Time, gentlemen, please…

Date: 29th April 2022

The latest weekly blog provided to you by our Donald Stewart.

Time, gentlemen, please…

It is that time of year when thoughts go from who has won the league to how shall we avoid relegation or get promoted through the playoffs, if we have had a dramatic year. If it has been unremarkable, apart from perhaps a modicum of excitement at a cup run, thoughts turn to a rebuild for the summer.

For some, like Manchester United and Hibernian, there is the arrival or imminent arrival of a new manager. During the season we have had quite a few unexpected managerial twists and turns, not least at Hibs but also at the likes of Dundee or Edinburgh City. It has proven once again that the cliché shaky peg, involving your jaiket, has been close to or considered for, many a headline during the last 9 months or so.

There is of course, for some, hubris.

Since being sacked by Hibs, Jack Ross has not taken up another managerial role. His arrival at Easter Road saw great excitement as he put together an attractive side that was doing well, winning and also showing their nearest rivals how to do it in the Premiership. Of course, at the time Hearts were in the Championship and despite doing very well and leading most of the time, the role of their coach, Robbie Nielson had come into focus on several occasions. I remember in one televised Friday night game there was much speculation over his future whilst it looked like his team were about to get a vital 3 points that would catapult them back into the topflight. Never mind that, does he play to the Hearts’ style, was the question being asked? It has not been mentioned this year as they sit third.

Ross will not have taken any delight that the team he got to a cup final, that he was able to build over time from a mid-table OK team to a top 4 contender and then see that league form flounder, have ditched the man brought in to succeed him. Managers can be quite loyal to each other – at least publicly. There are too many managers who have been sacked due to a few unfortunate things which they could not help and then find redemption later because they have a decent set of ideas, the ability to see them through but not the backing of a board who want to see them succeed but who judge them on the success of the team. When things are so fickle, you need that support, and you need that camaraderie.

It’s a lonely place – the manager’s office.

It’s a fleeting venue. Too many people are put in place and miracles are demanded of them. Some manage those miracles like Barry Smith at Dundee who kept them up despite a points penalty that would have sunk most – and Derby County this season can attest to that. Or it looks like there are things happening at East End Park, Dunfermline which are quite miraculous with John Hughes.

For supporters the reasons behind the releasing of a manager can be obvious – the results are bad, and the cliché of a results driven business is drip fed out to tell you why this hero of yesteryear has not worked out in the manager’s chair or the bold move for the veteran with solid ideas or the new untried guy with radical ones has no longer what it takes to take the team into the next level.

It’s a difficult pathway to navigate – the managerial decision making process.

What has become increasingly obvious over time is that in the nano second culture of now, the immediate 24 hour news frenzy of FOMO and the clamour for things to happen “before they get any worse” hasty decisions driven by commercial short termism means that for some their time in a manager’s chair is cut short when they may have found their feet, developed their own cliches and delivered on the park what they were seeing on the training pitch. Jim Goodwin may crash and fall as Ian McCall did at Dundee United or Paul Hartley did at Dundee. He might thrive like Derek McInnes did initially at St. Johnstone or struggle like his predecessor, Stephen Glass by following up with failure to make this season’s top six with a woeful start to next season. Does that make him a bad manager? Did David Moyes’ experience at Everton or Manchester United define the man that West Ham have now?

The most precious commodity in football appears to be time. For managers it just seems to be hidden at the back of a cupboard and the key has been lost somewhere. But managers need it. Fans need to have faith. And given that faith is what binds supporters to their clubs, it is ironic that this is what they often lack the most!

It’s been yet another funny old season in this funny old game and now we have the business end and the playoffs. I hope my team, Ayr United are not in any playoffs as our new manager, Lee Bullen has watched his team slide into 9th. If we do go down, I would not want Bullen sacked. The malaise is longer term and the way the team are playing is pretty damn good. A season in League One trying to get out of it would not be as attractive as staying in the Championship but if we have to endure it, endure it I would.

Why? Because Arbroath was not built in a day…

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