If you can withhold pressure from the baying mob after poor football results, you are built from strong stuff. Looking in from the outside, it is easy to understand why sacking a manager should never be done on the back of one poor run of form, least of all a manager’s first poor run of form. This holds true, even if you expect to go through a painful period of results before the outcome becomes inevitable.
When you replace a manager you need to worry about what comes next. When some Celtic fans demonstrated to remove Neil Lennon from his job, at that stage, he had won five out of five domestic trophies available to him and topped a Europa League group. The world and his dog suspected Neil was no longer right for the job, but trigger-happy clubs do not attract quality managers who have options.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst led a team to the Europa League final and won a Scottish Cup. He compounded this felony by qualifying for the Champions League group stage. The demands of which took its toll on a squad which he had squeezed the last breath of quality from.
Within six months of that wafer-thin loss in Seville, his board capitulated to the demands of the mob and sacked him. I was delighted.
While Gio was under pressure, Michael Beale was top of the English Championship with QPR and a prospective ‘Premier League manager’ in the making. With his stock never higher, he strode into Ibrox like the Pope, well, maybe that’s not a great analogy, but basically, when he was flavour of the month and van Bronckhorst was suffering, he made his affinities known to club and fans alike.
Beale loaded the gun which fired van Bronckhorst. His QPR were soon in freefall, with the London club happy to let him leave and Newco desperate to quell the baying mob, the deed took place under cover of an international break.
High earners were emptied from the squad without transfer fees, a bevvy of new recruits were bought for around £13m (according to Beale) and none of them are up to the task of dislodging Celtic. An aside, John Park is chief scout there, the man who went to Holland and brought Virgil van Dijk to Celtic Park and Sam Lammers to Ibrox. Bizarre, really.
The league is not over. Newco have two months of benign domestic fixtures ahead; all winnable, with a decent chance of being top of the table in November. The best thing they can do is take their medicine from Sunday and let the manager get on with it. They will fail hilariously.
Football clubs suffer most damage, not at the hand of opponents, but from fans who have achieved nothing in the game and who rely on a win to bolster their fragile self-esteem. If you figure out how to overcome this, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.