Even when football clubs hit on a winning formula, "now issues" can turn them into a recipe for disaster - Stuart Rayner

Running a football club, not just a team, takes many qualities and even if you stumble on a winning formula, it can soon become a losing one.

Where modern managers love to talk about "philosophies" and "identities" (eyes down for a full house everyone playing buzzword bingo), the bosses' bosses increasingly think of "models".

There is only problem with "philosophies" and "models": realities.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Two years ago, Barnsley's "model" of moneyballing the transfer market with cut-price overseas signings and coaches tailored to a specific, high-pressing way of playing was held up as an example, as was the man who oversaw it, Dane Murphy.

LOST TOUCH: Dane Murphy was rightly praised for his part in taking Barnsley into the Championship play-offs but the methods backfired the next seasonLOST TOUCH: Dane Murphy was rightly praised for his part in taking Barnsley into the Championship play-offs but the methods backfired the next season
LOST TOUCH: Dane Murphy was rightly praised for his part in taking Barnsley into the Championship play-offs but the methods backfired the next season

But last season, that approach led to relegation to League One.

Now Murphy is at Nottingham Forest, being criticised for what looked less like a recruitment drive, more a full-scale mobilisation.

Last season Huddersfield Town's head of operations, Leigh Bromby was rightly being lauded for providing the tools to get the Terriers into the Championship play-off finals on a very tight budget.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Key personnel have gone since but the approach has been similar and now Bromby is shouldering a lot of the blame for the Terriers being in the bottom three.

If Manchester City are successful this season – especially in Europe – it will be because they bided their time and got an ideal centre-forward in Erling Haaland, rather than taking what was on offer in the summer of 2021. Liverpool have been rewarded for similar patience in the past, but now former defender Jamie Carragher is criticising them for holding out for Mr Right in midfield and not strengthening a big weak point.

Not only is there no right or wrong way, the right way one season may not be the next.

A clear idea of where you are heading is vital, but sometimes you need to deviate from the path.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Huddersfield have a plan to reduce their dependency on Dean Hoyle or whoever replaces him as owner. A big part of it is spending less on the squad.

It is the right thing to do in the long-term but the Terriers cannot be pig-headed about it. Refusing to take their hands out of their pockets could mean relegation, and relegation will mean halving their approximately £16m annual income.

"We have a 'now' issue," said new managing director Dave Baldwin.

It is what makes football so hard to navigate. Whatever your principles and philosophies, you always have to watch out for now issues.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

If running a football club was so easy any idiot could do it, a lot would function a damn sight better. And whether we like to admit it or not, every fanbase has its fair share of idiots, much like any other walk of life.

Even if fans were experts on removing managers or the availability of suitable replacements, they do not have all the facts at their disposal. We journalists try to provide as many as we can, but neither do we.

So when a brilliant coach too stubborn to change methods which were sliding his team towards relegation, Leeds United felt they had no option but to ignore supporter sentiment and make a change in February.

Jesse Marsch was appointed in his place, and Leeds avoided relegation from the Premier League, a financial catastrophe in 2022.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Whether they could have got it more right by picking someone else or sticking with Bielsa we cannot know for sure but what we can be absolutely certain is that for the task in hand, the Leeds board got it right.

Fast-forward nine months, and they are ignoring the fans again, this time to stand by Marsch. After the defeat to Fulham it felt like the tanker was getting hard to turn, particularly without the support of the fans.

After some good performances went unrewarded, a 2-1 win at Liverpool could be all it takes to change the direction, and Leeds could sail away like Leicester City have done lately under Brendan Rodgers.

Or they could lose to Bournemouth on Saturday, carry on in the same vein, and the fans could be proven right all along.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is not just brave to ignore fan opinion, it can sometimes be unwise. Elland Road's passion is such an asset that to thumb your nose at it threatens to take away one of the team's big strengths. A disillusioned crowd can be hard to work against.

If Sheffield Wednesday were a democracy, Darren Moore might well not still be manager. He failed to get the Owls promoted last season.

He can have no complaints if Dejphon Chansiri hands him his P45.

Many, though, would rather not wait that long. Disenchanted by his football, irritated by his constant tinkering, unconvinced by his personality, they believe they would be better with someone else in charge.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

If whatever decisions chairman Chansiri makes between now and May win promotion, they will have been the right ones, if not, wrong.

I think sticking with Moore is the right course of action but that judgement will also only be proven right or wrong in the spring.

It is so far from an exact science when the “now issues” come, it boils down to whose hunches are best.