Football fans are a fickle bunch and club directors a nervous bunch.
Somewhere in between sits the manager and the players. Over the past few
months a number of strange managerial appointments have been made in the
lower leagues. These appointments are based on the financial gamble that
a big name manager will make a club successful and draw in the crowds.
Look at Burnley, Fulham and Hull and tell me are they doing well ?
These appointments are not thrust upon the clubs but have evolved over
time. Joe Bloggs takes over Division 3 side because no one else will do
the job. He is a good manager turns around a struggling team and gains
them promotion to Division 2. THe quality in Division 2 is higher and
despite good tactics and enthusiastic players the team struggles to attain
the same level of success.
As a consequence a number of reactions can be observed in the club. The
manager asks for funds and is told "no" because the future of the club in
that division is not secure. The directors then get edgy because they
think that the manager can no longer get the best out of the players he
has. A mood of depression starts to build in the club and the
performances drop off. The fans get restless and the manager is pushed
or jumps ship.
Suddenly the board decide, for no real reason, that a world class ex
footballer with no qualifications would make a good manager and appoint
him to the club along with a huge cheque to pay himself and buy some star
players to turn the club around.
Unsurprisingly the club flounder on rather than destroying all before
them and is now heading towards that financial crisis that the directors
had wanted to avoid in the first place.
This might be an over-exaggeration of the situation at some clubs but by
and large it represents the truth. Had Micky Adams really done such a
bad job at Fulham that it meant Wilkins and Keegan should step in ? Have
Burnley improved by having Waddle in charge ?
This is a frightening trend because as more and more ex-players are
appointed clubs will feel under ever-increasing pressure to have such a
manager. This will have disasterous consequences for lower league clubs
who will try and out-buy each other in Premiership style but without the
money. Clubs will take financial gambles that make Nick Leeson's tradings
look like the best financial decisions ever made. The true coaches,
people like Dario Gradi at Crewe, will be pushed out.
So how can this situation be resolved? Once again we need to learn from
Europe. It really is time that all managers have some kind of coaching
qualification. This means that ex-players have to show that desire to
become a manager rather than do it because they can't live without
football. It may also be wise to appoint some of this new blood as
assistant managers in the first instance and not as manager. Look at
John Ward as an example of how a successful assistant can go on to
Success is another problem in the managerial merry-go-round of football.
Every team wants to win but for every winner there has to be a loser.
Come the end of a season three teams go up and three teams go down. Success is
deemed to be going up anything else is a failure. Club directors and
fans need to keep a level perspective. Realistic success might actually
be not being relegated but too often we are blinded by the belief that we
really are potentially the best team on earth and if only x, y or z was
done differently then we would have won the league. Surely the manager
can see this - if not let's sack him.
Crewe show remarkable neglect for this attitude. Dario has been there
years and they have been up and down the divisons many times under his
charge. But he has kept them afloat, he has brought on many class
players of today and tomorrow and they have trusted him as a manager
because they realise that no one else could do a whole lot better.
We could all learn from this attitude of Crewe - even Watford. Many of
our recent failings have come from the pressure of a rapid return to a
few brief years in the eighties. Our targets have to be realisitc. We
will go up this season but don't expect us to demolish Divison 1 next
season - we simply haven't got the players. We will survive but we need
to keep that level-headed perspective. THe heady days of the eighties
are long gone when clubs could rise from nowhere in a few seasons to the
top of the tree. It can't happen any more because money doesn't allow
So good luck Fulham , Burnley, Hull and possibly now Preston. I hope you
find the success you are seeking - but I doubt you will and I won't lose
much sleep over it if you don't. I'm more concerned about the good,
dedicated, managers who have turned your clubs around and are now out of
work because you seek instant glory.