More managers deserve the patient approach
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.
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COMEBACK: Steve Burr took Kidderminster from bottom to top