Can The Manager Manage? - Part 3
I was shocked to read the headline when I logged onto Vital this morning, could Vital Forest, a very pro-Billy website, really be questioning the managerial ability of their (and, so far, our) Lord and Saviour?
Don`t get me wrong, I think that what Billy has achieved so far with the Trickies has been nothing short of amazing. However, in my eyes, during his short time with the club he has been hugely disrespectful to it. I had no preference or urge as to who replaced Colin Calderwood as it wasn`t within my remit to appoint his successor but when Billy landed in the hot-seat some fifteen months ago my only thought was that when the relationship reached its conclusion, be it in three months or three years, it would end in tears. There was no way that the whirlwind that is Billy would come and go without leaving our club in some form of disarray, surrounded by headlines that would only cause the fans to become more separated from the current beneficial owner and his band of not so merry men.
I`ve seen remarks on this board (I don`t read, or post on, any other) that Billy`s performance, tactically speaking, merits a 9 this season...is that true? Are we talking about the same Billy that inexplicably dropped Paul Anderson, after arguably his finest performance in a Garibaldi shirt, against Blackpool? Withdrew Joe Garner against the Sheep Dip? Has picked David McGoldrick in an advanced position ahead of the likes of Robbie Earnshaw and Joe Garner? Continued, at times, to overlook Earnie despite him being our most prolific and natural goalscorer? Released the likes of Moloney, Heath, Thornhill and Davies (be it on loan or permanently) despite the lack of depth in our squad? Played a four man midfield away at Pride Park?...but go with five against at Coventry?...then go with two up front against Leicester but forced Earnie to play in a wide role? We should also bear in mind that we`ve won as many away from home as second bottom Plymouth and less than Crystal Palace who are sat in 20th.
In addition we have the cringeworthy 'Kneegate` and Billy`s desire to go public with the issues such as the permanent signing of Radoslaw Majewski and the habitual APs failure to secure his 'recommendations`.
The case for the Defence (of Billy) would point to our immensely enjoyable nineteen match unbeaten run in the league, our run of nine consecutive home win`s in the league, that at times we have played some of the most entertaining football that us fans have witnessed for a number of years, the turnaround in consistency from the likes of Wilson, Morgan and Chambers, outplaying promotion chasers West Brom in their own back yard, stopping us from repeatedly being a laughing stock in front of live television audiences again, humiliating the likes of QPR, Leicester, Preston and Doncaster, and ultimately the fact that beyond all of our wildest dreams we are THIRD IN THE LEAGUE!!!
I personally don`t think that you can attribute the signings solely to Billy, or if you do, then the much maligned AP must also take an equal amount of credit shouldn`t it? But does the same work in reverse, if we fail to sign someone is it singularly the fault of the AP? Or should Billy be equally to blame? The fact is that no-one knows, or shares with us, 100% of the FACTS and that`s a fact.
Some would say that the AP failed in January 2009 to make the necessary additions but then again wasn`t it Billy that came out (after being in the job for more than a week) and said that "speed is not the essence...we can`t afford to dive in, we can`t afford to make quick signings for the sake of making signings"?
We made great strides in the transfer market during the Summer of 2009, probably better than most of us expected (but not demanded), which satisfied the appetite of most BUT, in my mind, the AP were too slow in trying to secure Danny Fox, which allowed Celtic into the mix and the rest was history. If the AP hadn`t procrastinated I`m convinced that we`d be sat top of the pile and coasting by now.
In December we finally signed a left back, and what a left back. I still don`t think a majority of us Red Dogs realise how good he was but the natural balance that he brought to the side was there for all to see. However, it seems that in signing Nicky Shorey Forest fans felt that we were entitled to keep him for the remainder of the season, which was simply unlikely and ultimately unrealistic. He was understandably placing himself in the shop window to attract interest, which subsequently followed and (again) the rest is history. Had that interest not surfaced it`s likely that he`d be with us now but it did and there is nothing that could`ve be done differently to achieve otherwise.
January 2010 came and went without any new signings and, with the departures of Moloney, Thornhill, Davies, Heath, Reid and Mitchell (and with Shorey moving to pastures new) we entered February with a weaker squad than what had been available some 31 days earlier. Who should be held to account for this? Billy? Or the AP? My view is that it was Billy was responsible for who he let go and should take responsibility for having fewer numbers at his disposal.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FAILURE TO BRING ANYONE IN!?! I hear you cry....well yes there is that too but it still remains that Billy, and Billy alone, chose to reduce his headcount by six. Whether those six are good enough for Championship football remains to be seen and is down to opinion. Would they have been asked to play the remaining twenty or so games? No. But surely having Moloney or Heath to play full back (with Gunter switching to the left in Moloney`s case) is a better option than Chris Cohen, James Perch, or, whisper it, Luke Chambers?
I`m sure that anyone who has taken the time to read this and has any note of ambition will still maintain that we should`ve strengthened and point to the failings of the AP and, like oldjom, I agree.
I would guess that some of the regular contributors to Vital are employed by the club. I wonder whether they would prefer that we shoot for the stars in the hope of the big time, offering the likes of Bale and Shorey £20-40k per week. My response is that I would hope not as they`re more like to be visited by the likes of Andronikou or Krasner in the near future. I wonder whether you would prefer that your employers purchase that shiny new Warehouse or Offices to make them more prominent in their respective market or industry? But, as we all know, such new premises doesn`t necessarily guarantee an increased income. There is a prominent law firm in North West that would attest to this and the subsequent redundancies they`ve had to make, like the ninety odd who recently lost their jobs at Pompey, are a lesson for everyone.
It`s therefore imperative that we continue to have the AP in some form, or other, for no-one other than us, the fans. We should remember that once Billy has left us for pastures new that the club will have to pick itself up, dust itself down and get on with the job in hand. Whether that`s subsequent to relegation to the third tier of English football, battling survival from the Big League or when Captain Luke is lofting the La Orejona high in the Milan sky.
In an attempt to bring some balance I think everyone should ask themselves as to whether Billy`s conduct is like that of a manager who is looking to be here for the long term? Its a simple question with no "what ifs" or "buts". My initial response is No. Billy has previously come out and said that if the club want him to build for the future then he should be given a long term contract. For me it works in reverse, the club should give Billy a long term contract once he`s earned it and so far we`ve not achieved anything. You only have to look at Alan Irvine or Darren Ferguson to show how quickly relationships between Club and Manager can decline in football. Billy has often talked about the shelf life of a Championship manager and is quite clearly versed in the statistics. Therefore it`s reasonable to suggest that he would have his own agenda in maximising the opportunity currently in his hands, who wouldn`t? But such a strategy, although a cracking ride, is short sighted as far as the fans go and I would guess that Mr Doughty will be here long after Billy has departed, still being owed a substantial sum of money and having to deal with the post-Billy fallout.
Should Billy achieve the unthinkable and take us up does that still warrant a 9 out of 10 for season? I personally would suggest not. Perhaps he should focus on managing?