Bad timing: the worst decision Arsenal ever made.

Even the best run clubs make bad decisions, and as Gunners fan Andrew Wilkins tells us, Arsenal are no exception. Could letting a player go too early be their worst decisions ever?

Compared to most of the other clubs mentioned on here, Arsenal haven’t made many bad decisions. So I settled for a decision that at the time seemed small but in hindsight set us back some years.

The Arsenal team of 07/08 is widely considered by Gooners to be one of the most, if not the most, talented Arsenal side to have never won the title. Wenger was at his bold and brilliant best in pre-season, selling club captain and legend Thierry Henry and replacing him with relative unknown Eduardo. He also let another icon go in Freddie Ljungberg and signed Bacary Sagna, who is quite possibly the best right back I have seen play for the club.

It was during this period though that Arsene Wenger made what I believe to be a catastrophic error and it was to do with the captaincy. Not so much who he gave the captaincy to (although it was a mistake in hindsight) but the way he went about it. Gilberto Silva, one of the players of the season from 06/07, and stand in captain for the much injured Thierry Henry was everyone’s favourite to be the captain. No one expected that ex-Chelsea and notoriously temperamental William Gallas who himself had come off of the back of an injury plagued first season at Arsenal would get the armband. The thinking behind the decision was fine, Arsene no doubt saw it as an opportunity to shake things up and Gallas at the time was a top class central defender and one of the first names on the teamsheet. Not that anyone knew this at the time, but Gilberto would barely get a sniff that season due to the form of much maligned Mathieu Flamini (in fact, the Brazilian would only start 12 League games).

As I alluded to earlier, it was the way that Arsene Wenger went about giving William Gallas the captaincy which I consider a mistake. Quite simply, the manager didn’t tell Gilberto that he was making Gallas captain, leaving Gilberto to find out on Arsenal.com. It was even more shocking when you consider that Wenger said this just before he made the decision. “The captain last year was Gilberto and there is no reason to take it away from him,”

It lead to an uncharacteristically furious reaction from Gilberto which led to Wenger having to hold a face to face meeting with him to clear the air, explaining that he couldn’t tell Gilberto as he was away on international duty.

The damage was already done though, with rumours of Gilberto refusing to play in defence in at League Cup game at Sheffield United (he ended up playing in midfield) and with Gilberto later claiming that the Arsenal manager’s treatment had made him feel “totally useless”.

Initially the decision looked like an inspired one. Flamini was in the form of his life and his partnership with Cesc Fabregas seemed to be getting the best out of the Spaniard. Gallas was relishing in his role as captain, scoring some vital goals and defending heroically. Arsenal were playing perhaps some of the best football the club has played. The late August deadline day acquisition of Lassana Diarra meant that we had plenty of depth in central midfield. Gilberto had gone from Arsenal captain to forgotten man in months. One of the Invincibles had become invisible.

So why was it such a bad decision? Well as we all know, the Gallas experiment failed in spectacular fashion, with him being stripped of the captaincy in the autumn of 2008. Mathieu Flamini’s performances earned him a profitable free transfer to AC Milan and Lassana Diarra only lasted six months before he got itchy feet and moved to Portsmouth. Losing two players in that position seemingly opened the door for Gilberto to regain his place, but the damage caused in the summer had been done and he was allowed to leave without a fight to Panathinaikos for an undisclosed fee.

So from having Flamini, Gilberto and Diarra among our central midfielders options we went into 08/09 with only Fabregas, Diaby (a guy whose injury problems have been well documented), Denilson (untried and ultimately a flop) and Song (a relative success, but wasn’t ready yet) as our main midfield options. We went from title challengers to competing with Aston Villa for 4th place in less than a year. It’s dangerous to think ‘what if’, particularly in the unpredictable world of football, but I often think that if the Gilberto situation had been handled better we may have managed to build on the talented but yet unfulfilled Arsenal side on 2007/08.

Follow Andrew on twitter @hesfivefootfour

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No title required: the worst decision Huddersfield Town ever made

This is the decision that haunts every Huddersfield Town fan to this day. The greatest “what if” moment in the modern history of the club.
It’s one that every fan of the Terriers will read through their fingers, and one that I would struggle to write without constantly typing “screw Flanders” instead of writing anything.
Fortunately Town fan Pete Anstock tells the story, and does it quite exceptionally.

It all started the on 3 February 1999 with the fireworks display before the FA Cup fourth round replay with Wrexham. Town were sitting comfortably in tenth place in their fourth season in football’s second tier and despite the “Great Escape” of the preceding season, it appeared things were on the up for Huddersfield Town and their manager Peter Jackson.

The fireworks were heralding the takeover of Barry Rubery and as the smoke cleared around the McAlpine Stadium, myself and 15,426 others were probably all thinking that Huddersfield Town were on the verge of something bigger. Little did we know that within less than a year, the fireworks would be remembered as nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
For the short term, the fireworks did their trick and lowly Wrexham were dispatched with goals from Town’s talisman, Marcus Stewart and the enigmatic Ben Thornley, an early season signing, who appeared to be returning to his early form after a series of injuries.

As the season progressed, Barry Rubery made statements about cash pools available for players and how Peter Jackson would be the man to invest in those new players. However, despite the arrival of a couple of players, Town’s season faltered and they ended up finishing 10th; a position they had held since the talks of the takeover had entered the public domain.

The day after that season’s final game at the McAlpine; an uninspiring goalless draw against Crewe; Barry Rubery sacked Peter Jackson. It was a decision which surprised a great number of fans, as Jacko was a popular character. He would ultimately return for a further period of success at the club, albeit under different circumstances, but that is another story. However, the decision to sack Jackson wasn’t the worst decision made under this era; that was still to come.

A little under two weeks after Jacko’s sacking, a billboard sprung up at Shorehead roundabout with the new manager shrouded under a blanket in a pose reminiscent of a heinous villain arriving at court. “Who will it be?” the billboard proclaimed. All was revealed on 25 May 1999 when Steve Bruce was unveiled as the new manager of Huddersfield Town.

The season started well under Bruce, several new signings came in and Town were top of the table in mid-December when Liverpool visited the McAlpine for a televised FA Cup 3rd round tie. Although Town lost 0-2, they were not disgraced and the pundits’ view was that Rubery’s masterplan was working and Town would soon be in this elevated company on a weekly basis.
In the New Year, Steve Bruce decided his priorities lie with Man Utd and their ill-fated trip to Brazil for the World Club Championship (hence the FA Cup tie in mid-December1). Bruce’s dereliction of duty to go fawning over Man Utd coincided with a dip in Town’s fortunes, as they slipped to fifth. Bruce returned, and by the end of January Town appeared to have ridden out their slump with a home win over Tranmere courtesy of a goal by Marcus Stewart, followed by a hard fought point at Selhurst Park, with Stewart scoring a both goals in a draw with Palace. I remember Stewart leaving the pitch that day and applauding the Town fans. Something wasn’t right.

All was revealed on 1st February 2000 when the board announced their crazy decision. This was a decision that would wreck Town’s 1999-2000 campaign, send them spiralling down the Football League, lead to them entering administration within 3 years and spending the next 12 years in the hinterlands of the lower divisions.
That decision was of course to sell leading goalscorer Marcus Stewart to ambitious promotion rivals Ipswich Town, who were 3 points above Town, for a paltry £2.75m.

As Town fans despaired at the board’s stupidity, there was the looming fixture against Ipswich Town 12 days after Stewart’s sale. I’m sure Nostradamus didn’t follow Town, but Town fans were fully prepared for the painful fact that Stewart was destined to score against us. He did. Stewart got the winner in a 2-1 victory that strengthened Ipswich’s position above Town in the playoff chase. 2

There was a lot of anger at the sale of Stewart, and the board countered by naively stating that it was good business for Town as it was the only offer on the table. I never understood that argument. After all, none of the board would have sold their houses for £50k because it was the only offer on the table, so why do it with a prized asset?

Town limped on for the rest of the season, holding onto a playoff place heading into the final game of the season at Craven Cottage against a Fulham side with nothing to play for. The 90 minutes that followed was probably the most insipid performance that I have ever seen by a Town side, as a Lee Clark inspired Fulham ripped Town apart 3-0.

Town finished 8th whilst a Marcus Stewart inspired Ipswich finished 13 points ahead in 3rd and were promoted via the playoffs.

And so it came to pass. The next season was a disaster, Bruce was fired, his assistant Lou Macari took over but failed to stop the rot and Town were relegated at home to Birmingham City on the last day of the season, when the only possible set of results that could send Town down all fell into place, with a little bit of help from Dougie Freedman’s hand.

Meanwhile, Ipswich were the surprise package in the Premier League as Marcus Stewart was the star of Match of the Day as he ran Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink a close second for the Premiership’s golden boot. On the weekend that Town were relegated, Ipswich Town were securing a place in Europe.

Two years later, Rubery and his chairman, Ian Ayre had departed2; Town dropped into the bottom division and then went into administration. This was a chain of events that had been triggered by the unnecessary sale of one key player.

And so 12 years on, with Town proudly completing their hard fought journey back to reclaim their place in the second tier of English football. Armed with their new talisman; the prolific Jordan Rhodes, and an ambitious chairman. What could possibly go wrong?

We couldn’t possibly make the same mistake again could we?

1 The FA Cup 3rd round was held in mid-December that year as it was the start of the systematic devaluing of the FA Cup, when the blazers at the FA rescheduled the rounds to cater for Man Utd entering the World Club Championships in Brazil.
2 Ian Ayre remarkably turned up at Liverpool as MD and has been at the helm for what has unsurprisingly been a turbulent period for the Merseysiders

Be sure to follow Pete on twitter @westerhampete

Hornets stung by poor appointments. The worst decision Watford ever made

Managerial appointments are often gambles, and can never be seen as a guaranteed certainty of success. You can though, with time & consideration reduce the chances that your new boss will fail.
However, when faced with replacing their most successful manager of all time, Watford failed, twice.
Hornets fan David Cameron Walker tells the story of the worst decision his club ever made:

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time”

The words of George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Prize winner and co-founder of the London School of Economics.
How does this relate to Watford FC?

Well before I get to what is in my opinion the biggest mistake my club has ever made, let me first take you back to 1987. Graham Taylor, having presided over a decade of extraodinary success at Vicarage Road, which saw The Hornets rise from the 4th Division to the 2nd in the first division and a place in the UEFA Cup, had informed then Chairman Elton John that he would be leaving the club to become the new manager of Aston Villa. It is thought that privately Taylor never really wanted to leave and could probably have been talked round, but instead of coercing his manager into staying put; Elton chose to move fast in replacing him with none other than Wimbledon manager, leader of the Crazy Gang, Dave Bassett.

This was an utterly disastrous appointment. Bassett’s Wimbledon were a bastardised version of Taylor’s Watford. Though they too rose through the divisions, they employed a far cruder version of the high-tempo attacking football Taylor had ruffled feathers with at Vicarage Road. The feeling among almost everyone at the club, bar Elton John, was that he was not the right man for the job, and so it proved to be as Bassett went about dismantling all of Taylor’s hard work almost as swiftly as Elton John had been in appointing him.

The most successful era in Watford’s history came to a shuddering halt. Bassett was out the door within 6 months and the club never recovered, until Taylor waltzed back into Vicarage Road in 1995 to embark on a journey that would again lead this small club into the upper echelons of the English game against all odds.

Fast forward to June 2001. After leading the club to successive promotions from Division Two to the Premier League, Graham Taylor has announced his retirement and once again the club are faced with the task of replacing the man the supporters call God. This time however, rather than search for a poor man’s Taylor as Elton had done with Bassett, the directors appointed a man who could quite readily be described as the antithesis of Graham Taylor. Benvenuto, Gianluca Vialli. The former Chelsea manager and Italy striker was the most unlikely of appointments at Vicarage Road and it has to be said that the same glamour that blinded the board also blinded a large percentage of the fans.

I can vividly remember the excitement at reading the Watford Observer when it became clear Vialli was heading to Vicarage Road.

Watford had money to spend thanks to the double whammy of parachute payments and the new ITV Digital TV deal. No longer would we be forced to build a team around free transfers, loans and bargains from the lower leagues. We could go out and buy premium-quality goods. We were going to, in Vialli’s words, become the “Manchester United of the First Division”. Well, as many of you will know, it didn’t quite turn out like that.

We were stuffed 3-0 by Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City on the opening day of the season in front of the soon-to-be defunct ITV Digital cameras. The blue half of Manchester went on to be champions while Vialli’s Watford went on to finish in a very un-Manchester Utd-esque position of 14th.

Huge money was wasted on big contracts for the likes of Ramon Vega, Patrick Blondeau, Pierre Issa, Stephen Hughes, Stephen Glass, Marcus Gayle, Paul Okon and Fillipo Galli (though I shall refrain from criticising Galli as despite pushing 40 he was exemplary on and off the pitch, in a manner you’d expect from a man who used to partner Franco Baresi at Milan).

Stalwarts of Taylor’s team such as Robert Page, Steve Palmer and Tommy Mooney were discarded in a manner that paid no respect to the blood, sweat and tears they had given the football club. Same goes for club legends Kenny Jackett and Luther Blissett from the coaching staff. Everything that made Watford Watford was once again thrown on the scrapheap.

We had comprehensively failed to take even a cursory glance at our own history and we’d made the same mistake as we had in 1987. When replacing someone who had such a profound effect on a football club as Graham Taylor did, twice, at Watford you have to get it right. You have to take your time and make sure you get the right man. It’s not easy so perhaps the first time can be forgiven, but the second time, can most certainly not.

Instead of taking advantage of the miracles Taylor had performed to secure the future of the club they gambled its very existence.
ITV Digital would infamously go on to collapse, Vialli’s bunch of unmotivated, overpaid misfits would serve up largely tepid football and Luca, with many of his expensively recruited failures, left after just a season in charge.

Reserve team boss Ray Lewington, and director Graham Simpson, came to the rescue as they assumed the positions of manager and chairman respectively.
Captain Neil Cox had to convince the playing staff to take a 12% wage deferral in order to save the club from administration. We had to sell our ground, a move which many a club will tell you is one to avoid at all costs, and a little while later we were relying on Elton John playing a concert at Vicarage Road to raise funds so we could actually buy a player.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and maybe I’m being harsh on the board here, some may credit the ambition, some may say that a new direction was needed if we were to step out of the shadow of Taylor. However, I cannot help feel that they were guilty of rushing the whole thing. In a move that only served to undermine the retirement of the greatest manager the club had ever seen, Vialli was appointed before Taylor’s last game. They simply couldn’t wait. They didn’t take the necessary time and care over what was an absolutely vital decision.

With our Premier League parachute payments and strong nucleus of a squad we should have been able to absorb the ITV Digital collapse and could have been in a strong position to bounce back in the manner of Bolton and West Brom, clubs who were in a similar position to Watford back then but have both since gone on to enjoy prolonged spells of Premier League stability.

It simply wasn’t necessary to hand Vialli the keys to the safe, and we nearly paid the ultimate price for our recklessness.
We went from riches to rags in the space of a year. And it was all because the people entrusted with the upkeep of this proud club, a genuine family club, failed to show an appreciation of where it had come from, what it stood for and what it had got wrong before.

Be sure to follow David at @D_C_W and also download the We are going up podcast which he co-presents.

The “boo” tham boys get their way. The worst decision York City ever made.

When the perceived smaller clubs make bad decisions, they tend to have devastating consequences. They are the clubs who cannot afford to make poor choices, and often suffer the consequences for years to come.
York City fan John Dobson talks us through the worst decision they ever made.
As you’ll see it’s a decision that not only one that could have horrible short term decisions, but also one that takes away the identity & reputation that the club had started to establish.

The true measure of a bad decision lies in the consequences. Sometimes, this is apparent quite quickly, other times it takes a long time to work through.

Replacing the successful and popular Denis Smith with Bobby Saxton in 1987 was my first brush with some of the notoriously bad decisions made at York City. That is one of a string of managerial changes that were simply never going to work. The other two involved players getting promoted to the job. Neil Thompson took over from Allan Little in 1999 and that was bad, but nowhere near as bad as handing the job to the then 27-year old Chris Brass in 2003. Hopelessly out of his depth, he oversaw a run of twenty games without a win which ended with relegation from the Football League, 82 years after election.

The backdrop to Brass’s appointment was the off-field turmoil the club found itself in, courtesy of two of the worst boardroom decisions in the club’s history. For a long time, Douglas Craig seemed a reasonable chairman after he took over from the sainted Rev Michael Sinclair. Sinclair made no profit on his shares – he believed it would have been immoral to do such a thing. Craig made sure he got his pound of flesh. It’s a familiar tale: Craig set up a holding company into which was transferred ownership of Bootham Crescent. In the property boom of the early 2000s, land value in York soared and Craig negotiated a price for the land which the stadium stands on with Persimmon Homes. Having done so, he announced the intention to resign the club’s position in the league, effectively spelling the end for the club.

While that was bad enough, the supposed white knight that rode to the rescue was John Batchelor. Now you can’t defame the dead, so it’s perfectly valid to call him a liar, a fantasist and a thief. That the club is not dead after all that is testament to the work of the Supporters Trust and the current board, more of whom later.

On the playing side, we’ve had a few shockers too. York is a small club and the record transfer in remains the £140,000 paid to Burnley for Adrian Randall in 1995. 32 games later, he was back in Lancashire with Bury. The hundred grand for Barry Conlon, the second highest fee paid, was hardly value and neither were the £90k for Rob Matthews or the £85k a pop for Rodney Rowe and David Rush. The moral here is that the club are not good with money.

So far, so terrible, but all of that tale of misery and woe pales into insignificance in light of events of recent weeks and months.

Since Chris Brass and relegation to the Conference, things have largely been positive. The current board engineered a controversial takeover of 75% plus one share of the club. With a small fan base, the Supporters Trust was finding it difficult to keep asking the same people for money. While it wasn’t handled terrifically well, it was something that probably had to happen. Managerial appointments were made and changed at the right time and for the right reasons up to the point at which we ended up with Gary Mills in charge.

Mills is an adherent to a particular style which revolves around getting the ball down and passing it. This is revolutionary thinking at that sort of level. Very quickly, we became good to watch for the first time since the Denis Smith days. At the second time of asking, it was a style that got us to two Wembley finals, the second of which was for promotion back to the league we’d departed eight years previously. York and Luton played out a terrific game on the Wembley sward with City edging it thanks to Matty Blair’s head and an unobservant linesman. Promotion. Validation. Joy. Relief.

This season was all about consolidating at a higher level and, despite a run of eleven winless games, this was very much on the cards. It was absolutely right that the players who got the club promoted had first crack at league football, many for the first time. Perhaps some were finding it tougher than expected. Perhaps the wider availability of match footage compared to the Conference means other teams have had time to work us out. Whatever the reasons, the football was still pretty and looked like it wasn’t too far away from clicking. Certainly with games at the back end of the season against the division’s strugglers, it remained very much in City’s own hands. Maybe we needed a couple of full-backs to get beyond and provide some width, create some chances. Maybe we needed a bit more competition for the centre-backs and goalkeeper. What we didn’t need was a wholesale abandonment of the way we’ve gone about our football for two-and-a-half years. We were creating an identity, something to be proud of, something you could point to and say “that’s York City” rather than just being another small, shit, northern club.

Of course, not all change is bad. There was an intangible element missing from City’s play since 2012 waved a fond goodbye, but the fundamentals remained strong. If it was to be a managerial change that was required, then it had to be a continuation of the ideas already in place, much like Swansea have done over the last few years with Jackett, Martinez, Sousa, Rodgers and Laudrup. Instead, we’ve thrown all these theories of possession-based football in a skip out the back and reverted to hoofing it downfield at the earliest opportunity. It is soul-sappingly boring, which would be forgiveable – to an extent – if it was getting results, but it isn’t. Even seemingly positive substitutions, like replacing a centre-back with a winger, somehow make the team more negative, which is kind of admirable in a way. Players who have been coached to play one way are suddenly, with a handful of games remaining, being asked to do something that’s been anathema to them. Instead of retaining the ball and building, it’s low-percentage long balls which inevitably end with the ball coming back towards us with interest. It’s horrible to watch, it doesn’t work for these players and at current rate and trajectory, it’s taking us down.

Never before has a team promoted from the Conference gone straight back down. We look like being history-makers in that regard, but the wider consequences of a quick return to non-league football are a lot more significant than merely plotting new postcodes into the sat-nav for next season. We overspent on getting up and those debts will need to be repaid. Once again, the running of the youth system will not be centrally funded while TV revenue drops to a fraction even of that available to League Two clubs. Crowds will inevitably drop back to the 2500 mark – on a good day – which we were told was the break-even point last time we were in the Conference. Losses have been mounting, but set against the sale of Bootham Crescent when the newt-delayed new stadium is complete. That’s not a bottomless barrel. Another lost decade outside the football league places the long-term future of the club into jeopardy.

Put simply, I’m worried and that worry can be traced to one knee-jerk decision – the wrong change at the wrong time for the wrong new manager. And in the history of this club, for that to be the major decision to stand out, well it’s kind of impressive.

As I’m sure you can see, John knows his stuff so follow him on twitter @johnnydobbo

With Apologies to Chuck Palahniuk: The Worst decision Nottingham Forest ever made

“Shite Club”

“This is it – League One. Would you like to say a few words to mark the occasion?”
“…i… ann… iinn… ff… nnyin…”

With your head in your hands, you speak only in vowels.

And suddenly I realise that all of this: the playoff heartbreakers, the Platt era, the relegations…has got something to do with a striker named Kevin Campbell.

Summer 1998, the Reds have swept back into the Premiership at the first time of asking, amassing 94 points on the way to being crowned champions. Spearheaded by a formidable front-line of Pierre van Hooijdonk and Kevin Campbell, the squad looked as if it might have the strength to hold it’s own in the top flight, especially considering that the gap between the two divisions wasn’t quite the yawning chasm it seems to have become in recent years.

Van Hooijdonk was the undoubted star, for a large part of the season he’d looked like he might break Wally Ardron’s record of 36 goals in a single season in the Garibaldi, while Campbell’s bustling pace and selfless workrate provided both the perfect foil for the languid Dutchman and 23 goals at a highly respectable rate of one game every two games.

Then, in the space of a few balmy July days, Forest’s season fell apart before it had even begun.

On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

First came Campbell’s shock move to Turkish side Trabzonspor, followed by van Hooijdonk’s astonishing decision to refuse to play for the club, citing a lack of ambition of Trentside. The third blow came a few weeks before the beginning of the season when club captain Colin Cooper was sold to Middlesbrough, with Dave Bassett citing a “gentleman’s agreement” with Cooper that he would allow him to move back to his native north-east if an acceptable offer were to come Forest’s way.

Now some context is important here. When Carlos Tevez’s elected to down tools while at Manchester City, the Blues were able to dip into their vast resources and buy Sergio Aguero, without ever having to sell Tevez. Then when the want-away striker decided to call off his self-imposed exile, they had two world-class players at their disposal. The best Forest could hope for was a quick sale, but when one wasn’t forthcoming, Bassett managed to scrape together £1.5 million to sign Neil Shipperley from Crystal Palace. Shipps was as honest as the day is long, but he was no Sergio Aguero. Hell, he wasn’t even Sergio Tacchini.

You lose at White Hart Lane, Filbert Street, Stamford Bridge. This is your season and it’s ending. One game at a time.

A win over Southampton in late August briefly put the Reds second, but the early season optimism was soon to fade thanks to a run of just two points in six matches. Jon Olav Hjelde, the man tasked with replacing Colin Cooper at the heart of the defence issued the first rallying cry of the season, promising to keep Michael Owen under lock and key at Anfield in late October. Forest were thrashed 5-1, Owen was the tormentor in chief, scoring four.

Van Hooijdonk had returned, four months after his one-man protest had failed to earn him the move he craved. His goal against Derby went some way to restoring his former standing in the eyes of the fans, but a needless red card against Leicester spoke volumes for his state of mind. Twice the Reds squandered two goal leads at home, while their away form continued to be wretched, taking just one point from eight games on the road after that win at The Dell. Clean sheets were a big problem, just two in 18 games when the midway point of the season rolled around. Scoring goals was proving tricky too, as the Reds bore all the hallmarks of a side on their way out of the top flight.

Deja vu – all over again.

Defeat at home to Portsmouth sealed Dave Bassett’s fate. Just shy of seven months to the day when he had basked in the promotion glow at the Hawthorns, he was sacked. Micky Adams spell as caretaker last one dreadful afternoon at Highfield Road, ripped to shreds by a Darren Huckerby inspired Coventry City.

We have just lost cabin pressure.

Enter Big Ron.

He stepped into the wrong dugout ahead of his first game against Arsenal, but did finally manage to steer the Tricky Trees to a victory, a 1-0 false dawn at Goodison Park in late January. It was the first win in 20 (twenty) league games. It was immediately followed up by a spectacular home thrashing by Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netting four times in a crazy twenty-minute spell that would’ve embarrassed a side playing Sunday League football on Forest Fields, let alone Forest themselves.

Meanwhile Kevin Campbell was back. After being subjected to appalling abuse from the chairman of Trabzonspor, he joined Everton on loan. He would’ve made a difference for Forest. He did for Everton. Nine goals in the last six games of the season steered the Toffees to safety.

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we are free to do anything

The inevitable was finally confirmed at Villa Park in late April. Freed from the spectre of the drop hanging over them, Big Ron’s bunch of ragtag signings, loanees, forgotten men and free transfers saw off Sheffield Wednesday, dragged Blackburn into the mire and beat Leicester. Big Ron departed, David Platt came in to fire Forest back to the big time. That’s one for another day.

If only we hadn’t sold Kevin Campbell.

Be sure to follow @nowthenyoungman

The clown Jewell: the worst decision Derby County ever made

When you are facing a crisis in football, you need a steady hand to guide you through the choppy waters. When Derby sacked Billy Davies they adopted a different approach as debut blogger Matt Tweddle discusses.
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a brilliant first blog and I hope it’s the first of many more to come.

Once my interest was aroused by the chance to express my views surrounding ‘the worst decision my club has ever made’, many instances of past buffoonery circulated the murky waters of my cynical head. Let’s be painfully honest, as a lifelong Derby County fan there’s plenty of these moments of ‘enlightenment’ to choose from.

Now, most fans who know their football history and any Derby County fan worth their salt will pinpoint the answer to this question to that fateful day on 15th October 1973. The day Sam Longson accepted the late great Brian Clough and Peter Taylor’s (if somewhat bluffed) resignations. Without question THE biggest mistake Derby County Football Club have ever made and will remain so until the end of time. We all know the heroics Clough went on to perform at our dear and beloved neighbours Nottingham Forest down the now aptly named Brian Clough Way (*shakes fist).

I wasn’t born until 1980 so unlike my father, never felt the real ramifications and downright devastation that this brought upon our working-class, provincial footballing town, although I am reminded on a regular basis by fans of ‘them down the road’ and their two ‘poxy’ European Cups. Oh how they love to cling on to former glories, anyway, I’m digressing.

I will therefore base my decision on more recent calamities. After a very successful if somewhat surprisingly dull season resulted in (let’s be honest) a lucky play-off final victory against West Bromich Albion eventually catapulting The Rams into ‘the promised land’ (god I hate that metaphor), a spectacularly disastrous foray into Premier League life unfolded under Billy Davies. Millions upon millions of pounds were wasted to fund transfer fees and wages on terribly average players clearly not up to the job of turning Derby into anything barely resembling a half decent football team; Claude Davis, Robert Earnshaw and Kenny Miller painfully spring to mind at a mind blowing outlay of nearly £9 million. Yes, no need to rub your eyes, I said NINE MILLION POUNDS. Billy Davies was inevitably sacked after falling out with practically every breathing entity in Derby and so the job of turning the club around was to be bestowed to another.

So, the burning question on everyone’s lips was which inspirational tactician would be tasked with bringing in the much needed quality we so desperately needed without wasting further millions? Who was to be the laudable phoenix to bring the club from the flames of relegation? Our Saviour? Our Messiah? Enter Paul Jewell… Worst. Decision. Ever.

Jewell managed to instill a lack of confidence, belief and team spirit that will, in my opinion, never be surpassed. The damage he did to our club both on and off the pitch can never be underestimated and is only now beginning to be scooped off the pavement and deposited in the dog waste bin by Clough Jnr some five years later.

The Robbie Savage saga eptiomised the mind-blowing unprofessionalism and ‘boom or bust’ nature of his (mis)management. Savage, already a figure of extreme hate with Derby County fans after an outrageous last minute dive to win a penalty and three points for Leicester during a previous meeting at Pride Park was brought in for £1.5 million and immediately installed as captain, a bit of a slap in the face to the players already at the club. At 33 he was no spring chicken, more headless chicken and given a handsome 2 year contract to boot. The events that followed and indeed his shocking treatment by Paul Jewell led to Savage admitting in his autobiography that he considered self-harming; “I was planning to take the car out and smash it into a tree. Or go out and bang my head into a wall again and again. Just ending all the pain.” After losing patience with Savage’s below par performances on the pitch, Jewell’s method of motivating and refocusing an already fragile Savage was to freeze him out of the club completely. Initially making him train with the kids then banning him from the stadium altogether. This was all happening after relegation from the Premier League of course with a record low total of 11 points, whilst Savage was still earning an incredible £23,000 a week. After unsuccessfully attempting to ship him out on loan Savage was even asked to contact Ant and Dec (whom he was friends with) to enquire if he could secure a place on the popular reality TV show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Robbie Savage was costing the club a fortune, a situation all of Jewell’s own doing.

All in all, appalling man management and a complete failure to take responsibility of his own failings.
Jewell amassed an incredible total of 24 signings during his spell of just over a year at Derby. A quick look back at the quality of players that he brought into the club for the Premier League relegation fight is alarming to say the least. Laurent Robert, clearly past his peak at the age of 32 was brought in and failed spectacularly, not exactly the type of guy to get you out of a relegation scrap. Similarly, Hossam Ghaly was also brought to the club shortly after showing his manager and fans terrible disrespect by throwing his Spurs shirt to the ground after being substituted during a Tottenham game, another Paul Jewell masterstroke. Other world beaters arrived in the form of striker Emanuel Villa (who?) costing £2 million with a return of 3 goals in 17 games, Gary Teale, Roy Carroll, and two completely unknown Australians Mile Sterjovski and Rueben Zadkovic also came through the revolving door. It’s no wonder we were record breakingly bad.

After embarrassing relegation from the Premier League made us a laughing stock, life in the second tier of English football was just as bad. More incredibly bad signings on silly wages followed after many of Jewell’s others were shipped out, the likes of Paul Connelly (handed the captains armband after Savage’s banishment), Jordan Stewart (later traded for the even more dire Lee Hendrie), Andres Pereplotkins and Przemysław Kaźmierczak were truly, truly awful, I say this from first-hand experience. More money was wasted on the likes of Liam Dickinson (who already had a reputation as bad apple) at £750,000 who unsurprisingly had such an attitude problem he didn’t make a single appearance for the club. A further £1 million was spent on injury-plagued Luke Varney and a literally unbelievable seven figure loan sum for Nathan Ellington who recorded a quite shocking return of 3 goals in 27 games. Truly mind-blowingly levels of utter shitness. It’s no surprise that it took Paul Jewell TEN MONTHS to secure his first league win for The Rams.
So bad was the situation at Derby under Jewell it proved all too much for right back Tyrone Mears. So desperate to leave the club he proceeded to climb through a window and crawl past Paul Jewell’s office in an attempt to avoid detection and collect his boots before jumping on a plane to join Marseille. Needless to say he never played for the club again. You just couldn’t make it up. To be honest I can’t say I blame him. Sacre Bleu.

Not content with destroying the club’s reputation on the pitch, Jewell went one step further. News broke in the tabloid press of a sex tape filming pervy Paul in an hour long ‘bondage romp’ with a young blonde. Now, this I might expect from a young, naive player finding his way in the world, but from a married 41 year old father of 2 that looks like a sack of spanners it is quite frankly disgusting, Paul Jewell is bad enough to look at with his clothes on so why anyone thought it fit to record this monstrosity on film is beyond me. I imagine the blonde in question, like all Rams fans, felt disappointed, let down and ultimately unfulfilled by Jewell’s performance. Again, you just couldn’t make it up.

Most involved in football would describe Paul Jewell as your typical modern day ‘merry-go-round’ manager but to me his managerial exploits represent an altogether different fairground experience more akin to that of the old waltzer; a dodgy, run down, expensive, nausea inducing ride that makes you vomit at the very thought of his disgraceful, bumbling tenure not just at Derby County but other clubs that had the misfortune to be exposed to his ‘if the going gets tough, sign more players’ attitude. Scream if you want to go (down) faster…

Appointing Paul Jewell and his pay now worry later attitude is without doubt the worst decision my club has ever made (during my lifetime). Stumbling from one catastrophe to another is his forte. Thankfully we’ve had the direct riposte in Nigel Clough to clear up the mess. Derby County will probably never shake off the tag of ‘worst club in history’. I like to think that Paul Jewell will never ever shake off the tag of ‘turnip-headed, money wasting sex pest’. Thanks for the memories Paul.

Be sure to follow Matt on twitter @tweddytwedds

The brothers grim: the worst decision ever made by Birmingham City

As football fans we tend to focus on the present day. This leads to an ignorance of mistakes of the past & a failure to appreciate that things have almost certainly been worse. So despite Carson Yeung’s current tenure being endured by long suffering Birmingham fans, Brad Smith argues that’s it’s been worse.

After two relegations in four years, Birmingham City were a club on their knees. They had spent 12 of the previous 14 years in the top flight, and now found themselves languishing in the Third Division, and were recording their worst league finishes in their 110 year history.
Ask any Birmingham City fan the same question, and you will no doubt get the same response. When attendances were down to around 6,000, and Ken Wheldon sold the club to the Kumar brothers, the second-city team embarked on the worst four years in their proud history.
When you mention the Kumars to most people, you’ll no doubt get a chuckle as they remember the seven series comedy shown on the BBC. Not Birmingham City fans though.
Rival fans got to watch their own comedy 10 years previous to that, as promises failed, the new owners went bust, and the club was on the brink of bankruptcy.
The footballing world knew Birmingham as a top-division club, and after a 7th placed finish in Division 3, they were touted to go up the following year. However, the season was one that at a stage was a fight to stay in the Division, and lack of investment from the new owners led to protests from what was left of the St.Andrews crowd, and eventually the resignation of manager Dave Mackey.
Lou Macari took the reins, and steered the Midlands side to a Leyland DAF final victory over Tranmere, which was little consolation to the fans, who still couldn’t understand how they were in this division. Following this win, Macari upped sticks and went to Stoke City, and Terry Cooper was left with the task of promotion, with little to no funds from the board.
The problems were now filtering down to the players, several refused to renew contracts, and few could see what would come of the next few seasons. The ground was falling apart, and after a boy was killed during the 85/86 season, nothing had been done by the current owners, leaving the ground to spiral into the worst conditions it had ever been.
Luckily, that 91/92 season ended with promotion, but with no thanks to the board, who were increasingly running out of money. Signings were made via money raised from supporters, and Cooper was now at loggerheads with the board, demanding funds to keep the club together, and to make urgent signings to keep the club in the division.
November 1992 will forever be a month etched in the minds of City fans, as the Kumars businesses were put into receivership, and after months of fans wanting them to sell, their majority stake in the club was put up for sale.
With the team dropping fast, administration continued for four months, before the saviours of the Gold brothers and David Sullivan took over, steering the club to safety that season by just two points, and although relegation came the year after, the clubs finances had steadied, while the next 10 years saw them turn the ground into a Premier League stadium, and into a top division club again.
Many fans are unhappy at the current regime at the helm of Birmingham City, but a look back 20 years quickly reminds us, that we were potentially months away from not having a club at all.

Make sure you follow Brad on twitter @BrummieBrad