There are all kinds of bad runs that clubs go on, and some of them are not recoverable. Titles go during those runs. Trophies are lost. Morale collapses. Yet managers survive these sometimes, and go on to have success.
We’ve seen it, although it’s rare.
Every reign ends when the confidence of the board is shot, that’s just a football reality. Even the fans in the stands can’t shift a board when they still believe in a manager.
Only one group at a football club can actually get a manager sacked over the wishes of the board, and that group is the players. If they stop wanting to do it for him, it is finished.
Players have too much power. That’s the modern refrain. I don’t know about too much, but that is a power that certainly lies in their purview. Even if the fans still back and like a manager, even if the board wants to keep the faith with him, when the players are no longer willing to go out and fight for him then he doesn’t stand a chance.
The case that everyone recognises as the most egregious example is that of Brian Clough at Leeds.
It is doubtful, on account of his prior comments about them, that he could ever have won that dressing room around, but his conduct towards them made matters worse and he last less than two months. He was the outstanding manager in the country, as he had proved at Derby and would go on to prove at Forest, and the Leeds board knew it.
But once the players decided they weren’t going to play for him it was done.
We saw this happen at Celtic the season before last.
Neil Lennon might still have had control of the dressing room before the night of the Fenerbahçe game, but he certainly didn’t have it afterwards when he torched his players in the post-match press conference. I knew that night that it was over, although it would be weeks before the full extent of it became clear. There was no coming back from that.
When did Van Bronckhorst lose the dressing room at Ibrox?
There’s no way to know for sure, but there have been signs for weeks, several of them, all of them public or semi-public and all of them ignored by the media. A couple of weeks ago, a piece of footage from the training ground showed Colak blatantly ignoring him although Van Bronckhorst was standing right beside him.
Footage from a recent game showed him on the touchline arguing with his captain. Yesterday Kamara refused to join the other players in the dugout after being subbed, and that story is all over the papers today.
There have been rumours, of course, for many months, but these incidents have been in the public domain, along with the flat contradiction of words in several press conferences by members of his squad.
He has dropped McGregor after patchy form and pledged McLaughlin as his keeper and then changed his mind. He has dropped Morelos, very publicly, and then announced him as part of the squad.
He refuses to say why young players like Lowry aren’t in his squads.
The media has been trying not to see this, but the public spat with Kamara yesterday has blown it wide open. Van Bronckhorst has lost the confidence of the players, and they aren’t even pretending to respect him.
If nothing else kills him, that will.