To sack or not to sack


‘To Sack or Not to Sack, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end!’

Sorry to butcher the once proud words of Hamlet, but it really is rather apt for the situation Scunthorpe United find themselves in.

I thought it was time for a blog from the club in League One who are arguably under-achieving to a greater extent than all others (no offence to Preston North End fans)… and let me get this absolutely spot on – I absolutely hate clubs sacking managers, especially my own!

I didn’t agree when Scunthorpe harshly dispensed with the extremely popular Ian Baraclough last season: and I wouldn’t have agreed with sacking Alan Knill throughout this season, but enough is enough and it may be time to go.

Don’t get me wrong – as an individual, I’m arguably more supportive than your average home fan: haven’t booed once this season and won’t be starting just yet! Indeed, this very author has sang in favour of Alan Knill at every single away game this season: bar none. So when I turn round, and with a very heavy heart – and admit that it’s maybe the time for a parting of the ways: it clearly shows it all. What a Christmas present for us all eh!?

We’ve all seen the League One table. We know that lack of investment post the departures of Gary Hooper, Paul Hayes, Grant McCann, Matt Sparrow, Nigel Adkins and Martyn Woolford has a big part to play – but the fans still deserve better than this. And more importantly, we all know that Scunthorpe United: post-relegation, sitting thirdrd bottom post Christmas, is simply unacceptable.

The players themselves must take a huge share of the responsibility and blame for this. When they compare their bank balances to the league table, they ought to hang their heads in shame. For it is their performances, and their shocking mental fragility and at times – spinelessness that will cost Knill, and very possibly – his coaching staff, their jobs. Not the other way around.

The first half performance at home to Bury on Boxing Day, was absolutely excellent – but this only serves to highlight the side’s desperate problems. For if every time the Iron concede, there is going to be a mental and physical collapse of epic proportions – then nothing awaits but League Two. This is simply unacceptable.

A chunk of the players will no doubt be rightly moved on in January and had the team been just a bit higher up the table than where they currently are, this blog – and no doubt the lion’s share of the supporters – would have wholeheartedly supported Alan & co. whilst restructuring accordingly.

But sadly, we may be in too much of a hole, and in far too deep – that Alan may not make it that far. Whether either Assistant Manager Chris Brass or Goalkeeping Coach Neil Cutler, (whom Knill both brought to the club alongside him when he walked out of Bury to join Scunthorpe in March this year), also remains to be seen. It appears to hang in the balance.

So we also thus fear that it may be time for a change of manager, as much as we absolutely loathe the possibility and detest the action. But frankly – we may have no choice. No other club would have possibly been as patient as Scunthorpe United under the circumstances. Christ, Hartlepool dispensed with the very respected Mick Wadsworth whilst sat in mid-table: and Preston did exactly the same to Phil Brown. The club have given Alan time, and rightly so – for it is only with time that anything resembling positive achievements can be grasped by any football club. You cannot purely sack your way out of trouble.

But we cannot give Knilly infinite time, and with us one game from being halfway through the season – Scunthorpe can’t seem to buy defensive strength or even a win for love, money or murder – these are worrying times indeed for the Iron.

Sat with a worse record than previous manager Ian Baraclough’s (now first team coach to Sam Allardyce at West Ham United) and with arguably a better squad given the League they’re playing in – Knill can consider himself fortunate to an extent – to have got this far.

Indeed, it appears that – much to the Shakers’ fans’ disappointment: that he has just about survived the severe blow recieved when his former club Bury rocked up on Boxing Day and beat Scunthorpe 3-1 to send them crashing into the relegation zone. I have a lot of sympathy with the Bury fans, whom – distraught that their manager left them with only eight games left and on the verge of promotion from League Two – they’re now more than welcome to enjoy their time above he and his club in the table.

But frankly – and regardless of how loud she was in bed, (that’s how the song went!), rather risque chants about Alan Knill’s daughter went far too far over the line. For the otherwise excellent 1,000 strong contingent from East Lancashire – really did embarass themselves. I’ve not been so dismayed about away fans’ behaviour since Grimsby Town rejoiced at the suicide of Brian Laws’ first wife.

But if against all odds, Knill & co. can make it to the game against bottom of the table Chesterfield on New Year’s Eve: then it is a must-win game if ever there was one. Indeed, if the North Derbyshire side were to avoid such a fate at Glanford Park, the board would surely have no choice whatsoever as to sack him sadly. It breaks my heart to type it, but it’s true.

So it appears that the once-styled Ginger Mourinho hangs by a thread to his job in North Lincolnshire. If that thread is sliced, or if: against all logic, hope and evidence – the mouse can churn the milk into butter and float to avoid death – remains to be seen. But the judgement is likely to be extremely close to hand.

And nobody should be arrogant enough to think that successive relegations are out of the question. Plymouth appear to be on for a three-fold achievement, and Grimsby – who weren’t even in Plymouth-style financial armageddon territory – did it as well.

So the previously incomprehensible must now not be so. Indeed, it is staring Scunthorpe in the face.

We as fans would love nothing more than for Alan to be here for the next decade and for the club to be wonderfully successful in the process, but if they can’t pull the rabbit out the hat and find a run of wins from somewhere: he’ll be heading back west across the M62 with his P45 in his jacket pocket.

But who could replace him you’re no doubt screaming? Frankly, I think it inappropriate to speculate on successors whilst Alan is still in a job.

And whilst certain tiny minorities may think it wise to protest – arguing, not even at Christmas, has never solved any problems. Ever. It only ever serves to inflate certain morons’ already unduly giant egos: and must be avoided at all costs. The support for all was there to see during an excellent first half – but the players have got to learn to produce it for two, and to take three points in the process. Easier said than done judging by the evidence so far mind you!

But if the worst comes to the worst – I do believe that there are qualified, and interested alternative successors available out there. Be they managing in League Two, the Conference – or just plain out of work.

But let’s pray it doesn’t come to this. And the clash against bottom of the table Chesterfield is the type of game, above all else: which calls for unity and support. If Knilly makes it to Saturday still an employee of Scunthorpe United FC, then we must get behind him and the players, and just pray for a win.

Because by jove – we f**king need one…

Written by Max Bell, We Are Going Up’s Scunthorpe United blogger

Max tweets at @UseTheLeftWing


  • Craig Morley says:

    As a Bury fan, there are a handful of points I’d make in response to those raised above. Firstly, I agree that sacking managers is not the way to dig yourself out of a hole. There ultimately has to come a point when the sack is the only way to go but not after only 9 months in the job. Secondly, Alan Knill turned Bury FC around. Where we are now is largely down to the foundations he laid, foundations that have been built on by the impressive work of Richie Barker and Peter Shirtliff, but foundations that are all of Knill’s making. The fortunes – and performances – of the team were set on an upward course within 2 or 3 games of Knill taking the reins at Gigg Lane and once the bitter taste of his departure had faded, I was convinced that he would do the same for Scunthorpe. I’m still not quite sure why things haven’t worked out that way for him and his team. I’m sure that, given more time, he will arrest the slide and get the ship back on course. The question is, how much time will he be given? Finally, I had the misfortune to be seated amongst the morons who were chanting their own brand of abuse at Alan Knill and his family. As with most clubs, the minority spoil it for the majority!

    As much as most Bury fans were unhappy at the manner of Knill’s departure, most wouldn’t begrudge him success in Lincolnshire…if they were honest!

  • MaximumIron says:

    I think you’re spot on with a lot of your analysis there Craig: and to be honest, I think it’s what has guided the board and the supporters to thus far: whereas many wouldn’t have given Alan the time.

    But back to back relegations is simply unthinkable, it’d be an absolute disaster for the club and all concerned – they may have to take all concievable measures possible to avoid it.

    And as much as it hurts me to say it: that may have to be sacking Knill. I was prepared for a solid season of consolidation – and would have said that the management team had done a good job in the process had they done so.

    The one thing we are not prepared to tolerate, (and theoretically: with this group of players, it ought to be unthinkable), is relegation. And since that looks a very real possibility: we might have to do something about it. Sadly.

    Anyway: hope you all liked the article nonetheless!

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