The news broke from the club last night that both Lee Clark and Alan Thompson have belatedly been relieved of their management duties at Bury. In my opinion, this decision has come two months later than it ought to have done for the transfer deadline debacle, as well as his public criticism of Saul Shotton, a promising 16 year-old who made his full debut at centre-back in the 4-0 defeat by local rivals Rochdale in the EFL Trophy, which whilst not exactly the most prestigious competition, still didn’t sit right with me.
His tenure is now in the past though and what’s left of the coaching staff must regroup for the vital game away at National League outfit Woking in the FA Cup first round. Ryan Lowe has been placed in temporary charge whilst chairman Stewart Day seeks an appointment within a fortnight. That in my view is the right decision to make with regards to the timeframe; a repeat of last season’s dalliance whilst waiting for Clark’s contract at Kilmarnock to run down to lower than a year is unacceptable.
The bookies have already set their stalls out with regards to the next manager odds and as per usual, the same tired, familiar faces feature:
The football managerial circuit is often quite a closed shop, a concept which I will discuss in much more depth in another blogpost. Supporters and the media alike only tend to advocate those who belong to one or more of the following groups: a big name, tried and tested (and largely failed elsewhere), had a playing career at the highest level or ‘a club legend’. Very rarely do boards stray from those criteria and think a little more outside of the box and I don’t expect Day to either. I have the nagging feeling that yet again, it will be someone with a strong connection to Huddersfield Town, regardless of whether they are the best person for the role (cough Chris Powell *cough).
He might also do well to consider a restructure of how the club recruits players. That is not me saying that the current group are not good enough; far from it. However, the manager should be largely left to the day job of looking after their players, working on tactics and appropriate training schedules. A Director of Football is an increasingly popular, albeit still peripheral, role in English professional football. Granted, the previous time it was tried at Gigg Lane didn’t exactly work out well but the 10-year gap has seen big changes in the sport and clubs’ approaches and policies in this area.
I would go a bit left field and look very carefully at the work done by joint bosses Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson at Salford City; yes, they have been well-backed by chairwoman Karen Baird and the famous owners but they have adapted extremely well to the club becoming fully professional in the close season and maintain a great fondness for Bury. More importantly, they are open to new ideas and are currently guiding the Ammies to a high standing in the National League North whilst playing an attractive, attacking brand of football. The only major caveat is that their contract has more than a year left to run, expiring in March 2019.
Whoever is at the helm when the side travel down to Gillingham in just under a fortnight’s time, below is the brief I would give them were I
unlucky enough to be the person making the call:
Pay Little Heed to What Has Happened Before
This relates to players being frozen out by the previous incumbent. For example, Nicky Ajose is fit but has not featured in a first team competitive fixture since August. It is a waste of resources for this to be the case regardless of your opinion on the start he made to his third loan spell in white and royal blue. The Charlton Athletic forward is far from the only player who was maligned by Clark in his eight-month reign but with Jermaine Beckford’s return date from injury unknown at the time of writing and Michael Smith woefully out of form and low on confidence, more options are needed to provide a cutting edge up top.
Accentuate the Strengths, Hide the Weaknesses in the Team
Below is a possible lineup for Sunday:
What is your immediate gut reaction to it?
The lack of available centre backs inadvertently but immediately makes the setup look more dynamic. Some might look and say “Nicky Ajose can’t play as a lone striker”. In the right system, he can. The current weakest areas are in the left side of defence and the balance in midfield, but Andrew Tutte’s reemergence helps to a certain extent with that. The best three outfield players on paper would all be behind Ajose, so the general idea is to keep the ball as high up the pitch as possible. Revolutionary, I know… but for now at least, that’s the sort of strategy the new person should be employing. Putting the emphasis firmly on defence only works if the collective unit is strong.
Pay More Than Lip Service to Talented Young Players
That doesn’t mean all of a sudden that the likes of Shotton, Callum Hulme and Wealth Da Silva have to feature in every match. It is well-known that the Category 3 academy is currently very productive and there are a large number of the contingent who could make the step up on a more regular basis. Constantly talking them up and subsequently not playing any for large stretches of time as has previously been apparent makes no sense whatsoever, especially when injuries and suspensions bite.
Appoint Scouts to, Y’know, Scout Players
It has come to my attention that there are no scouts for the first team currently! This cannot be allowed to continue. As stated above, the new manager should concentrate on the day-to-day duties and allow specialists to find talent in areas which need strengthening. A more collegiate, informed approach can then be adopted when discussing who to sign. Which leads me onto…
Cease the Ridiculous Churn of Players
There are more than enough on the books as it is already. Terminating unnecessary loan deals is a quick way to reduce the bloated roster but long-term, there should be fewer in and out of the door in any given transfer window. The turnover at Bury is the highest in England and has been ever since Day took over. He must now realise the error of his ways and instruct the new manager to take more care and consideration over each player (de)registration. Only then can the club realistically hope to have a semblance of harmony behind the scenes and a better crack at success on the pitch.
Re-emphasise the Value of Coaching Over ‘Quick Fixes’
This follows on from the above point. Modern tactics have shifted the onus once more from players being specialist in a certain role/position to needing to be multi-faceted. The requirements of any tactical system should reflect this. Only when there is a very specific role no current member can realistically fill in an appropriate timeframe should a new signing be considered. Delegate responsibility to the coaching team to ensure each individual knows what the manager requires of them in a given match. Don’t overcomplicate their duties it but by the same token, they don’t have to be the exact same every time. Respect the opposition’s threats and try to deal with them accordingly.
Stop Young Players Being Sold at the First Possible Opportunity
The function of the academy must now firmly move on from a quick cash-in by Day. Will Ferry could’ve offered something different to any group. That’s not to say he would’ve been necessarily better straight away but we’ll never know because he was sold before tasting a single minute of first team football. His and others’ values will more than likely increase when exposed to regular gametime – it’s quite a simple notion. Having the ability to retain precocious talent for at least a season or two will go a long way to helping the club be self-sufficient. Look at Rochdale’s model.
Prove You Can Adapt and Evolve Your Ideas Over Time
Some Bury managers’ stars have initially shined brightly but then dimmed when they hadn’t devised viable alternative strategies when things don’t go their way or injuries crop up. Having contingencies in place beforehand will curtail the inevitable dips in form. Additionally, when something works, don’t assume it will continue to do so in perpetuity. The sport is rapidly evolving, even at third tier level.