March 3, 2015 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
Lee Clark; ridiculed by many, reviled by others, pitied by few and applauded by even fewer. Yet I will be giving him an ovation when he turns up in the away dugout at Stan’s on Wednesday night. The man deserves nothing less for his efforts whilst Birmingham City manager.
Many blame him for the fact that we have now become (at best) Championship also-rans. I don’t buy it though; I honestly don’t think we’d be much higher up the footballing scale no matter who had been in charge the past couple of years. People say that he squandered what Chris Hughton left behind, but if what Chris Hughton had left behind was that good he would never have left in the first place. He didn’t go to Norwich because he saw Norwich as an unbelievable career opportunity he couldn’t pass up as even with Premier League status at that point they weren’t and aren’t a club any bigger than the Blues. He went to Norwich because he saw what a basket case of a club we were becoming. He knew that after the unbelievably exciting 2011-12 season there was only one way the club was going.
That 2011-12 season made Lee Clark’s job even harder when he arrived. He came into a club where the expectations had risen as a result of our European and Domestic cup runs and nearly missing out on promotion. He also came into a club where many of the players were exhausted from playing in forty, fifty and Chris Burke’s case sixty odd games in league and cup and where morale would have been fairly low after missing out on said promotion. We aren’t the only club to have struggled after missing out in the play-offs; look at Wigan being rooted in the relegation zone for most of this season as proof of that. I honestly think finishing twelfth in 2012-13 wasn’t a bad season, particularly when you look at the fact that sides like Blackburn finished way below us and when you look at a team as good on paper as Wolves actually getting relegated. Many were disappointed with mid-table and the fact that we weren’t able to kick on from the previous season, but I was content enough with safe position and what had been a decent end to the season.
But it was the following season which really saw a lot of people turn against him. He was in charge of a team which was seconds away from the Third Division. He did make mistakes, particularly towards the end of the campaign when you could see the pressure visibly getting to him, but I also think there was a lot of upheaval surrounding the team which was totally out of his hands. I thought at the start of last season that we would do well to stay in the division (take away Nikola Zigic’s wages and we had the second lowest playing budget in the division), and what was already a tough task of keeping us up got even tougher when half the team was taken away at the turn of the year. In my opinion, overall he did fairly well to keep us up. I appreciate that I am a minority in thinking that and everyone else is entitled to their own view, I do however believe that history could judge him more favourably than the present does.
He had to go in October. The strain of all that had gone on had made him a bloke who was becoming almost neurotic. The last interview he did as Blues manager was painful to listen to as he sounded like a man broken by the sheer frustration that he couldn’t get it right at Blues. His decisions were becoming more and more based on impulse rather than rationale; it was management by scattergun. It’s that sort of impulsive behaviour which sees him return to Stan’s with Blackpool – he took the manager’s job soon after leaving us when anyone who thought about it for more than five minutes would have stayed well away from Bloomfield Road. Maybe impulsivity will always be a trait of his that he will never be able to harness.
But I can forgive a manager being impulsive. Anyway results aren’t the primary reason why I will be one of those giving him an ovation on Wednesday though. I will be giving him an ovation because of the effort he put in whilst he was manager of my club. He tried so desperately hard whilst manager of the club in what were constantly very trying circumstances. He so desperately wanted to succeed; in fact that desire probably hindered him a bit, in that when we were struggling you could see how much it was affecting him and that must have affected his decision making.
He was never deliberately bad for us though, and even after his sacking he still talks about the club and us as supporters in glowing terms (something that hasn’t exactly gone down well with the few still following the team at Blackpool). In my opinion he always behaved with dignity whilst managing my club and treated the club with the utmost respect and reverence. I’m not someone who boos players or managers coming back to the very club very often, but I will give the bird to people who have done the club over; McLeish got it for committing the ultimate betrayal, Savage got it because he lied, lied and lied again on his way to moving to Blackburn and someone like Nicky Butt has got it because his feckless performances showed the level of disdain he viewed Birmingham City in despite being paid extortionate amounts of money. Lee Clark relatively speaking is so far removed from that sort of company it’s untrue.
It’s been cringe worthy how many Blues fans have been following Blackpool’s results since he became manager in the hope that they lose week in week out. If nothing else they were doomed well before he took over and they’ve been just as doomed ever since so hoping that they are going to be defeated every Saturday is a waste of time and effort. But I just don’t see why people hold so much hostility towards a bloke who tried his best even if he did come up short. Whatever his limitations as a manager, Lee Clark was and is a top man as far as I’m concerned. Whatever happens to him (I get the feeling he won’t be in charge of Blackpool for much longer) I wish him all the best.