The English Premier League loves to follow trends, whether it's tactical formations, stat-tracking technology, players from a certain region or preseason trips to exotic locations.
But here's a new one: the veteran manager.
In recent times, the old-school British head coach has been derided as something of a dinosaur for employing methods from a distant era that no longer cope with the demands of the modern game. For several years, the fad when appointing a new leader has been to go young or to go foreign.
However, as financial concerns fuel the need for stability like never before, more and more clubs are eschewing youth and seeking a safe pair of hands.
All those "bright young things" like Iain Dowie, Alan Pardew, Aidy Boothroyd and Steve Coppell no longer operate in English football's top flight, while Roy Keane and Paul Ince parted company with Sunderland and Blackburn, respectively, in the past few weeks.
When old timer Joe Kinnear was put in temporary charge of Newcastle earlier this season, the move was regarded as one of desperation, and the critics predicted embarrassing failure. But now, Kinnear has confounded his doubters to such an extent that he has not only dragged the club clear of the relegation zone and been put in charge until the end of the season, but he has also being linked with other vacant EPL jobs such as the post Keane vacated at Sunderland.
Elsewhere, club chairmen are looking for a proven track record instead of hope and promise as the most desirable of traits. Harry Redknapp was handed the keys to Tottenham's future when Juande Ramos's ill-fated reign in North London came to a grinding halt. And having been burned by the Ince experiment, Blackburn opted for Sam Allardyce to attempt to resurrect the club's season.
With the huge sums of money at stake in the top division, this is no time for a club to take a risk on someone who will need to operate on a learning curve in the early stages. Chances are that Ince could have blossomed into a fine Premier League boss, but Blackburn simply did not have the time to wait and find out.
While the trend toward older bosses may block the progress of emerging managers, it is reflective of the current need for security ahead of flamboyance.
The first XI
1. Get him an Advil
Ivan Gazidis leaves Major League Soccer after 14 years next week and will take over as Arsenal CEO on Jan. 1. But the likeable and popular Gazidis will walk into a tough situation at the Emirates Stadium, where boardroom unrest reigns.
Longtime director Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith was forced out last week and there is increasing uncertainty surrounding the future of the club, with the intentions of 24.9 percent shareholder Alisher Usmanov unknown. Rumors that Real Madrid is interested in poaching manager Arsene Wenger in the summer will do nothing to increase stability.
2. Get him a beer
Say what you like about David Beckham, but he still knows how to work a crowd. Beckham's unveiling at AC Milan on Saturday was classy and impressive, even including a few words of hastily learned Italian to charm locals.
Who knows how much playing time he will get, especially after the Rossoneri beat Udinese 5-1 on Sunday? Already though, thanks to the wave of publicity he has generated, Milan has exactly what it wanted when it agreed to a two-month loan for the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder.
3. Get him some earplugs
Jose Mourinho had better brace himself for a steady stream of abuse when he takes Inter Milan to England to face Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League's round of 16.
United supporters have never forgotten Mourinho's jig of delight when leading Porto to victory at Old Trafford in 2004, and their feelings toward him only intensified during his stint at Chelsea. But you know that Mourinho will love the hostility and use it to strengthen his resolve.
4. Four corners
• Will Lassana Diarra finally fill the defensive midfield hole left when the club stupidly sold Claude Makelele in 2003?
• Doesn't this make you wish February would hurry up and get here?
• Is the Spanish league title race over, even before Christmas? A hint, the answer begins with a "y."
• So what will Scottish managers find to complain about now?
5. Catch a flight to …
Southeast Asia. Forget about pricy and chilly Europe, where most leagues are shutting down for a midseason break. Head to Bangkok and Hanoi for the two-legged Southeast Asian championships final between Thailand and Vietnam.
The standard of soccer might not be great, but rooms can be had for $10. Plus beers are less than $1 each. Need I say more?
6. A round of applause for …
• Tim Howard and Carli Lloyd: Howard was a deserving winner of the U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year award, while Lloyd scooped the women's prize thanks to her outstanding efforts at the Beijing Olympics.
• Marouane Chamakh: The Moroccan striker sparked a dramatic comeback as Bordeaux came from 3-0 down to beat Monaco 4-3 and go second in Ligue 1.
• Uruguayan soccer chiefs: Suspended the final round of league matches due to ongoing hooliganism problems. Hopefully the violent morons blighting the game in Uruguay will finally learn their lesson.
7. Get them a Kleenex
• Lionel Messi. The Barcelona superstar rose to the bait of criticism from Johan Cruyff and Fabio Cannavaro and defended his actions in a spiky interview. The Argentine shouldn't give his critics the satisfaction of a response. His outstanding play speaks loud enough.
• Edgardo Bauza. The Liga de Quito boss worked wonders in leading his team to the Copa Libertadores crown and the verge of the Club World Cup title before Wayne Rooney's goal handed Manchester United the victory in Sunday's final.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Paul Stalteri. Tottenham's Canadian defender doesn't appear to figure in Harry Redknapp's plans and could interest Toronto FC.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
Dave Van Den Bergh. The New York Red Bulls star isn't impressed at being asked to take a pay cut despite his impressive 2008 season. A return to Holland beckons for the big left back.
10. Get excited about …
The United States's chances of hosting the World Cup. The selection process outlined by FIFA greatly works in the U.S.'s favor.
It looks likely that a European nation, probably England or Spain, will be given the rights to 2018. If that happens, all Euro bids would then be excluded from the 2022 race, also to be decided in 2010. That would leave effectively a straight fight between the U.S. and Australia, one which U.S. Soccer would be confident of winning.
Don't be surprised if things end up like this: 2018 in England, 2022 in the United States, 2026 in Australia, 2030 in Europe.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Take a look at Liverpool striker Robbie Keane's gorgeous wife Claudine.
- English Premier League
- Paul Ince
- Major League Soccer
- Harry Redknapp