The question on every Chesterfield fans lips at the moment is ‘Who will be the next manager?’. Since John Sheridan was relieved of his duties and placed on gardening leave on August 28th, we have all been left wondering what prompted the surprise sacking (and let’s face it that’s what it was) only three league games into the season, consisting of a defeat and two draws, not the worst start to a season by a manager by any means.
To add confusion to the situation the club announced on 3rd October that Sheridan had resigned from his position as manager as of September 18th. Therefore the gardening leave lasted a whole three weeks (no doubt including full pay) while issues with Sheridan were attempted to be resolved, issues that are yet to be made public. In the meantime Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley have been left to get on with the job in caretaker roles while the club tries to close out the sacking of Sheridan and make a decision on who the next manager will be.
To be fair to Tommy Wright he has got on with the job and made a decent claim for the position on a permanent basis. Three defeats in eleven games including a couple of decent performances away from home have done his chances no harm. He has publicly stated he would like the job and has replaced the tracksuit look for a dapper suit and tie, you can’t fault the guys efforts. He himself has sounded his frustrations at a lack of decision on the position and has urged the club to resolve it, one way or the other.
The lack of explanation by the club regarding the sacking has led to many a rumour and theory as to what’s going on behind the scenes. Why is it taking so long to sort out? What were the issues with Sheridan now that were not apparent at the end of last season? Both valid questions that the fans deserve an answer too.
The main theory doing the rounds that makes perfect sense of the current mess is the one regarding Sheridan’s ‘bad contract’. I was at the game at the Keepmoat on Tuesday night which is another story altogether (cancelled trains, owls supporting father-in-law saves the day etc) and spoke to a few fellow Spireites. A claim was repeated that I’d already heard from message board and Twitter gossip. The claim being the contract awarded to Sheridan in the summer of 2011 had a big hole in it. That big hole being the exclusion of a severance clause giving either party a ‘get out’ should things not go according to plan. He signed a deal extending his contract to four years, along with his management team of Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley. At the time things were going well, we’d just won the league and were looking forward to life in League One. As I recall Sheffield Wednesday were looking for a new manager so this maybe influenced the decision to tie Sheridan to the club and issue a hands of to Wednesday.
Fast forward just over a year and things had turned sour. Although Sheridan had received the dreaded backing from Dave Allen following relegation back to League Two, it seemed that backing disappeared after only three league games. I immediately found it strange he was not simply sacked and replaced within a week or two by either Tommy Wright or a new man. The bad contract theory however could explain all. If it’s true then the gardening leave and what seems indecision by the club has obviously been while the compensation Sheridan is due is agreed. By rights he would be eligible to receive the full three years pay left on his contract, a huge cost to the club. Not only that but Wright and Crossley would probably have the same ‘bad contract’, leaving the club financially with nowhere to go other than to stick with what they have.
I’m not saying for one minute Tommy Wright should not be the next Chesterfield manager. It simply seems the club has no choice now due to the financial constraints brought about by a school boy error with the contracts. A certain amount of sympathy has to be awarded to Chris Turner as he tries to resolve the situation with Sheridan and at the same time ensure the next manager is the right long term choice. Allegedly the now retired Barrie Hubbard and current finance director Alan Walters were the masterminds in the contract negotiations. If true, Dave Allen and Chris Turner must be seething at the current situation they are now trying to put right.
Fingers crossed a deal can be agreed with Sheridan that leaves the club with enough money in the budget to bring in a new manager If they don’t think Tommy is the answer. If not then let’s hope together with Mark Crossley he can find a way of getting us out of this league and back to where we were only a year ago. The players seem to have responded to his ideas which has to be applauded.
If these rumours are proved to be true then surely the lesson to be learnt out of this whole sorry saga has to be ensuring a solid and watertight contract is offered to the next manager of our great club. A meeting between Dave Allen and Tommy Wright is apparently just around the corner. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that boardroom, if not to hear the decision on the job but to take a look at the contract thats possibly sat on the table waiting to be signed!
Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.
Dean tweets at @awayend
You can purchase Dean’s book, “The Away End” from Amazon right here.