Whilst many may have suspected a change in manager was in the pipeline I think it’s fair to assume that few of us expected it to happen last week.
I’ve stated repeatedly that I was keen to see Mark Yates given an opportunity to prove himself with “his” squad next season, but the recent appalling run of form and the knock-in effect that has in all probability had on season ticket sales for the forthcoming season made the decision to change the helmsman by Ziya Eren far easier that it should have been.
If Mark Yates’ objective this season was Football League survival then he has been effective and successful. Sadly though there is a very real risk that we could finish 22nd, only two places above that fated dip to oblivion. It’s hard to see how such a narrow step away from failure could be construed as success in this context.
For many, and I include Ziya Eren in this, the lack of points has been less of an issue than the lack of entertainment. The “E” word is often bandied about in football with little context, but for those of us that have witnessed some truly insipid performances this season I think we can safely say that whatever constitutes entertainment in football, this was not it. With the drop in entertainment there has been the inevitable drop in attendances and increase in apathy. Something our new owners desperately need to turn around if they in turn want to turn around the financial position of our club. The recent launch in season ticket prices should have been greeted with a modicum of enthusiasm, but as I wrote last week, value for money has to be judged in tandem with the value of the product on show. This season the product value has been at an all-time low.
Much has been made this season about the playing budget. I’ve heard that it’s a top third and a bottom 4 budget from different sources. I’ve heard different ways of calculating where we stand based on budgets at the beginning of the season and those adjusted mid-term. I’ve been told by some that 80% of the budget was gone before Mark walked in the door and I’ve been told by others far closer to the cash than me that Mark had the opportunity to remove any unwanted dead wood at the start of his tenure but opted not to. Whatever the truth in among all of this misdirection, the club’s financial position has not been good. As the recent set of accounts filed only last month will show you, the club has been hemorrhaging cash for some time now and simply expecting the owners (old or new) to just pump money down a bottomless pit was never realistic.
It’s clear that Dermot Drummy’s appointment has been in the pipeline for a while now. Many expected Mr Eren to bring in his own man sooner rather than later, but there is an underlying feeling that the recent run of form somewhat forced his hand.
So to Mark Yates I say thank you and good luck. My biggest fear (and I would assume this is true for many) was that we stood a very real risk of relegation from the football league this year. We avoided that and for this I am grateful. I always found Mark a polite, friendly and engaging person whenever I met him and I wish him all the success in the world in his future endeavours. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing him in the opposition dugout sometime in the near future.
And so to Dermot Drummy: This is clearly a gamble by our new owners, but one that looks extremely well calculated. His coaching pedigree is without question one of the most impressive in the market, but the underlying worry for many is whether he can turn his skill at youth development to success in the Football League.
Whilst the rhetoric prior to the game against Dagenham on Saturday was positive, the result followed our now tried and tested formula of: start positive, go to sleep at half time and whimper to a finish. There is clearly some major rebuilding to be done in the summer. Never was the old adage of not being able to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear more true. Dermot Drummy might have a very impressive coaching CV, but no amount of coaching is going to raise the inert ability of our squad overnight. We hear a lot about motivation within a squad, but surely all squads are motivated or at least should be. Motivation alone does not produce results, it needs to be tinged with ability and with the squad we currently have, no amount of motivation is going to make up for the basic lack of ability to win or entertain.
Mr Drummy has already spoken at length about the ability to simultaneously win and entertain. A veritable nirvana for most managers! It’s easy to say, but far harder to achieve in League 2 with a mid-table budget. I wish him all the success in the world next season and beyond, but the jury is very much out right now on this appointment. He will be judged well before the start of next season on the quality of his signings. Normally I wouldn’t want to see this process rushed, but if the apathy regarding season ticket sales had an effect on the hasty departure of Mark Yates, then I doubt we’ll be waiting long for the first name or two.