With new, ambitious owners in Columbus, Robert Warzycha’s hourglass never had much sand

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If anyone out there liked Robert Warzycha’s chances of remaining in place as the Columbus Crew manager, that person would certainly define “optimistic.”

Truly, the surprising part is that Warzycha survived as long as he did in Columbus. That may look odd considering the man’s 70-59-41 overall record; in a league built on foundations of parity, nothing north of .500 can be labeled egregiously poor.

But Warzycha simply had too many things going against him. That starts, of course, with the recent takeover by new owner Anthony Precourt, who purchased the team from Hunt Sports Group (the club’s original owners) in late July. New owners, almost by definition, mean new energy and renewed ambition, so the old guard always has reason to fear.

Warzycha was even further behind in the game. To start, he was going backward; his first season, 2009, was easily the best of his five years in charge. And that was with the team Sigi Schmid built (and won the MLS Cup with in 2008).

Even then, Warzycha found a way to punctuate his debut year as a pro manager on a real downer, never mind the Supporters Shield just had just been claimed. The coach notoriously chose to leave Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the bench as the playoffs opened at Real Salt Lake. It backfired, as Columbus tumbled in the series to the eventual champs, and Warzycha’s regard around Crew Stadium began a long, slow decline that he never managed to arrest.

Discontent grew in 2010 and 2011 as the Crew made the playoffs but fell out of the first round both years. Things regressed further in 2012 when Federico Higuain’s arrival helped inspire a late-summer run and reach for the playoffs that was just this side of heroic – but one that fell short. The Crew failed to make the playoffs for the first time in Warzycha’s tenure.

Things were looking increasingly bleak for post-season joy in 2013, which meant Warzycha was about to go five seasons without a playoff series win. That’s practically indefensible in MLS, even for a club on a tight salary budget.

Meanwhile, the no-nonsense Polish manager had trouble building any corner of support; he wasn’t the lovable, quotable figure that Schmid had been. That means he as no media darling; fairly or not, that helps. Nor was he a fan fav, which can also assist in prolonged employment.

(MORE: Crew fire Robert Warzycha, name Brian Bliss interim boss)

Beyond the bottom line, Warzycha had even more working against him. For instance, he had more protection under HSG, historically cautious and conservative in personnel dealings. Going from cautious to eager and ambitious was practically a pink slip in itself. (Fans, by the way, sometimes tossed pink slips into the air during his pre-game introduction at Crew Stadium, hardly an endorsement the new man in charge wants to see.)

Stylistically, the Crew was something less than pleasing on the eye. Warzycha’s teams were mostly build from grinders. They were hard to beat because they were so well drilled, so tightly organized back to front. But while teams like Real Salt Lake and Portland learned to win in high style, and while teams like Los Angeles and New York won their respective shares through star power, most success around Columbus lately was about grit, grind and Higuain’s expertise.

That’s fine if you’re winning; it’s an easy target when success is middling or worse.

It wasn’t enough, apparently, to avoid a second consecutive year beyond the playoff velvet rope (in a league where it is still easier, mathematically, to make the playoffs than to miss). All totaled, you just had to know that Warzycha’s days were numbered.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.