Who would you prefer in charge of your football club?
Men and women up and down the country went into work this morning, writes Danny Brothers – some after a heavy commute, some sipping coffee picked up from the local Costa because there was no time for breakfast and some clutching files that had to be taken home and that kept them up all night.
So when the boss comes over and demands more, wants a report done by 10am or gives you the next night’s files to work on, it’s the worst possible start to the morning. You hate the authority he or she has over you. You threaten, in your mind at least, to walk out and join the circus.
But what if the boss had simply welcomed you, thanked you for your hard work, given you a croissant and sent you home on a paid week off? You would love them. You would put them back on your Christmas card list and promise to take them to the circus next time it was in town.
The net result might be that productivity goes down that day. You come back from your time off to find the company in the midst of disaster because you weren’t there for a week and the boss tried to do all your work for you. Immediately there’s guilt. You want to make it better, but the boss tries to paper over the cracks and say everything is fine.
It is already difficult to manage any group of people. Imagine having to handle that pressure in the spotlight of a whole town or city whose residents are relying on you and your team to lift their spirits after a week of grinding away in those very offices and places of work.
Your decisions not only affect your standing with the powers-that-be but those of thousands of supporters that hang on your every move. Some will be local and many more will have moved away, but they all still care as much as they ever have. So in terms of being a football manager, is it better to be a nice guy and take the flak or be stubborn in your management, tactics and transfer activity?
You could easily say that as long as results come in, you don’t mind a tyrant taking charge of your club. But do you need an element of approachability to get the balance right? With huge weight on their shoulders, the manager is the head of the entity that brings communities together and has a responsibility to engage with fans. This can go a long way towards bringing in new supporters and a subsequent increase in income for the club.
Ian Holloway would be a prime example. Though there’s a fair few rival fans that do not hang on his every word, Holloway’s interviews, quips and general demeanour showed some of the social skills that helped the Blackpool manager to achieve promotion to the Premier League. That season changed everything at the club and united a town.
Nigel Adkins is another prime example of everything going right. A genuinely decent guy on the surface, who has the air of a supply teacher rather than a hard-nosed football manager. Saints fans are in dreamland thanks to Adkins taking them to the top of the Championship. Neutrals too may be more willing to favour Southampton for promotion than when Neil Warnock was leading Queen’s Park Rangers towards the same target last season.
It’s when you look at less successful managers that you really get to the nitty-gritty of the argument. Everything is perfect if you get a Holloway or an Adkins at the right time. But take, for example, Terry Skiverton at Yeovil.
Skiverton played over 300 games for the Glovers and is well respected both at the club and around the Football League. He hasn’t pulled up any trees in his managerial career since taking over at Huish Park in 2009, but can be forgiven by many as long as his club steers clear from danger. The challenge will come if Yeovil are relegated, something that would test his chairman’s resolve and the loyalty of the support that have watched him grow from player to manager. A relegation and poor start in the division beneath would mean the end for many managers. Perhaps, though, Skiverton would still have support whereas someone with no charisma or association with the club could expect a quicker dismissal.
Sean O’Driscoll recently parted company with Doncaster after a superb five-year reign. O’Driscoll was well-loved by Donny fans and his poor start to this season caused relatively few to start chants of discontent. The board saw differently though and he was out the door. There were no reports of O’Driscoll fighting on the touchline or attacking his players. Rovers fans will look back on his time at the club as a terrific spell in charge whether they stay in the Championship or not. If someone like Roy Keane was in charge, there would have been more protests coming from the Keepmoat after Doncaster’s poor opening to the campaign.
Keane represents the other side of the story. Jubilant Sunderland fans were hailing him to the rooftops when he took them from the foot of the Championship to promotion. But as soon as things went in the wrong direction, Keane had nothing to fall back on and his personality ultimately became one of the contributing factors towards his departure.
By a similar token, there must be some Stevenage fans who didn’t – or maybe still don’t like – Graham Westley but after back-to-back promotions it is hard to argue with his management up to this point. What happens, then, if there is a sudden drop in form? In an age where managerial expiry dates are shorter than ever, Westley’s position could be weakened if his persona remains impervious to change.
Steve Evans is one of the most hated managers in the lower leagues thanks to his time in charge of Boston United but he currently sits in second place in League Two thanks to a heavy-spending summer. There may be Crawley fans who would prefer a more likeable character in charge but part of what makes them what they are this season is the fact that Evans is spearheading their charge. The ill-feeling towards Crawley would be nowhere near the current level if not for the presence of Evans.
The question is simple – would you prefer a manager to take your club to promotion using underhand tactics, winding up opposition supporters along the way or do you want to look back on your club’s history and fondly remember when that decent bloke was in charge, even if he achieved less during that time?