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A frightening trend
By Chris Lawton
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 achieve success.

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 for it.

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.