I was in London recently for an Art fair and decided to take the short rail journey to Brighton to meet up with Alan and Ivan. We had an interesting conversation along the lines that supporting your team is about management of expectations. Ivan, for example, after a season in which Brighton spent most of it near the bottom thought they would finish mid-table but might just push for the sixth play-off place. Alan thought after a summer influx of Stearman and Ream to improve the defence and Cairney, Pringle and O’Hara Fulham would make at least the play-offs. My Fiorentina had finished fourth these past two seasons and my assessment was we would be around there this time. Of the three Ivan is naturally the happiest, Alan the saddest but they were surprised to learn that many Viola supporters are really disappointed in the owners. This is because we started well and with Juventus well down the league there seemed hopes of our third scudettto. Although players were acquired in the January window, the fans were looking for a big signing probably a forward.
We are now fifth and should finish there below Juventus, Napoli, Roma and Inter and above Milan and Lazio ,Genoa and Sampdoria, the last three numbering our peers. So this disillusion a bit odd. I know of one fan who has given up altogether. If you also consider we have one of the most talented midfielders in Europe in Bernardeschi to offset a team growing old together then there is cause for optimism. I am not sure if Paulo Sousa can manage at this level. He did well at Basel and with Maccabee Tel Aviv, less so at QPR and Leicester. Talking of Leicester Claudio Ranieri was with us 20 years ago when we had the likes of Batistuta and Rui Costa. With Guidolin at Swansea and Mazzerini apparently to take over at Watford Italian managers have a strong English reputation which is bit surprising as the serie a is in decline compared to the Bundesliga and La Liga and the Premier has more the financial muscle to attract the top players which Italy once did. Italian managers tend to be more serious on coaching and systems. Also they move on after a couple of years which seems to suit Premier chairmen.
Finally the Euros. You cannot really look beyond Germany and Spain. France may suffer for the absence of Benzema amd Ribery and their best midfield players – Pogba, Dante, Payet, Cabaye – lack international experience. Itay in midfield have problems to with an injury to Marchisio and de Rossi now at the end of his distinguished career. Up front too they lack a scorer. When we had lunch Alan said that England for years carried unrealistic expectations but with some fine young players like Kane, Alli, Sterling, they might just surprise us this time.