Paul Tisdale's Dogged Integrity
As fans we all dream of seeing our teams climb up the leagues by playing opponents off the park a la modern day Swansea and Doncaster, but many success-starved supporters forget about how fickle such glory can be.
This past week, I’ve looked on in envy as Doncaster smashed their record transfer fee, and I’m still wondering what might have been if Ian Holloway had stayed just a little longer at Argyle, but at least I’m safe in the knowledge that Peter Reid is going nowhere and the whole edifice of footballing satisfaction isn’t about to come crashing down around me.
Many Swans supporters will still be feeling numb after they lost a second manager in as many years and stumble towards a replacement. Similarly, a fragment of every Donny fan’s subconscious will be devoted to feelings of dread at the prospect of Sean O’Driscoll’s departure somewhere down the line. Both sets of supporters will fondly remember the past few seasons in years to come, but will those memories be tainted by the endgame that may follow someday?
Neutrals must have assumed that supporters of Exeter City would have been worrying about the ebb that comes after the flow when progressive manager Paul Tisdale was strongly linked to the vacancy at Swansea last week but, somewhat refreshingly, the Mumbles club were rebuffed by the man himself. 12 months after he first rejected their overtures, Tisdale has again chosen to remain at St James Park in order to continue working towards the long-term vision that he shares with the board of establishing the Grecians as a Championship club.
As this intelligent article contends, Tisdale’s decision appears perplexing at a first glance given the improved working conditions he’d benefit from in South Wales but, fully aware of the capricious nature of football chairmen and fans alike, he knows that he’s on to a good thing in Devon’s county town. Adored by the fans and in receipt of the unconditional backing of the Supporters’ Trust who run the club, Tisdale is almost in a no-lose situation. Having already established himself as a club legend after guiding City to the third tier for the first time since the days when Stuart Storer and a bemulleted Danny Bailey donned the red and white, all he would really need to do to keep his reputation intact in the Cathedral City is avoid relegation.
Even so, some of the club’s more level-headed supporters are now starting to question the logic behind the loyalty. An epic ‘Tisdale to Swansea’ thread on fans’ forum exeweb started out with supporters crowing about the improbability of the rumour, but in amongst all the talk of unfinished projects and healthy relationships with the board is disbelief about Tisdale’s cold shoulder. Citing the Swan’s grassroots health and its equally accommodating board, some fans wonder why Tisdale would overlook such an opportunity for a second time when he has perhaps achieved all he can with the Grecians, who have never climbed higher than the division they are currently in.
Tisdale isn’t the first person to have committed himself to the club this summer, after Chief Exective Norrie Stewart extended his stay under acrimonious circumstances. Hinting at the challenges the Grecians must face if they are to modernise and emerge from their lower league footing, the negative response from elements of the fanbase reflect what a double-edge sword fan ownership can be given the pressure on transparency and accountability. Stewart talks a good game, but it remains to be seen whether Exeter’s ownership model and their CEO’s “business skills” will provide the same kind of foundation for Championship success that seems to already be in place a level up at Swansea. Paul Tisdale will no doubt be wise to how fragile a reputation is in football, so it remains to be seen whether he has taken the right path in stopping at Exeter for a while longer.