When I woke up on Friday morning I was buzzing for the three day weekend and, most importantly, the game on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Friday as we all know took an unexpected turn very, very quickly.
At first I laughed in disbelief when I heard the rumours, then a bit of nervous but still confident laughter when the presser was delayed but that quickly turned to pure panic when we learnt that he was on his way down to Stoke.
It seemed as though everything happened in a flash, part of me still thought he’d take the Norwich game on Saturday morning but it wasn’t to be.
We’re all upset with the loss of our manager but that upset for me has very quickly turned to anger and I’m still not quite sure where to point it.
Thinking back to January, it was a miserable time for us, we were getting bullied by poor teams in the pits of league one. If someone had told me in January that this would be the year we finally escaped I wouldn’t have believed you. What Neil did here was nothing short of incredible and whatever people may think of him now we will always be grateful because without him we’d be playing and probably losing to Forest Green away.
So why would Neil choose Stoke? This is the thing I’ve been struggling to come to terms with most. If a Premier League job comes up, I get it. If an international job comes up, I get it. If Real Madrid come knocking, I get it.
Reality is, it wasn’t any of those teams, it was Stoke City.
Many people have called this a “sideways move” but I think it’s a backwards step. We’re on the up, playing well, togetherness in the squad, 40,000 supporters every other week. Stoke are shite, we didn’t even have to play well to beat them last week in front of their windswept half empty stadium, they’re also already in trouble with FFP so if it is about cash to spend then why go to a club that could face transfer bans and sanctions due to financial mismanagement. I just don’t get it.
Should the club take some responsibility? I don’t know yet, I think we need some clarity from inside the SOL. The model has clearly changed under Louis-Dreyfus and Speakman in that it seems we hire head coaches and not managers in order to protect ourselves from this kind of situation threatening to derail seasons.
Theoretically, lots of football decisions are made above the manager, things like identity, philosophy and recruitment strategy. The manager then has the job of implementing the philosophy with the players as well as picking the team and designing the training sessions.
Now I’m sure he still had a say in lots of the decisions over player recruitment, philosophy and the like but maybe it made him feel undervalued? In addition to this should we assume that because of the diminished responsibility he was paid less than his “market value”?
If this is the case then the club need to take some responsibility and potentially have managers and players under contracts that protect the club as much as the asset.
So what/who now? I think we should take confidence in the fact that we have an identity now and the head coaches position is somewhat interchangeable. If we can’t afford to keep Neil then Keane, Dyche and Big Sam aren’t going to be persuaded either.
Mowbray for me, good track record with young squads, knows the area, experience at this level. It may be underwhelming but that’s my choice.
We must also keep Stewart. Without Stewart, we go down.
Keep the faith! Haway the Lads.