With an international break approaching, bringing a respite from domestic football action, news from the Premier League has been sporadic at best. But as usual we have found our way into the newspapers, and although rare as it seems, it could be good news. The mini-saga that was the protracted appointment of Henk ten Cate as an assistant to Avram Grant has finally been announced and it could prove to be Avram’s saving grace.
With the Israeli’s supposed inexperience highlighted to death, the appointment of ten Cate is a crutch for Grant, for however long he stays as manager. ten Cate arrives at the club with a decent history within the footballing world and a chance to work with our recently impotent strike force.
A short playing career which saw ten Cate make his name for the Dutch club Go Ahead Eagles was followed by a move into the coaching world, and a role as assistant manager with the Eagles. He has since flitted between assistant and head coach, including posts at Barcelona, Vitesse Arnhem and Ajax, who let him join Chelsea after they failed to land the Dutch title last season-losing out to PSV Eindhoven on goal difference-and crashed out of the Champions League and UEFA Cup recently.
ten Cate has joined to supposedly bring attacking football to the Bridge, the one factor which Roman Abramovich seems to covet most, and the good news is, our new assistant should know a thing or two about goals. He comes straight from the Dutch Eredivisie, a league which saw Ajax score 84 goals in just 34 games last season. A league where Heerenveen striker Afonso Alves recently netted seven (yes, seven) in a 9-0 win over Heracles Almelo. A league where even Mateja Kezman could freely score.
Many in the footballing world were surprised to see ten Cate leave a managerial role to become an assistant again, but with Ajax losing promising youngsters Wesley Sneijder to Real Madrid and Ryan Babel to Liverpool in the summer, coupled with the European disappointment, perhaps it was the perfect time to bow out. Jumping before he was pushed maybe, but into a fresh start immediately at a big club.
Along with ten Cate’s arrival, Steve Clarke is set to sign a new contract. When Mourinho joined I was (wrongly) pessimistic about him breaking up Chelsea in terms of playing and coaching staff, so to see him keep Clarke on board and make him an assistant was a huge boost. The spine of our team is often mentioned as consisting of Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba among other players, but Clarke represents a member of our old guard and he too deserves to be declared as part of our core.
With ten Cate leading the attacking side of things and Clarke able to use his wealth of defensive knowledge on the training ground, our recent improvement in form could continue long after the international break. ten Cate’s arrival could be a glimmer of light after a dark period; could he save our season?
Then again, we could see some in-fighting, back-biting, and a manager unhappy with a member of staff brought in to work with him, and perhaps ultimately take over from him. Sound familiar anyone?