As a football fan you are bound, at some point, to witness people’s careers come to an end in gruesome ways. And sometimes someone is denied the fate that you thought was certain in the moment it seemed most likely, only to soldier on until something fairly innocuous brought it to an end. This city has actually provided numerous examples.
John Barnes tenure as Celtic boss came to a grotesque end, as his team collapsed and the dressing room imploded during his first season. The Inverness game was what did it, but you got the impression that it had been coming from before then. He was so far out of his depth that it was scary; Celtic moved fast to stop the bleeding though.
And we kind of always have. When Tony Mowbray floundered that night at Love Street, you could see that the writing was on the wall. Just the look of the man told you that he was done, and there has never been a more public, or awful, fall from grace. The 4-0 beating left no doubt in a single person’s mind. He had to go, and within a day he was gone.
How does a club react when a manager has to go but is still in pole position to win the league? We answered that too, giving Ronny the classiest send-off imaginable whilst also understanding that there was no room for sentimentality when it came to the final decision. We did what had to be done; it was ruthless but it was necessary.
I’ve watched Sevco flub these decisions time and time again. They lack bottle. They are bad at wielding the knife. They spurned numerous opportunities to sack McCoist before the damage got too great and Warburton should have gone the night Hearts routed them. He was allowed to carry on. Nothing will ever be more hilarious to me than that Pedro Caixinha survived the single worst result a Scottish club has ever experienced, when Progres knocked them out of the Europa League. Yet he was allowed to carry on well into the season.
And what finally brought his tenure to an end? Not routings against Celtic, which alone could have seen him jettisoned; no, it was a ferocious last minute at home against Dundee, when with a single goal lead they got a penalty, missed it, and the away team went up the park and scored. Had Sevco scored the penalty, who knows how long he’d have lasted?
There is nothing worse for a manager than letting others define what success is. Every boss is victim to that, to a certain extent, but Ronny was probably shocked to learn that winning the SPL would not be enough and that a semi-final defeat at the hands of a lower league team put the writing on the wall. Warburton must have seen the end coming, but he and Caixinha had something in common; they allowed their fate to be measured against unrealistic goals.
I read Graeme Murty’s interviews this weekend and I wondered how he could ever have fallen into that same trap? It was patently obvious that Sevco’s team was not up to challenging Celtic effectively, nor even of putting clear blue water in front of Aberdeen for the second spot. Anyone who watched them this season knew that.
That guy has allowed himself to become the scapegoat for the failings of the board, but he’s also allowed himself to be whipped simply because he cannot do the impossible. You’d think they had lost last week to Motherwell or St Johnstone to read the over-reaction on the forums and to see it as it was today in the stands. King himself put the manager under scandalous pressure by virtually demanding he secure a result against the best team in the country.
And this week that pressure will be turned up again, before they come to Celtic Park. It’s now “Operation: Stop The Title Party.” It is ridiculous that he has allowed this to happen, but I would feel sorrier for him if he hadn’t willingly participated in the charade.
All four of the King era bosses have done this, and so did McCoist before them. They let themselves be bullied into making impossible promises, or they embraced the supremacy themselves and they talked up the team and its chances. Who can forget Pedro arriving in Glasgow and, to the glee of the media and the slobbering of the Sevco fans, telling the country he had the best players in the league? But Warburton sung a variation of the same tune and this joker has gone right along and done it as well … and all of them were hung for it.
Murty will be gone by season’s end, and mostly because he cannot meet this over-blown standard those above him and in the stands believe in. They will be looking for a new manager before we play in the treble-deciding Scottish Cup final, and if I might be so bold as to offer the Sevco board one piece of advice (which they wouldn’t take) I’d say this;
When they are doing their interviews they should be wary of anyone who promises miracles. Because that person is a blow-hard who can’t be trusted. If they have any sense they’ll hire someone who comes into the process with a realistic outlook; team building is a long term project, and that’s how any halfway decent manager would approach it.
The board has no interest in that. They will demand those instant results; King has already said so. Which means that any halfway decent manager will run a mile before accepting a post where those at the club labour under such a delusion. It is a job fit only for the desperate or the mad, which explains Warburton, who’s entire career amounted to a season at Brentford and Caixinha who was off-the-scale nuts and probably believed in all the jibberish that came out of his mouth, vampire analogies and all. We know Murty thought all his Xmases had come early.
But what that guy realised, standing on the touchline at Hampden last weekend, was that the game had not only killed his chances of the Sevco post but had probably inflicted long-term damage on his career. And in spite of how I feel about the man – I think he’s a bona fide idiot for agreeing to be someone else’s lightning rod – he does not deserve that.
Ibrox is no place for a manager, any manager, to prove himself or get himself back on a winning track; it is a graveyard of ambition, a junk-room of goals and dreams and hopes. God help the next person who voluntarily takes that step; under the current conditions, it is nothing short of career suicide.
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