A million years ago Neanderthals and homo-sapiens occupied the temperate lowlands. The Neanderthals, big, aggressive and hairy ruled the roost for many years using superior strength, speed and fearlessness to catch their prey. The smaller, smooth skinned homo-sapiens who ate fruit and berries, gradually became quicker and smarter, and once they overcame fear, slowly took over the environment using teamwork, planning and a consensual approach. The Neanderthals eventually became extinct being unable to compete.
A parallel with the Premier league of a shift from teams with physically big players with a direct approach and a fearsome dominant leader to teams with smaller players, a more sophisticated approach, and a leader using more consensual methods could be made.
Over the last two decades dominant ethos of size, physical strength and conditioning, allied to a rigid disciplined positioning of players has prevailed. Stoke of the last few seasons, and West Ham recently are the primary examples with tough uncompromising leaders. They quite justifiably would claim that the ends justify the means given the inequalities in income.
The dominant group of teams in the Premier League to which Stoke and West Ham belong in the most basic form are the ‘Proto-Mancunians’. These were originally formed by Pictish settlers from the far north, with a prodigious work ethic and sound understanding of physical conditioning and spacial awareness. Psychological triggers were used to get the best out of previously undisciplined young players and to taunt foreign rivals. Manchester United was the club that most successfully allied Proto-Mancunian principles with superb individual players dominating . Several smaller clubs adopted the Proto-Mancunian principles using former United players as managers but in general evolved into robotic limited sides lacking both the budget for inspiring players, or the will to producing good players in-house. This led to a sharp decline in the quality of the national teams on these islands. Managers of these teams would express their respect for the High Priest of the movement and take advice and guidance in the execution of the principles without ever being able to challenge Manchester united, the undisputed leader of the Proto-Mancunian movement. This became an accepted convention and led to a loss in innovation .
However 200 miles to the south west, 12 years ago in a scruffy patch of practically derelict vetch ridden land in Swansea Bay, a variant evolutionary route was started by individuals with no Premier League experience or ambition to join the Proto -Mancunian Club. Swansea in constant turmoil was saved by a dispirit group of mostly local business people including the chief visionary Huw Jenkins. A well connected local man from the Kenfig bog lands called Flynn was brought in and masterminded an hair raising narrow escape from the Abyss . He set the stall of the club to play as a passing team and in the first of series of brilliant master-stokes by the club, brought in a smooth understated but loquacious foot balling Iberian immigrant called Martinez. He was joined by a diminutive West Ham refugee called Leon Britton, who would go on to be the ever present poster boy of the new movement. They appeared at first to be totally unsuited for a grimy basement battle but supported by funds provide by Jenkins the team survived the drop and the ‘proto -Jenkinista’ (P-J) movement was born!
It was nurtured in the tense, critical and seminal clashes of 2003 which included crushing defeats including a 0-4 home defeat to Kidderminster which was to prove the low water mark. After a last day survival in 2003 an unappreciated court jester / shaman figure called Trundle was brought in by the man from Kenfig, and he brought new skills and confidence to the Proto –Jenkinista movement.
He would occasionally nimbly rile the bigger beasts with a stick and sleight of hand much to their annoyance and mirth of the philosophical Vetch locals. It was never more than joyous taunting in the early years. Big northern bruisers, used to a more basic fare, used good old fashion Anglo Saxon phases to denigrate the chief entertainer claiming his showboating actions were in some way immoral or unethical, in the prevailing sub-Proto- Mancunian game. They memorably threatened a big Proto-Mancunian size 13 up the jester’s rear in a classic football contradiction of brute force and evil intentions combining with mock delicate hypersensitivity favoured by fans worldwide.
The proto – Jenkinista strain in 2003-2004, feeding on weak lower league diet evolved adding strength and set piece discipline with the introduction of the bookish Gary Monk the giant African Akinfenwa and big Kevin Austin to help them face off bigger rivals. Some argued that this period under Jackett was in reality Proto-Mancunian. Fans weaned on Jenkinsta principles were lukewarm to the new beefier format and vented their anger in a 3-0 defeat to QPR and were berated by the winning manager for having ideas above their station. Ironically the QPR manager at that time 5 years later converted to the style Swansea fans wanted all along.
This tactical switch, at least, indicated that Proto Jenkinistasism was uncertain of its identity and doubtful it could face down the Proto –Mancunians on even terms. Martinez was shown the door in the night of the long knives, and Trundle sidelined in favour of bigger more direct athletes. The quality of Britton and Tate preserved a link with the old movement. After a short joyless, yet strangely beneficial period including playoff defeat, Jackett walked and Proto- Jenkinistasism rose again taking another surprising and inspired turn.
In 2006 the first days of a new glorious era started triggered by the return of the cool cerebral Iberian Martinez allied with associates from his period as assistant at the old Roman city of Chester. Inspired by the newly freed spirit of the harlequin Trundle Swansea evolved into full blow Jenkinistasism. This took hold and rapidly dominated in the South Welsh hills and valleys. Trundle bafflingly left voluntarily failing to understand the potential of the movement developing under his nose with Martinez. Martinez questioned the motives never understanding the free spirited Trundle and replaced him with an influx of talented Iberians and an evil genius from the Netherlands. Trundle eventually returned chastened after a brutal period of grunt, grind and disillusionment, under a basic form of Proto-Mancunianism in Bristol and Leeds.
A stronger backbone evolved allied to passing principles with another Iberian immigrant Sousa under the captaincy of Monk, with the support of the tough Williams alongside him and livewire Dyer on the wing. Promotion was narrowly avoided, probably for the best, with an agonising 90th minute disallowed goal by Trundle in the final kick of his and Sousa’s spell at the club. Fear of the big beast remained in this period probably characterised by over caution.
In 2010 the ‘Jenkinistasisim’ developed a brash fearless streak with the combination with an out of work Irish travelling preacher ‘Saint’ Brendan who had been brutally rejected, left bruised but not demoralized by the Proto- Mancunian limitations at Reading a year before. ‘Utterly inspired’ is barely adequate to describe this appointment. Brendan convinced the squad that miracles were expected not just hoped for. Other ‘Jenkinisatas’ like Martinez had migrated to the fertile north -west hinterland plains with limited success but had forged a way and created a northwest foothold into which the learned and self confident Brendan followed after leading Swansea to the top table after a dramatic, some would say miraculous, Wembley shootout. After paying respects to his sponsors and fans, he was attracted by the rich bounty and vast fields left undeveloped by a seemingly decaying Proto- Mancunianite empire. White smoke was seen coming from the White Rock Monastery once more.
Today with the retirement of their High Priest, the Proto- Mancunianites are at a critical evolutionary cross road, and the Premier League soul is up for grabs for the non Petro-Dollar clubs and media favourite Tottenham Hotspur which is in a chaotic class of its own. No match was more prophetic of the rapidly defining evolutionary swing, than the 2013 FA Cup Q-F. Everton the standard bearers of the Proto- Mancunianite movement principles were savagely humbled by the smaller, sharper and faster Wigan ‘Jenkinstas’ led by Martinez. His side went on incredibly to take the big prize against the team with eye boggling resources but no philosophy or soul. Martinez was not at least surprised as he had the faith formed in numerous smaller battles years before. Everton bosses in shock subsequently ditched longstanding Proto Mancunian ways and jumped ship into Jenkinistasism with the faith that wining a trophy was a realistic goal.
Manchester United, the big beast of the Proto- Mancunianite community, inevitably declined sharply under the old Everton manager and unwittingly navigated into an evolutionary tar pit. Savage beatings were dished out by the Mersey Jenkinistas and even more startlingly United were ejected from the FA Cup by the original Welsh Jenkinistas now under Danish legend Laudrup.
Laudrup had gloriously fleeced the big guns of one of the big trophies considered theirs by right, a year earlier against the very same League two minnow who had offered the Swansea legend Trundle the size 13 boot several years earlier. This time Bradford faced eleven show boaters not just one and were left bewildered and confused as their Proto Mancunian game plan, so successful against Arsenal and Villa crumbled painfully in the wide open spaces of north-west London. The comparison of the two clubs at Wembley was a stark reminder of Swansea’s rapid evolution from low brow threatening bruisers into smooth confident international sophisticates. No tacky tee-shirts this time around. Laudrup and Sousa brought their considerable talents to the White Rock but did not entirely empathise with the movement having been brought up in a different culture of almost total success.
Jenkinistas now own large areas of the PL hinterland with both cup competitions in 2013 and the focussed Irish Preacher was the first to challenge the oil Barons for the PL title in 2014. He showed and uncompromising Jenkinista streak by bravely removing some fearsome big beasts from his first team squad at Liverpool ensuring massive financial losses to the owner in a confident statement of intent. Lazy media pundits were shocked at the rapid turn of events and even now fail to see the writing on the wall from their plush chairs in southeast England. Many foolishly predict a resumption of normal service as soon as next season with an inrush of quick fix billions of borrowed money from the global markets. Worse still they see nothing wrong in this shallow approach. United now look to an Evangelistic Protestant Dutch sage to help them readjust to the reality of a slowly developing Jenkinista dominance.
In 2014 the Home of the Jenkinistas in West Wales the locals have turned to the humble eloquent but determined Gary Monk from the cloisters of the White Rock Monastery. He has seen the evolution first hand and he converted to the movement himself after been brought in by Jackett. Meanwhile Anglo Saxon Protestant missionaries heading to South America look to a group of Jenkinista disciples borrowed from the Irish preacher, but led by a standard old school proto Mancunian – Hodgson in the search for El Dorado. It is a confused formula likely to lead in chaos and recrimination in the humid Amazonian jungle. Media pundits are already preparing scripts to blame ridiculously overpaid stars for their inevitable failure.
How the Monkish strain will evolve is unclear.
This article was written by Steve James