Two of the more prominent attendees at Monday’s FA Cup showdown at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United were England manager Gareth Southgate and his assistant, Steve Holland. They were no doubt impressed by a few of the visiting players, but Chelsea’s lone Englishman to feature, Ross Barkley, probably didn’t do his international hopes much good. But that’s not really the intriguing part at the moment.
Steve Holland telling Southgate there about how it's all gone to shit since he left the Bridge— Dávid Pásztor (@D_Peezy) February 18, 2019
For Holland, the match was probably a fairly unique experience not just for being in the stands rather than on the touchline, but also for witnessing a Manchester United win at the Bridge, which only happened once (in nine games) in his six years as assistant to Villas-Boas, Di Matteo, Benítez, Mourinho, and Conte. (And that one loss required two red cards, including one of the most unjust ones ever handed out — before Monday night, that 3-2 was United’s only victory in a non-European competition at the Bridge in the Abramovich Era. They also beat Ancelotti’s Chelsea 1-0 in the Champions League in 2010-11, a match which practically sealed Carlo’s fate.)
Sarri’s fate might have been sealed as well after the 2-0 defeat that Chelsea never looked like winning, but he remains in charge for now. Most however expect him to still not see out even the rest of the season, with a loss to either Manchester City on Sunday in the League Cup final or Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge the potential straw to break the camel’s back. That might seem harsh, but after several embarrassing defeats, Sarri’s on the thinnest of thin ice, surely.
The rumor mill has quickly whirred into full speed as far as potential replacements are concerned, but none of the candidates favored so far — Zidane, Blanc, Lampard appear to be the early frontrunners — are likely to come in as interim appointments. And that’s where Steve Holland comes in.
Here’s today’s view of who the bookies think will replace Sarri. ZZ still remains favourite, Zola has slipped from 2/1 to 6s in less than 24hrs and there is a new entry in top 10, Steve Holland going straight in 2nd favourite @ 3s pic.twitter.com/dkSkIofAUh— London is Blue (@BLUE_BLOOD_CFC) February 21, 2019
Several made that prediction as a joke during Monday’s match as the cameras panned to the man who spent nearly a decade at the club, but on Thursday the bookmakers jumped in with both feet as well, making him the second favorite close behind Zidane. ITK chatter on Twitter picked up as well, including our friend @CarefreeYouth making a bold call.
If we lose on Sunday... The plan is— CarefreeYouth (@CarefreeYouth) February 21, 2019
Steve Holland will be coming back as interim manager
Lots of people will have now caught wind from what I've been saying and know this all by now but I might as well just tweet it now #CFC
Plans obviously can change — and we might even win on Sunday! — but Holland was one of the few constants at Chelsea in recent seasons, and his transition to a full-time role with England after Conte’s title win was probably one of the many reasons why Conte’s second season went downhill so dramatically. Incidentally, having left the same summer as John Terry, both Holland and JT, who’s an assistant at Aston Villa these days, (and Petr Čech!) were in attendance at Chelsea’s UEFA Youth League match this week. Hmmm...
While Holland has never been a “manager” officially, he did take charge of Chelsea for one match on an interim basis (beating Sunderland, 3-1) between Mourinho’s second sacking and Hiddink’s second interim appointment — Hiddink was last seen coaching in China, in case you’re wondering — and he also was a de facto manager at Crewe Alexandra for a few months after Dario Gradi took on a more directorial role. The still only 48-year-old Holland has been coaching for over a quarter century, since age 22, spending most of those years in the youth teams of Crewe (where he was also Academy Director), Chelsea, and England, but working at the senior level since joining AVB’s staff in 2011.
He’s won every domestic and European competition with Chelsea and he’s been probably a big reason why England have achieved relatively good results under Southgate, both with the U21s (winning the 2016 Toulon Tournament) and the seniors (4th place at the 2018 World Cup).