Chris Lakey: Managers have a ‘life span’ of six games - and no one bats an eyelid
Bradford City have done it. St Mirren have done it. Closer to home, there are a lot of people in west Norfolk who wish King’s Lynn Town would do it... and sack their manager.
Bradford’s Michael Collins went after six games, St Mirren’s Alan Stubbs after nine. The Linnets boss, Simon Clark has had six games, so far.
Collins is the sixth managerial change of the season in England - Harry Kewell left Crawley of his own volition to replace the axed Kevin Nolan at Notts County while Nick Daws (four games), Gary Johnson (four games) and Gary Bowyer (one game) left Scunthorpe, Cheltenham and Blackpool respectively.
Because The Walks is a little closer to home, you do tend to look at things a little differently. Last season Lynn did extremely well and were unfortunate not to be promoted, denied only by the stupidity that is the play-off system.
Clark has a tough act to follow in Ian Culverhouse, but it hasn’t gone well - one win in six attempts and the locals don’t like the quality of football on display. They are used to better and, frankly, who can blame them for moaning?
But, just as football is all about ‘the moment’ then so is the reaction to performances: if Lynn play poorly, fans will jump all over it without thinking. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it. It happens more easily when it is unfamiliar: periods of disappointment which follow times of success are the hardest to deal with.
Should Stephen Cleeve give Clark a chance at Lynn? The fans will demand change now - the fans that are making the noise that is. But if he does change, what are the guarantees it will work with someone different? What are the guarantees that Clark will or won’t turn things around anyway?
Are Lynn one performance away from finally getting their season going? It is the unknown that Cleeve is dealing with.
And don’t forget: sacking the man you appointed is an admission you got it wrong. That makes it harder.
When Cleeve sacked Gary Setchell there wasn’t the same emotional attachment – he hadn’t appointed him and had the manager stayed, and found success, the chairman would not have been able to put an arm around his shoulder and say ‘good decision I made, wasn’t it?’
Cleeve, of course, replaced him with Ian Culverhouse, an inspirational, and surprising, appointment, for which he perhaps didn’t get enough credit. But even when the relationship turned sour and Culverhouse eventually departed, in controversial circumstances, you sense Cleeve would have kept him on and bitten his tongue.
It’s not about vanity or ego here: it’s simply natural behaviour.
I have no idea whether Cleeve has considered, is considering or will continue to consider Clark’s position, but given short-term appointments don’t raise much of an eyebrow nowadays, any change would keep the aforementioned eyebrows firmly in their place.
What does seem extraordinary is that we can even consider not giving managers more of a chance. Half a dozen games and you can see into the future? No, of course you can’t. Half a dozen games to allow changes to settle in and begin to work? Hardly enough.
I think a lot has to do with the personalities involved and their strength of character.
Ipswich’s new manager, Paul Hurst, hasn’t won a game this season, but I don’t hear much about him being sacked. Because expectations at Portman Road aren’t as high as they were.
Norwich haven’t won an away game since January. They have won eight of 27 Championship matches in 2018 and fans are complaining about boring football. But while there are murmurings of discontent, there’s hardly been a pitchfork raised in anger. Maybe that is because it is clear the lady is not for turning.
Some owners are serial sackers, and will have a vocal following because of it, while others are more patient – and therefore don’t attract quite the same attention.
So why does a sensible man like Russell Martin want to go into management?
“Long-term, I’ve done my A Licence and now doing my other coaching diplomas and that’s the plan, to become a coach and I’ve always been quite open and honest about that,” he said following news of his exit from Norwich City last week.
When the question was put that he might one day return to the club as coach, he replied: “That would be beyond brilliant, but we’ll see.”
Personally, I’d take my chance and keep as far away from the mad world of football management as I could.
Letting off steam
It’s usually the end of the football season when the play-offs do to me what a plug does to a kettle.
Turn it on and steam comes out the top.
The play-offs make my blood boil. The system of determining which team is the best switches from league to knockout - and renders much of what has gone on over the course of a season virtually irrelevant.
I have always used football play-offs as my barometer. I know everyone from these parts had a lovely day out at Wembley three years ago when Norwich beat Middlesbrough and earned their place in the Premier League.
Fortunately, Norwich had finished third in the division and, as three teams went up, two automatically, one ridiculously, they got what they deserved. It just didn’t need that extra game. The fact it was a great day out at Wembley is by the by. Had Boro won, the unfairness of it all would have been easier to illustrate.
What about speedway? The King’s Lynn Stars finished top of the Premiership so they are, to my mind, champions. But now they have a play-off semi-final against Belle Vue and then, hopefully, a final before that can be confirmed.
At least Lynn, as top team, get to choose their opponents - now the fans only have to make their way to Manchester on a Monday night. And hope.
But I think it is Fakenham Cricket Club captain David Coyle who sums it up best. Fakenham, as Norfolk Alliance Premier Division winners, will play the East Anglian Premier League’s bottom team in a play-off – if they win they go up, if they lose, their opponents stay up.
Aside from the fact they won’t know who they are playing until the night before - and that their season has already ended while the EAPL trundles on, there is that ‘why do we need to prove ourselves again?’ scenario.
“I don’t think it is fair that a side who has won a title has to play a side who has just finished bottom. In all other sports I can think of if you finish bottom you are relegated, end of story,” said Coyle.
Spot on. Fakenham should go up as champions, just as King’s Lynn Stars should be crowned speedway champions.