More man­agers de­serve the pa­tient ap­proach

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - Chris Dunlavy

IMAG­INE, for a moment, that you are the chair­man of a foot­ball club. A club that is ex­pected to chal­lenge for pro­mo­tion. Then… dis­as­ter. Af­ter five games of the sea­son your side are bot­tom of the league with­out a sin­gle point. Five games later it’s near­ing the end of Septem­ber and you still haven’t won a match. Fans are grum­bling, at­ten­dances dip­ping. It’s an out­rage.

So what do you do? Sack the man­ager? His side are clearly un­der-per­form­ing. Maybe his eye for a player isn’t what it was. Maybe it’s true that he’s lost the dress­ing room, as that dis­grun­tled sub keeps putting about.

Cer­tainly, many chair­men wouldn’t even wait that long. Andy Thorn – the sea­son’s first ca­su­alty – was binned by Coven­try af­ter just three drawn games.

Up in Fleet­wood, Micky Mel­lon got the chop af­ter three straight de­feats with his side sit­ting sev­enth in League Two.

In the Cham­pi­onship, only half of the teams are cur­rently led by the same man­ager who started the sea­son. Speak­ing to David Fl­itcroft last week, the Barnsley boss told me that stressed-out man­agers be­lieve things have never been so bad.

So 10 games with­out a win? Cer­tain cur­tains. Down in the Con­fer­ence, how­ever, the folk at Kid­der­min­ster Har­ri­ers are made of more sen­si­ble stuff.

For them, the sce­nario above was not hy­po­thet­i­cal but a grim re­al­ity. Steve Burr was the man­ager who couldn’t buy a win, Mark Ser­rell the chair­man with a de­ci­sion on his hands. Even Burr won­dered whether his time was up.“I wasn’t down be­cause of the per­for­mances, I was down be­cause of the re­sults,” he said this week.“So I went to see the chair­man and I said:‘Look Mark, if you feel you need to do some­thing...’ And he replied:“It’s never crossed my mind’.”


For Ser­rell, the vin­di­ca­tion has been swift and spec­tac­u­lar. Kiddy have won 20 of their last 24 games, the last of which sent them top of the Blue Square Pre­mier.

Ser­rell knew, like many in foot­ball, that 50-year-old Burr is a fan­tas­tic coach whose abil­ity to make poor teams per­form and good teams great should have se­cured a Foot­ball League job a long time ago.

Who has a track record of fos­ter­ing un­break­able team spirit.Who has faced crip­pling fi­nan­cial prob­lems and still kept Kiddy com­pet­i­tive. Ev­ery- thing told him that Burr was a good coach and he didn’t let a few duff re­sults shake his be­lief. Now he has been re­warded.

It is a sit­u­a­tion mir­rored at Birm­ing­ham City. Ear­lier in the sea­son, who didn’t think that man­ager Lee Clark was on bor­rowed time? I cer­tainly did.

If it hadn’t been for the Blues’ lack of cash and an owner in clink, who is to say he wouldn’t have been canned af­ter the hu­mil­i­at­ing 5-0 loss to Barnsley in Septem­ber or dur­ing the months spent hov­er­ing around 20th place?

Yet while all those around them have lost their heads and their man­agers, Birm­ing­ham and their young boss have cruised serenely into the top half.

Clark, like Burr, is pos­i­tive proof that time and pa­tience does pay. That given a chance to learn and im­ple­ment change, a man­ager will get re­sults. Sadly, we all know that the les­son will not be heeded.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages


COME­BACK: Steve Burr took Kid­der­min­ster from bot­tom to top

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