Schtick it to ’em, Schteve

by , September 5, 2011

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: ambitious manager seeks to resurrect reputation and career at second tier club, also with aspirations to restore former glory; a short while into this apparently made-in-heaven match, ambitious manager discovers that the club might not be prepared to bleed cash in order to bolster the squad to the extent he deems necessary to secure promotion. Sound familiar?

You might think the questions to be asked here are – what was Steve McClaren promised by the Forest board in terms of investment when he took the job on? Has that promise been reneged upon? Or has there just been a breakdown in communications? Was Billy Davies right all along? Does the board lack ambition?

You might alternatively ask yourself how you would feel as an employee in any organisation where a succession of managers made public their opinions that you weren’t up to the job in hand. And then expected you to bust a gut for them week in, week out. Have either McClaren or Davies given a thought to how their dummy-spitting regarding the quality of the players currently available to them goes down in the dressing room?

I’m no football manager, but at times it occurs to me that what Forest’s players have lacked over the past two seasons is not the necessary quality to get the club into the top flight, but the self-belief. It’s a fine line between success and failure. But did Blackpool and Swansea really succeed at our expense because they had bigger and more expensively-assembled squads? Er…no. How to explain that a defence which has been solid and mean for the past two years now looks inept? The line-up hasn’t really changed.

It’s the laziest excuse-making in the book for any manager to claim he’d have achieved more if he’d had better players. If McClaren had snapped up half the Barcelona squad on a season-long loan during the transfer window, I dare say we’d all be feeling more confident about our chances of promotion. But there comes a point when managing is about more than just buying the players you want. Sometimes you have to be able to get more out of the players you have.

If Schteve was promised £10 million to splash out in August, then the board clearly have a case to answer. Some of the departures in the summer have weakened the squad, but not all, and it’s still essentially the same group of players which has made the play-offs in the last two seasons without really ever getting into top gear for more than a few games on the bounce.

What better way for him to stick it to his critics than by giving those players the self-belief to go a step further this time around?