They’re both former international footballers. They’re both eloquent football pundits. They’re both coaches holding big posts at the moment. So much was expected of them before they got their current jobs but both are struggling.
They have quite a bit in common, don’t they?
They were (and probably still are) both held in high esteem before they took their current jobs and it was believed by many they would go on to revolutionize the game with their first big break in coaching. However, as they are both realizing, talking in a well air-conditioned studio with no pressure is quite different from when you have to make the big calls that could affect games.
For Neville, his analyses were always spot on. The way he analyzed every aspect and detail of coaches’ tactics with a microscopic view earned him rave reviews and we all anticipated when he would get his first real coaching job.
His stock further rose as he unleashed a barrage of criticism on the Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal. He kept slamming the Dutchman for not attacking enough and for not playing the ‘United way’, as if that on its own guarantees any success.
For Oliseh, he also won the hearts of many Nigerians with his punditry (at least better than most of his peers from Nigeria). The way he analyzed the game, coupled with his position in the FIFA technical study group and his UEFA Pro Coaching License, it seemed he would be the messiah of Nigerian football. He was even named the ‘Pep Guardiola of Africa’.
Like Neville, he was very critical of his former team, the Super Eagles while Stephen Keshi was coach. He queried Keshi’s tactics on several occasions and Nigerians called for him to get the job as they wanted Keshi gone.
Now both men have gotten their big breaks, but as the results and performances show, they have so far been out of their depths and obviously learning on the job.
Personally, I think both of them will come good eventually with time but that’s where the problem lies – time. They do not have that luxury and I also will not be surprised if they don’t last as long as expected.
In Neville’s case, Valencia is struggling and hasn’t won a League game since he took over. They have played eight and lost four and have just five points from a possible 24. They are currently 14th on the table, 19 points off fourth place where they finished last season, and it’s only 16 games left. That stat doesn’t make for the headline – ‘fantastic coach’, does it?
For Oliseh, he has won some games against weaker oppositions and has struggled in almost all the games he has played. The high point of his stewardship so far is the 3-0 win over Cameroon in a friendly in Belgium last year. He has, however, struggled in competitive games.
His biggest test as a coach came in form of the CHAN tournament and he failed woefully. The Super Eagles are currently ranked 12th in Africa and with the CHAN failure, will be lucky to remain in that position in the next rankings.
His recent comments on a video he posted on YouTube goes further to show the kind of person he is. It is quite surprising to see Oliseh who quite easily berated coaches for their tactics is now averse to criticism.
He said: “I am addressing this insanity that has befallen some of our critics,” he began in the first part of the two-part video.
“I call it insanity because you must be insane to start seeking plebiscite on the future of the national team coach of Nigeria because we lost CHAN.
“With all due respect, CHAN is probably the least important tournament that is held by CAF,” he said.
It leaves you wondering if he had his head screwed on tight when he made that video. The sheer arrogance he exhibited was enough to show him the exit if we had a responsible football body.
Egypt is next and they play Nigeria over two legs in March. Of course, Nigeria could surprise them in those games, but would you place your money on it?
Finally, I think that to achieve success at a higher level of coaching, you need some concrete experience to see you through. As much as it is not a guarantee of success, it is surely a guide.
Valencia CF and the Nigeria Football Federation may not publicly acknowledge this but deep down at the moment, they would feel they have made mistakes in appointing these men.