Wednesday, November 10, 2004

10 November 2004: Watford

Steve Wigley is a good coach. The players love him. Dexter Blackstock scored yet another goal as his reputation continues to grow, and Brett Ormerod cemented his place Saints history with another cup strike against Watford.

Unfortunately, Saints got thrashed 5-2, and both goals were sufficiently late to merit the word 'consolation' on the extremely biased commentary from The Saint. Saints were hopeless, and that is a shame, because it detracts from an excellent showing by Watford. For long periods of the match, Watford played like the kind of team Saints wish they were. Strong, pacy, quick, skillful - and that was just the defence. Saints were shocking, they were dreadful, and while it was the players who put up the bad performance, the pressure is now going to be on the manager.

And rightly so, except of course that Wigley isn't the manager. Since August, Saints have been managerless.

I never appreciated how important a manager was in the game of football until Gordon Strachan came to Saints. He added two players to Stuart Gray's ailing squad (Paul Telfer and Paul Williams, neither of whom are actually very good footballers) and within a short period of time Saints were flying up the league, reaching the Cup Final and getting in to Europe. For goodness' sake, as recently as Christmas (ok, eleven months ago now, I admit), Saints were fourth in the Premiership. Fourth. That's Champions League football if you finish the season there.

Now they're eighteenth, just one Premiership win all season (and that was due to a very dodgy Andy D'Urso penalty awarded in injury time) and nobody at the club seems to care. The injuries have not been good (Dodd, Svennson (M), Le Saux, Oakley, Beattie, Pahars and now Niemi are all key players, all out to injury) but Wigley doesn't seem to know anything about either motivation or even basic patterns of play. When Jimmy Case and Dave Merrington are able to point out simple tactical failures such as failing to use the wings or, more obviously, letting Claus Lundekvam play, you know that something is wrong. It seems to me, though, that the problem is deeper than that.

Back in August, I stated that even though Sturrock had left, the problem hadn't. The problem remains. The problem is Rupert Lowe, and until he either leaves or, alternatively, simply leaves the manager alone to do his job (eg make his own signings and run the football side of the business), Saints are going nowhere except down. Will the problems be solved if Hoddle is brought back? What about if Wee Gordon himself was to return as manager? How about if Arsene Wenger decided to take the job? Would the problems be solved?

Maybe, and maybe not. It would all depend on this: whether Woopert is trusting enough to appoint an actual manager, instead of a glorified ball boy. Wigley is, by all accounts, a first-class coach, and I understand that this is a big break for him -- I wouldn't just walk away from a job like this. But his position is untenable currently: what Saints need is a manager. A football manager. One who is allowed a sufficient degree of autonomy to perform his job effectively, and one with tactical nouse who commands respect from the players.

Of course, given the number of times Woopert has appointed a manager and said "this is the right man", you'd think that Woopert's own position would be in jeopardy. In any other business, it would. But football, as that Greaves man used to say, is a funny old game.

So is boardroom politics.

1 comment:

A Dad to Be,,,, said...

5-2 indeed!

Should have been a repeat of the even more famous 7-1 victory back in the early 80's. Mind you at least then you had a decent manager and a decent team (although plenty were rested that night due to a mass visit to have their perms redone).

Check out BSAD for an alternative view!

Enjoy :-)