Division.  This self belief and ambition was the reason he gave for turning down Leicester City in 1991 and Beck was that close to joining the first season of the new Premier league, by achieving promotion from the bottom League to the top.

Queens Park Rangers crestCoventry City FC logo.svgAFC Bournemouth.svgFulham's crest since 2000 logo Lincoln City F.C. badge.png

John’s luck is on a par with the Imps, but he likes challenges and a poisoned Challis or six.  His time at Cambridge and Lincoln saw some amazing and eccentric escapades but his sacking at both marked stark declines. United got rid in October 92 and were back in the bottom tier within 2 seasons, Lincoln struggled and would go into admin in 3.  Further financial collapses at Histon and Kettering have curtailed any chance of a repeat performance for a genuine character. This after helping Fallon storm through the pyramid with Histon only to be denied a place in the League after losing the play-off semi –final to Torquay.

Poor John was then sacked. Incredibly Fallon replaced him, he then returned at Fallon’s expense to try to steady a ship on the brink of financial disaster. Who says he who laughs last laughs longest? Beck left the following August (2012) to take up the Kettering challenge, now starting life in the Evo-Stick. With the club finances falling apart around his ears (we Imps remember Ladak only too well) John Beck, was escorted from the ground an hour before kick off. He had been merely been remonstrating that players and staff were being sacked around him.  Who can blame him, this season the Poppies have either had to cancel fixtures or field 10 man teams in front of a couple of hundred fans. nb Imps – careful what you wish for those calling for a phoenix club because no one is realistically going to move on until the ground deal gets sorted are they?

It is certainly hard-hats time once again at Impdom, something Gary, Grant, Chris and the lads know only too well. Good luck with keeping focused lads STMI has never doubted you. Let’s face it when the pro-club, many say puppet site, begins running headlines like they are today you know its headless happy hour at the hen coop to match the mantra behind the scenes at an utter shambles of a football club, Back the team at all cost s Imps, even at £18 (naturally the visionaries must have blown the 3 promotion opportunities afforded under Conference rules -no 21 for the train spotters amongst us) because our team need us. The time for Phoenix club talk is not for now; this is a time for responsible headlines calling for calm and unity.

But we digress, back to Beck and as they say once you’ve had Beck you never go back. John Reames – bless him and god rest his soul – had sacked Steve Wicks after just 42, dare I say winless days. His decision to appoint John Beck would put two of the most controversial characters in the game at the same club at the same time. Something had to give. Like Taylor the enticer, KA and now Gary, Beck was as popular as Drewe Broughton at a final day relegation six-pointer.  To his credit he avoided relegation to the Vauxhall Conference, now the BSP.  His football was not popular, like Keith Alexander or protégé Gary Simpson, but it worked as we narrowly missed the play-offs the following season. Team Lincoln had arrived and would have its finest hour the following season in 97-98.

Dean Walling, Beck’s captain at the Imps, was the first to publicly air what we fans were feeling under ‘Tilson’s nice Imps’, some time in September 2011.  We had become too easy to beat; the heads went down as soon as we went one down. The Holdsworth tenure only continued this mentality until Simmo and Brown took the club by the scruff of the neck. Incredibly with no money and, largely the same personnel, they are being slated for lack of tactics and, ‘its more of the same’. Fact, the budget City had and has, meant we have little but true Brit grit against a superior half at least of the BSP since we arrived here.  Tough to chew over when you are watching lads on £350-£400 a week at £18 entry fee I grant you. As to how managers can trump that – well hard graft, honesty integrity and contacts are the only bullets in your chamber.

The Team Lincoln ethos, something Gary, Chris and Grant are trying to build – was a time when Imps were men, leaders and mates. In came charmer Lee Thorpe – always more pheasant plucker than gentleman poacher. He was to partner ex-soldier Phil Stant, one player even Beck refused to throw buckets of cold water over (he had done this since his Cambridge days along with ordering the groundsmen not to cut the grass near the corners to give a winger a chance to catch up with a gamble aka the long punts). Stanty, a really nice chap as it goes, once got an urgent helicopter ride, at the tax payers expense, to the Army V Navy fixture and was sent off for violent conduct within 5 minutes. There was room for a lover amongst the fighters  with Gareth (bow thrice Imps) Ainsworth chasing the ‘hoofs’ of Grant Brown. The manager and chairman did not exactly see eye to eye when Gareth was sold for half a million.

But the togetherness of team Lincoln kept tight and up for the fight, encouraged by the manager to welcome the visitors to the Bank by loudly knocking on the dressing room door before the game and at half-time for good measure. The Imps enjoyed an unbeaten 16 games, with 9 wins and seven draws conceding half a dozen goals. There was a wobble as Posh hammered us in an eye watering affair and Emley came from two down to knock us out of the FA Cup on penalties. The fans then as now were divided with pro and anti Beck factions that even divided the otherwise on-form Lincoln Train Enthusiasts.  The Mighty Imps had slipped from top to 9th giving trigger happy Reames the opportunity to get rid of his nemesis. Assistant Westley took charge and would get the credit for our promotion, but it was the Beck backbone and team spirit that clinched it.

Nowhere was this more obvious than the battle of Moss Rose a defeat that rekindled the team Lincoln spirit. Two pleasant sides met, with both very much in the hunt.  The Lion Mascot kicked things off at half-time with a lewd gesture that incensed the travelling Imp hordes. The police escorted him from the field. Keeper Richardson put in a reverse 1930’s style challenge on Sedgemore who went toe to toe with him. Both saw red after the referee, stewards and police had contained a 22 man brawl. Team Lincoln all over – all for one and one for all.  The Imps lost 2-1 with Richardson, Thorpe and Barnett charged with misconduct.

The Imps this season have picked up plenty of cards, with 85 yellows and 7 reds, robbing us of Boyce for Saturday. But it illustrates how this team has the Beck/Alexander/Simmo spirit. Not style but fight and a determination to keep this club alive. In a few short weeks the manager has built a team spirit that has seen a side that were going down – take a look at the form – into one with a fighting chance. So let’s back them on Saturday because battling and unity between the fans and the team is the only thing that will keep this club alive. If you really want change, only results on the pitch are going to do it. Up until those two defeats the crowds were up both home and away.

But headlines and the voices of a few that hide behind hidden names on message boards, could continue to undo the club if we listen to them. The behind the scenes off-pitch antics have done much to fashion events on it over the last few years. It has driven as many fans away too, if you talk to ex-Imps fans, who still read this site judging by the stats against average Lincoln crowds. Stay up this season and they will return. Imps moaned about the football while Beck was doing well, just as they did in the Keith era. But local pride and a winning team has always made the Sincil Bank turnstiles click.  That as opposed to Chairmen is what has given this club its war chests.  The fans plus the players plus the manager equals team Lincoln. Such a simple equation in a game with so many variables. So let’s not move the goal posts because it will only make it harder to score.

STMI Biopic
Full name John Alexander Beck
Date of birth 25 May 1954 (age 58)
Place of birth Edmonton, England
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1972–1976 Queens Park Rangers 40 (1)
1976–1978 Coventry City 69 (6)
1978–1982 Fulham 114 (12)
1982–1986 Bournemouth 137 (13)
1986–1989 Cambridge United 112 (11)
Total 472 (43 )
Teams managed
1990–1992 Cambridge United
1992–1994 Preston North End
1995–1997 Lincoln City
2001 Cambridge United
2010 Histon
2012– Kettering Town