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The challenge of choosing the right manager

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Jim Spence | 09:47 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

This revolution of the managerial merry-go-round has meandered in a melancholy manner. (That's enough of the alliteration - Ed.)

The exits of Gordon Strachan, Jimmy Calderwood and Mixu Paateleinen may have been rapid, but there has been a distinctly pedestrian pace in replacing them.

Celtic's attempts at landing their man have been slow burning and sloth-like as a succession of names emerged as front-runner only to fade from view again.

Aberdeen, too, have been snail-like in their approach, but the Dons' business has at least appeared methodical and measured as opposed to the Hoops' tortuous efforts.

John Hughes and Owen Coyle, joint player-managers at Falkirk, celebrate winning the Scottish First Division in 2003Hibs, as expected, did their job like a firm of archetypal accountants. The media were left to breathlessly speculate, grasping wildly for information, while the Easter Road board cannily, shrewdly and privately shooed John Hughes in through the doors.

At least I have the consolation of having suggested they would be criminally negligent if they did not make Yogi their new boss.

Many claim that Tony Mowbray was always the number one choice for Celtic. Only the Parkhead powerbrokers can know for sure whether he was ahead of Mark McGhee, Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez in the race for the coveted position.

However, it's too easy to be critical of an appointment process that has to deal head on with ego, uncertainty, compensation issues and the testy problem of overcoming allegations of tapping-up a manager currently in employment.

The whole situation is fraught with danger, both for the club seeking to hire and the club hoping to hang on to a manager.

Will the fans fancy the new man? Might he use an employment offer to secure an even better deal at his current club or a more lucrative move to another alerted side?

Will the compensation demanded by a spurned chairman be vindictively high?

And, at the back of every director's mind, the gnawing fear that what looks on paper to be a sure-fire winner may turn out to be the footballing equivalent of a Devon Loch.

Boards of directors can do all the due diligence they like, to use Willie Miller's phrase, but they're still dealing with flesh and blood and human uncertainty. The appointment of any new manager carries a high-risk warning.

For what it's worth, and assuming that Tony Mowbray and Mark McGhee are unveiled at Celtic and Aberdeen respectively, I think all three clubs have made top-notch choices.

Celtic get a man committed to stylish football who will see that a sense of dignity ensues in the club's dealings with the wider world. The Hoops under him could be a real revelation.

Aberdeen get a man who I also reckon would have succeeded at Parkhead but will now do so at Pittodrie instead - and bring pzazz, passion and a sense of excitement to the Granite City into the bargain.

Hibs get Yogi, the Leith-born son of a docker who will marry his authentic working-class values of honesty and integrity to great football and a commitment to youth that will serve the Hibees well.

He is also a man of exceptional fashion taste, having expressed his admiration for my well-polished cherry red Doc Martens on numerous occasions.

So Parkhead, Pittodrie and Easter Road will all march to a different drumbeat next season. At each ground, the beat will be loud, strong and insistent. But, most of all, it'll get the feet tapping.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'll be a happier man when McGhee is unveiled at Pittodrie.

  • Comment number 2.

    After the brilliant job Billy Reid has done at the Accies I am amazed but also very pleased that his name has not been mentioned on the "managerial merry-go-round".

  • Comment number 3.

    Your metaphorical drummer lad's gonna be a busy fella next year Jim. Assuming McGhee does take the Dons job, Fir Park and the Falkirk Stadium will be marching to some new beats too.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great blog....just one thing....surely the horse-racing equivalent of Devon Loch is....Devon Loch, wouldnt it be better phrased as the "Football Management" equivalent of Devon Loch??

  • Comment number 5.

    My bright pink Docs trump your cherry reds any day of the week, Spenney :P

    Great piece again - can you not give Chico some writing lessons?

  • Comment number 6.

    Just a pity Setanta are in big trouble.

    Next season could potentially be a very exciting season with Lazslo and Levein already doing well with their teams taking points from Celtic and Rangers.

    Hughes at Hibs and possibly McGhee at Aberdeen could mean that we have a much more competitive league for once with lots of good football being played!

  • Comment number 7.

    So who is next in the door at falkirk?! we have yet to see a shortlist from the board, who insist that they want a quick replacement.

    would it be wrong to suggest a joint effort from Elvis and Hartson?
    we also have McCann and McNamara there to develope in the background as coaches. vast amount of experience in all areas of the park, with the influence of hartson to hopefully bring in some new Goalscorers..

    with thanks to Hughes for his efforts in developing the team, i honestly think it was time for him to move on Both personally, and for the Club.
    It is a real shame however that he wont get his wish to try his hand in europe after all!! how ironic.

    who do you think should come in at westfield? would Jim McInally be a terrible shout?! work wonders when at Morton and last season with the Shire..who knows hopefully we will find out soon

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Bairns next manager, after the hugely successful Yogi? Would go for Pressley despite inexperience in management. Neil Munro, the author of Para Handy prefers a lucky young sailor to an experienced one who had survived several shipwrecks!!

  • Comment number 10.

    To Whom It May Concern

    I was just interested in finding out some information , now that setanta are more than likely going into administration will the Sfa finally take a good look at the way the football in this country is run and why we are the laughing stock of europe ? Will there be an inquiry into the restructuring of the spl and other leagues ? For a country like our's why is it we have 1 premier league with 12 teams and three lesser league's with 10 teams instead of two leagues of 20 or three with an 18 team top tier and first division of 12 and second divison with 10 teams ? The whole country's football needs to shaken up from grassroots level upwards we need to follow the plan of the other similar sized country's footballing structures i.e holland or portugal , the Spl needs to be a 18 team or 20 team league as there are another 6-8 clubs in the first division who would provide more competition and would generate more interest in our league if they played each other only twice a season instead of four, As a season Ticket holder and scotland supporter it is a disgrace when i pay £400 + each year to watch my team play other teams 4 times in one season that is not value for money it is repetitive and boring and we are in need more competition in our league to generate interest .

    The funding into our sport is also a worry when i travel to grounds up and down scotland most of them are run down with poor facilities and the pitches are just as bad which makes for poor viewing is there an honest answer as to why in our country that the stadiums haven't been upgraded in since the change from terracing to seating was introduced the Sfa and other bodies should be helping the clubs to either upgrade the stadiums and facilities by either going the route St Mirren have recently by selling their old ground and funding a new one but the main thing that should be looked at is that all grounds should be at least 18000 to 22000 with respectable sized pitches , this would make the smaller clubs more money by increasing there attendes when bigger clubs come to there grounds , the second thing that should be looked at is the stadiums in this country especially should not have any open corners to help with the weather conditions also the model should be taken from the german stadiums and all other modern stadiums and have the option of having a retractable roof which would also increase the number of people going to games as the weather is a major factor of adversity in our game .

    My Last point is that the Sfa are making themselves look like the worst governing body in football and have been for a long time now , I would like to know who's idea it was to cut funds and skip on Funding (tightness by a scot again ) to build a national stadium that is more suited to athletics and only building a 50000 seater stadium shouldn't the national stadium be the biggest in the country ? and if they were so bothered about cost cutting etc.. then they had murrayfield which holds 75000 people why couldn't they just lease it for the national games , The national teams fans are renowned for bieng among the best in the world if not the best so why is it our national governing body continue's to scupper our support and mistreat us they give us a second rate national stadium and then charge us a fortune to support our country in it .

    I know that more than likely this e-mail will just get overlooked and not bothered with that is why i intend to also post it in every forum in scotland and print it also while sending it to the newspapers and journalists to ask why they are not asking the same questions , it is time to take our national sport seriously and stop ripping of the tax payer we have enough problems in this current climate and all scottish football fans want is a country with a respectable league and better stadiums to sit in week in week out instead of bieng soaked through every other week , a lot of us only have football to look forward to at the end of the week so please take a good look at it and stop adding to our misery .

    Many Thanks For Your Time And Patience

    A Disgruntled Scottish Football Fan

  • Comment number 11.

    #10 celticfaithful

    I agree with you about the size of the top division (18 teams playing each other twice) and the rebuilding of Hampden, but 18000 to 22000 capacity stadiums???

    How often do SPL games sell out? And that includes when the Old Firm come to visit. Do you reckon the SFA could plough millions of pounds into increasing the size of stadia to accommodate 7000 fans?? As for retractable roofs.....really?

    The pitches are not too bad, except for Motherwell, but look at any game on the continent - and specifically the smaller clubs - and you'll see exactly the same problem. But you know what? Playing on different pitches is part of the game otherwise we may as well play on astroturf. As long as the offending clubs do their best to provide the best playing surface they can then that is all they can do.

    I appreciate what you're trying to do and you'll find many supporters who feel the same way about league redevelopment and Hampden but drop the outlandishly expensive rebuilding schemes ideas.

  • Comment number 12.

    Celtic Faithful:

    I agree with the vast majority of your comment, but i cannot agree about the stadium sizes. 10,000 is more than enough for the majority of clubs in the SPL. I think you are seeing it from a distorted perspective of following a club with a massive support compared to the rest of the league. You only have to look at the average crowds for the league to see that only 3 or 4 clubs regularly get over 10,000.

    As for Hampden, it should have been torn down and re-built, but then again, you only have to look at attendances their for games not involving the national team or eithe one of the old firm to see that it is more than big enough.

    Another great blog from spency again.


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