Gus Poyet My Lord

It has been a hell of a ride on the Gus Bus.  Not just today at Leeds.  Not just the last few weeks during the play-off push.  Not just this season.  Not just since we arrived at the Amex.  But ever since Gustavo Augusto Poyet Dominguez arrived at the Withdean in 2009.

The man can coach almost as stylishly as he can wear a suit.  In fact he almost rivals Mourinho in the suit-wearing stakes.

But here’s the weird thing.

I don’t think the Brighton crowd have ever really taken to him.  I mean *really* taken to him.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Brighton fans ‘like’ Gus.  But they don’t ‘love’ him.  If the excellent North Stand Chat is an accurate barometer of Brighton fans’ feelings, there is often a lot of negativity spoken about Gus.  Like how he doesn’t have a tactical Plan B.  Like how he doesn’t play for the win.  Like how he doesn’t make the right substitutions.  Like how he talks about wanting to manage other clubs too much.  Far more people speak up for Gus than speak against him, but there is a vocal minority who don’t like him, or at least don’t rate him, and more importantly there is rarely a vocal majority singing his praises at matches, particularly home matches at the Amex.

I want to go into a bit more detail on one of those charges on the above charge sheet (because the rest of them are absolute nonsense): that Gus talks about managing other clubs or wanting to manage at a higher level.  We know he talked to Reading.  He’s spoken about maybe managing Leeds.  We certainly know he’d walk to Chelsea over hot coals if ever asked.  Well, do you know what, it doesn’t matter.  The only difference between Gus and other kiss-the-badge managers is that Gus tells the truth.  Gus doesn’t love Brighton.  He doesn’t want to spend his career with us.  It is a stepping-stone for him and he effectively admits that in interviews.  And anyone who takes issue with that is naïve.  Anyone in any job in any walk of life and with ambition offered a bigger and better job elsewhere would take it (except me, if my boss is reading).  That’s not disloyalty, it’s reality.  I don’t dislike Gus for his  supposed lack of loyalty.  I like him for his honesty.  He’s a professional, this is a job, he’ll do his best at it whilst he is with us, and he’ll go when he gets a better offer.  Anyone who can’t warm to Gus as a result needs to take a massive reality check.

We Brighton fans – whether we were regulars at the Goldstone, Gillingham stalwarts, Withdean season-ticket holders or, hell yes, even if we are JCL plastics (we’re all equal by the way, but that’s for another day) – we Brighton fans need to pinch ourselves, hard, to make ourselves realise how lucky we are to have Gus.

Gus is box office.  Gus is sexy football.  Gus is lovely passing.  Gus is setting us up not to lose (those draws don’t look so bad now, do they?).  Gus motivates the team, both individually and as a group.  Gus attracts big name signings.  Gus knows how to find foreign gems.  Gus is the man who has led us storming into the play-offs with style, rather than limp over the line or, as wasn’t totally unthinkable a couple of month’s ago, miss out completely.  If as fans we don’t back Gus as vocally we can after all he has done, then we’ll never be happy with any manager that we ever have.  Ever.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we should remember all that Gus has done for this club.  If we lose in the play-off semis, let’s not turn on Gus.  If we lose in the final, let’s not turn on Gus.  If – dare I say this out loud – if we go up and get battered most Saturdays next season, let’s not turn on Gus.  If Gus leaves us in the summer, whether or not we go up, let’s not turn on Gus.

And wouldn’t it be nice, deserved even, if we could get the Amex – and I mean the whole Amex because I know the North Stand and West Stand Upper do their bit – giving it a bit – or actually a lot – of ‘Gus Poyet’s Blue and White Army’ against Wolves on Saturday and in the play-offs (repeat IN THE PLAY-OFFS).

North Stand, over to you to conduct the orchestra.

The man deserves it.


A modern day Aesop’s fable: the GCs and their budget

Much has been made of what you might call (only if you are a lazy blogger) DLA-gate.  The story of the associates and their jolly email japes about bill padding.  Except the jokes don’t look so jolly now they have escaped the DLA-servers.

Amusing as it might be to see the joke now turned on the jokers, it would be wrong to draw any conclusions about DLA as a firm or its culture from the content of those emails.  I’m willing to bet that most organisations, not just law firms, have some emails hiding on their servers that would – if taken literally and out of context – show that organisation in a bad light.  That’s email for you and you can’t control the uncontrollable.  So anyone doing too much hand-wringing at the email etiquette of others had better keep their fingers crossed that their luck holds in the future.

For me, the most interesting thing to come out of this little saga is this extraordinary article by Mark Harris, the CEO of Axiom, on

As legal-watchers will know, Axiom is a so-called new model alternative law service (its detractors claim, unfairly and to their own detriment, that Axiom isn’t really a law firm).  I only say so-called because Axiom isn’t really very new.  It speaks volumes about the general inertia of the legal market that Axiom is still in some way regarded as a new kid on the block, an outlier, a disruptor.  And I’m willing to bet that Axiom management are only too happy to cultivate that image.  After all, it continues to set them apart from Big Law, or perhaps more realistically, Medium Law, and gives them somewhat of a USP – “we’re different”.

I found the article extraordinary because you rarely see law firms turning their fire on other law firms so publicly.  Mr Harris pulls no punches in his (admittedly self-interested) view of Big Law, the charging model, the incentive model, the culture and the conflict those models have with their own client’s interests.  Whilst they are fair points well made, I was still surprised to see an article from someone within the mainstream legal services community turning their fire on competitors in such a direct way.  One can’t imagine the managing partner of Clifford Chance writing a similar article about his friends down the road at Linklaters.  It’s just not the done thing old chap.

But extraordinary does not mean wrong.  Perhaps it takes the odd sabre-rattling moment to remind the legal market to wake up and smell the coffee.  Despite constant (in fact boringly consistent) talk of market change, believe me (or if you don’t believe me, then at least believe the New York Times), the hourly rate is alive and well and remains the starting point of most fee negotiations and the cornerstone of law firm metrics, even if it is usually possible to avoid its direct application after a conversation or two.

And in terms of who needs to wake up and smell the coffee, I’m not sure that the real target of Mr Harris’s article is actually his competitors in Traditional Law.  I suspect he is more than happy to see them continue hourly billing themselves to an inevitable death for as long as they like.  As is evident from a couple of references towards the end of the article, his real target is clients.  Clients hold the purse-strings, money equates to control and control can effect change (as Jon Busby outlined succinctly in a recent tweet).  No amount of blogging, tweeting, or legal ceremony award giving is going to change the fundamentals of legal service provision.  Only the reallocation of client budgets is going to do that.

DLA-gate says nothing much at all about DLA.  It is a high calibre firm, who really cares if a couple of associates went off piste for a bit of an in-joke, no doubt after pulling yet another 12 plus hour day.  You’ve got to get your kicks somehow. But the real side-message of this episode as articulated so well by Mr Harris is really about clients and, dare I say it, GCs.

To quote Mr Harris,  “if we’re going to see real change, then clients must allocate their business accordingly, as many are starting to do. How does that saying go? Fool me for 100 years, shame on you. But fool me for another 100 years…”

The market might be ripe for change.  But it’s up to those of us on the buy-side to make it happen.  The next few years really are put up or shut up time.  Some email joshing isn’t a crime.  But a failure to deploy legal budgets in a way that ensures shareholder value is.