I WANT to write this morning about three Premier League managers.
Or rather, two current ones – Chris Wilder of Sheffield United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United – and one who was fired on Tuesday, Mauricio Pochettino.
Wilder has done a brilliant job, to the extent that he has the Blades above Manchester United in the table before they host them today.
It’s a cracking feat by Wilder. And he hasn’t done it by splashing the cash on five or six big-name players to add to their promotion group.
No, he has stuck with the same lads, just adding one or two players, such as Ireland’s Callum Robinson, and Wilder is not playing kick-and-rush football either.
He has his team very well organised, playing for each other, working hard around the pitch. And, on the couple of times I’ve seen them this season, Sheffield United have played with no little skill too.
Like many other football watchers, I was very sceptical of their chances of surviving in the Premier League this season.
I had the Blades marked down as a very probable relegation side.
Instead, they have been a breath of fresh air in England’s top flight, beating Arsenal and only losing to an own goal against Liverpool.
They will go into today’s contest brimming with confidence that they can get something out of this one too.
And every game in which Sheffield United do well is good for Irish football, with John Egan, Enda Stevens and David McGoldrick joining Robinson in their first team.
Who would have thought that Sheffield United would have more Irish players in the Premier League than any other club?
It used to be Manchester United, then Liverpool, then Aston Villa.
Now it is this modest Yorkshire club who are leading the way for Irish football.
Wilder’s position is now so strong at the club that he could survive a collapse in the second half of the season and keep his job.
By contrast, Ole Gunnar must be shifting a little uneasily in the manager’s chair at Old Trafford now, with Pochettino now available in the wake of Tuesday’s shock news.
When Jose Mourinho was fired by United last year two thoughts immediately entered my head.
The first was that United should get the Argentinian straight away, the second was that it would be impossible because Spurs would never let him go.
Now 11 months later, a time in which ‘Poch’ led Tottenham to a Champions League final, he has been fired.
There has to have been a bust-up somewhere in the Spurs’ hierarchy.
Pochettino has given them four seasons of Champions League football, he has had the club contending for honours at a time when Manchester City and Liverpool have fabulous teams.
What more does the club’s leadership want? Certainly the Spurs’ supporters had not lost faith in their manager.
If I had to put money on the root of the row, I’d go for transfer policy.
It is all the more remarkable that Pochettino has the club going so well when he went two recent transfer windows without buying a single senior player.
The cost of rebuilding White Hart Lane ran many millions of pounds over the original price.
You can’t help but wonder if Pochettino’s proposed transfer budget in 2017/18 made up the shortfall?
In those years, top-notch experienced players such as Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alexandre Lacazette and Harry Maguire all changed clubs for huge sums.
Spurs were never in the hunt for any of those players. How good might they be if they had reinforced their squad with at least one of those lads?
My hunch is that Pochettino just tired of the battle to keep his team at the top in those circumstances and wanted to have cash at his disposal, if not in January, then certainly next summer.
Now Manchester United could get Pochettino without any difficulty.
Would they make a move in January if Ole Gunnar does not get a spark out of his team soon?
If United were to lose today, would the club’s fans and board stay loyal to Ole Gunnar, club legend that he is?
The dilemma for United is that if they dither over trying to get Pochettino, there’s every chance a Spanish club will beat them to the punch.
It is some mixed-up Premier League season when Wilder of Sheffield United has far better job security than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pochettino!
Roy Hodgson is viewed by many in England as a national treasure. The Crystal Palace manager is regularly lauded for his intelligence, urbanity and longevity. Want to spend an evening with a Premier League manager? Then the 72-year-old is your man. Literature, film, music - the conversation will flow. Just don't talk about football.