April 28, 2013 by Made In Brum
I‘m writing this because I want to be fair. The last time I put the finger to keyboard was after the spiritless capitulation against Watford and, to be frank, all I could foresee was more gloom, more ineptitude, more frustration and the definite prospect of relegation. Now, here we are, lounging on the sunny uplands of mid-table mediocrity and on the back of some performances that have been…..wait for it…..enjoyable. Let’s gloss over the fact that after one of the most pleasurable and compelling evenings in recent memory at Selhurst Park, Lee Clark decided to change a convincing line up within a matter of a few hours against the dingles and that the game was lost before we got going. The bald facts are that, like plenty of other people, I would have driven Clark to his next job and made sandwiches and a flask for the journey and now……..well, what?
The witnesses for the prosecution, including me, have had plenty of time and opportunity to ventilate our mixture of anger and disappointment with Clark and his incompetence, whether that be in terms of team selection, motivation, choice of managerial colleagues and, of course, those excruciating press comments and conferences. I’ve lost count of the number of people who, like me, keep going to support the Blues because it’s an ingrained habit and not to do so seems like an act of betrayal and an abandonment of life-long principles. A decent day out spoilt only by having to watch the Blues. Yes, it’s true, we were completely unwatchable under The Scottish Manager but at least there seemed a wider purpose, particularly in this division. For much of this season we seem to have drifted from one formless performance to another with our fingers crossed in the hope that something might turn up to improve matters. Like I say, there’s no shortage of opinion (evidence even) to support this view.
So, what about a case for the defence? And if there is such a case, does it mean we stick with him for another season?
First of all, we can’t dismiss the off-field shenanigans. Like most of us, I’m not qualified to make a sensible assessment of what sort of impact this has on the playing side at a football club. At the very least, however, I can say with confidence that it won’t have been helpful. I’m always suspicious of the argument that starts, ‘Well, if that happened in my place of work…..’ because such comparisons are usually pretty pointless. For one thing, very few of us factor in the possibility of having our parentage and sexual preferences speculated upon in public by tens of thousands of people on a regular basis (well, except on the worst of days). Nor can most of us contemplate comfortable retirement by our mid 30s. Quite simply, we have our suspicions about what happens at football clubs but we don’t know for certain. All the same, it’s difficult to contemplate that these are circumstances in which any professional could function effectively and happily.
Secondly, he got there in the end. Possibly. Whether he stumbled upon a combination that works; whether he eventually thought it out for himself; whether the Chuckle Brothers gave him some useful advice – which, given their usual match-day practice of hunching in a frightened and bewildered slump in the dug-out seems unlikely – again, we’ll never know. But, by resorting to the simple expedient of playing his best players in their best positions in an effective format, he seems to have got there. He’s also, whether through force of circumstance or not, played young players some of whom, almost unbelievably in this day and age, come from Birmingham and seem to have some genuine connection with the club – and this same connection seems to manifest itself in their performances. Luck or judgement? We’ll never know – but, at the moment, it appears to be working.
And thirdly, what – or who – are the alternatives? Realistically? Like all of us, I’m fully aware of the managerial merry-go-round that sees the Jewels, Joneses, Warnocks, Graysons and O’Driscolls come and go at the whim of deluded chairmen and boards. These, and their like, are all solid, knowledgeable and occasionally effective professionals and I’m sure they would do a decent job for us. But no-one in their right mind could get over-excited by such choices, and the record of all such managers is mixed at best – and, yes, I know that very often that’s down to the impatience and ignorance of various chairmen. But it just may be that Clark will up his game and join the ranks of these solid middle achievers – especially if circumstances change at the club, which, of course, no one of can be certain will happen. For one thing, I’m not so sure we’re the appealing prospect for prospective owners and some of these managers that some fans think we may be.
All of the above sounds as if I’m batting for him and that a few decent performances have brought on a kind of cheery amnesia. That’s not the case. On balance, I think he’s been a pretty disastrous manager so far and has made a barrel load of mistakes. And if we do keep him on, I may be writing again by the turn of the year and questioning what may have turned out to be the onset of my own lack of judgement that comes with ageing. If someone comes along and buys us, installs a manager with proven experience or obvious potential ( and don’t forget that we thought Clark had some of the latter) and if we offload Zigic for more than a bag of Revels and his train fare home, then things may look different. In all honesty, I don’t see many of those things happening. But then I didn’t think Lee Clark knew how to pick a side, set it up to win important games and, from time to time, even play some attractive football. So, prove us wrong, Lee: we’d love it.