Well, it seems to be official – the new manager of the Thai national football team will be Bryan Robson, once captain of Manchester United and England and a wonderful footballer in his own right. Robson has apparently signed a four-year deal and should be in charge for the Asian Cup, the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – his first test will be home and away qualifying matches against Singapore for the Asian Cup in November – that will be a tough assignment, readers might recall that Singapore beat Thailand recently (as also did Vietnam in the SE Asian Tiger Cup Championship, the name of which momentarily escapes me).
Expecting Robson to guide Thailand to the World Cup is excessively ambitious: “The 52-year-old Robson is expected to build a squad capable of reaching the 2014 World Cup finals.” Thailand is not particularly close to getting to the World Cup and seems unlikely to be much closer in the foreseeable future. I have been over the main reasons for this before – lack of fitness, weak domestic league, poor organization and so forth. Is Robson really the man to do something about this? His managerial reputation is mostly based on his tenure at Middlesboro, when he took them up to the top flight and kept them there for a while – even reaching cup finals which were lost. During this period, he relied on the extraordinary loyalty shown by owner Steve Gibson (currently benefiting Gareth Southgate) and the funds to sign marquee players such as Ravanelli and Juninho. Relegation eventually came in a season during which the club failed to turn up for a fixture at Blackburn, as I recall, owing apparently to an illness crisis which left the manager unable to field a team – and a three point penalty was subsequently enforced. Irrespective of the nature of the injury crisis, the whole matter was handled gauchely.
Robson’s other stints as manager were at Bradford, West Brom and Sheffield United, all of which seemed to be disappointing in terms of results and in terms of the unattractive brand of football served up on the various parks. He has been out of management for a while and linked with a range of jobs without securing any of them. He has no experience of Asia or Asian football, so far as I can tell. I would be surprised if he made it to the end of his four-year contract but good luck to him anyway.