2010/11: Speed discards Blades for Dragons

Presumably having watched and being an avid football fan for 38 years counts for nothing. Why do I say this? Well because the older I get the less I am able to understand the decisions that are made at football clubs.

As an example, let’s look at Championship side, Sheffield United. Back in August this year The Blades hierarchy decided after three games of the 2010-11 season that it was time for Kevin Blackwell to depart. Surely getting rid of the manager during the summer would have made more sense, so allowing a new man time to settle in and make their mark on the team. In came Gary Speed, an experienced international player and good pro at Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. Despite his lack of managerial experience he was given a three year contract. Under Speed’s leadership, The Blades have failed to find any consistent form and after defeat at Barnsley on Saturday find themselves in 20th place, just three points away from bottom place Preston. In 18 games in charge the rookie manager has orchestrated just 6 wins and 21 points in total. However, this seems to be enough to convince the FA of Wales that this is the record of a man they want in charge of the national team.

From Gary Speed’s point of view, where is the loyalty of sticking with the club who gave him the opportunity to manage? Where is his professional pride in wanting to get The Blades out of relegation trouble? Is the lure of the coin too great? Can he simply not resist the call of his country? Or is he rushing for the exit as he doesn’t feel he has the ability to get Sheffield United out of trouble?

If Speed is indeed to be the next Wales boss, then the man I feel sorry for is Brian Flynn. Flynn like Speed is another ex-Leeds United player who has moved into management. Unlike Speed his record is a decent one. Brian Flynn took up the reigns at Wrexham back in 1989. During his 12 years at the club and in difficult financial circumstances, Flynn achieved promotion in 1992/93 and got the club to the FA Cup Quarter Finals in 1996-97. His next post was also in Wales as Flynn moved to Swansea City in 2002-03 who had been bottom of the League before his arrival, yet on the final day of the season managed to keep The Swans up. He left in the following season and in 2004 took up the position of Wales Under 21 coach. Flynn came incredibly close to taking the Welsh team to the 2009 UEFA Under-21 Championships, guiding the side to the top of a strong group containing France and Romania, including a superb away win in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, competition rules stated that even Group winners had to go through a two-legged play-off round in order to Qualify, and Wales were knocked out 5–4 on aggregate by England. When John Toshack left as Wales Manager, Flynn came in as Caretaker Manager. However, it appears that his experience and success at club and country level will count for nothing and he’ll be passed over for Gary Speed.

To misquote the lyrics of Delilah by Tom Jones…”Why, Why, Why Wales FA?”

2010/11: The Sack Race

The first International “break” is upon us and a manager who will have time on his hands having felt the weight of expectation of his board is Alan Pardew at Southampton. In a previous posting on this site (titled, “Where’s the Logic?”) I questioned the reasoning of the sacking of Kevin Blackwell and suggested that it may have been a bit harsh.

However, the axing at St. Mary’s seems even more baffling. Last season Southampton overcame a ten point deficit and had a decent league run that saw them just miss out on the play-offs. Pardew also took the Saints to Wembley and the team lifted silverware in the shape of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. This season they suffered an opening day loss at home to Plymouth, but have picked up since them and their last game was a 4-0 away win at Bristol Rovers. The Board then decides to trot out the following statement, “…the club has decided that, to achieve its well known targets, it is essential to make changes to the management…We recognise that frequent changes to the football long term stability and progress for our football operations management are unlikely to assist in the winning of trophies and promotions…However, we are taking these steps to achieve our aims, which we share with all supporters, to get promoted this season…”. Perhaps it’s me, but I find the comments rather contradictory. It maybe that there are some other underlying problem at the club than wouldn’t be made public. However, how many managers have been sacked after such a convincing away win?

More madness will ensue today with the closure of the transfer window. Rumours will abound as to who is going where with “confirmed” sightings of players in airports, training grounds, the local Tesco et all, passed off as concrete evidence of a players new destination. 

Just to finish I’d like to give a mention to the Non League day campaign (site below).


With the break due to the International fixtures, its aim is to encourage supporters to get to a non-league game this Saturday. There is a map (from the Find a Club tab), which is useful in that you can put in your postal address and it shows details of fixtures local to you. For me this Saturday I’ll be off to see the Evo-Stik First Division North fixture between Garforth Town and Lancaster City. Enjoy!