One of the great things about the Premier League, one of the elements that just makes Our League simply better than any of Jonny Foreigner’s funny little football competitions, is that it constantly finds new ways to surprise you.
Who back in August, for instance, could possibly have imagined that by January the press conferences of Southampton manager Nathan Jones would be must-watch appointment-viewing box office gold? Every single individual element of that would sound plain nutty to those innocent children of August. And yet here we are.
There’s often talk about ‘young British managers’ and how they ‘need to be given a chance’. It’s dull is what it is, but what is absolutely true is that young enormously entertaining managers need to be given a chance. Because being a Premier League manager grinds down even the most confident and chipper sort of fella in the end. We need new blood.
And in Jones the Premier League appears to have hit paydirt. The gold standard against which any Premier League managerial pronunciation is measured is simple: how easily can you imagine it being uttered word-for-word by Brendan Rodgers at his most self-regardingly assured of him?
There’s very little from the man himself that passes this test these days. His press conferences are phoned in now as Leicester flails desperately against relegation. The players are working hard. They’re trying hard. Yes, we’re looking to bring in a couple of new faces. But that’s not easy.
It’s all a far cry from yer classic #BrendanOnBrendan content from the good old days.
Now imagine peak Brendan saying “I’ve held myself with real dignity in recent weeks”. Easy isn’t it? Huge Brendan vibes. Positively reeks of Brendan.
But it’s not Brendan Rodgers. It’s Nathan Jones, who is very correctly and entertainingly using a 2-0 Carabao win over Manchester City to put the boot in to every fool critic and idiot pundit who reckoned losing four Premier League games out of four is somehow a bad or suboptimal start to a managerial reign.
Having held himself with such self-described dignity through those defeats, Jones is not about to waste the chance to shed it all and go off at his critics, specifically Havant & Waterlooville manager Paul Doswell.
Doswell, a Saints fan, had told BBC Radio Solent that Jones was “out of his depth by some way” after Southampton’s latest league defeat left them still stuck rock bottom of the Premier League.
Jones used his Carabao limelight to settle that score.
“The non-league manager criticized me the other day. It baffled me. I don’t speak about Havant & Waterlooville. I don’t speak about levels I don’t know about.”
Now this is just excellent beef. It’s a brilliant line, expertly delivered. “I don’t speak about levels I don’t know about” is a punchline that delivers a swift blow to the balls, but the set-up is arguably better and offers the glimpse for future gold from Jones.
He mentions Havant & Waterlooville by name, but not Doswell. That’s calculated and gloriously petty. Calling him “the non-league manager” like he does n’t even know his name when he’s clearly been reading the quotes over and over while plotting his revenge. Making sure to then go on and mention the club to make sure everyone realizes that he does know Doswell’s name, he just isn’t going to say it. Then bang, into the punchline.
Then there was his handling of questions about Frank Lampard ahead of Southampton’s game against Everton, questions Jones made a great play of seeking to deflect and not answer because he preferred to talk about his own journey.
“I’ve had to work hard. I’m 10 years into a coaching career that I’m proud of. Wherever that takes me, that’s God’s work. I focus on my own (job).”
Don’t know if you picked up on the subtext there, because it’s very subtle isn’t it?
What we have here is a manager of a struggling side who knows how to craft a gag and appears entirely unfazed by the idea of skewering his fellow managers be they non-league upstarts or one of England’s most decorated footballers.
The only worry is that Southampton might do something stupid like sack him because of all the football matches he keeps losing. But don’t worry, Jones has got an answer for that too. If you ignore the defeat to Liverpool but absolutely definitely count a home Carabao win over Lincoln then “I’m at 50 per cent win ratio at the minute”. You can’t argue with logic like that. Well you can, obviously, but there’s really no point.
Jones has just started at Southampton and doesn’t have so much as a single Premier League point to his name yet is already coming across as a perfect blend of Brendan Rodgers and Tim Sherwood.
We’re wildly excited about what he’s got planned next and think he might already be our favorite manager in the league.