I was hoping in the three weeks that have passed since my last blog I would have something positive to write about. I thought by now we would have picked up a few more points and scored a few more goals and there would be a slight whiff of optimism in the air. Sadly things have gone from bad to worse and confidence on the pitch and in the stands has reached an all time low. We have scored 1 goal in the last month and taken one solitary point, both of which came against Crawley last Friday night. To cap off what has been a thoroughly miserable season so far we have also been unceremoniously dumped out of two cup competitions by sides from League 2. Not only have we been beaten by Burton and Hartlepool but we have been comfortably brushed aside without offering anything more than a whimper.
It pains me to be sitting here with the team in the diabolical state that it is and with our status in League 1 being under threat. When the season started I would never have envisaged that the 1st two months of the season would have turned out as they have. I think I share the views of most Blades when I say the thought of being outside the top 6 at this stage was unthinkable but the dyer league position we find ourselves in at present is incomprehensible.
When appointed, David Weir seemed to tick all the boxes and even after the 1st 2 or 3 games of the season I was confident he could turn things around. As time has passed it has become more and more apparent that he is disappointingly out of his depth and seems to be totally bereft of ideas as to how we might get out of the predicament we are in. The defeat to Hartlepool in the JPT confirmed this more than any other morale sapping defeat to date. We were comprehensively beaten and but for some poor finishing by the visitors, the score could easily have been more emphatic.
Following the embarrassing defeat to Hartlepool, I was hoping our fearless leader would come out and announce his resignation with immediate effect. Having realised this probably wasn’t likely I thought he may at least tell us what went wrong and provide us with a passionate riposte and an insight into how immediate changes would be made before the trip to Sixfields on Sunday. What followed in Weir’s interview with Andy Giddings from Radio Sheffield was unfathomable. Providing short, one word answers throughout and answering questions with the air of a spoilt child who wasn’t getting his own way was not only rude, arrogant and downright ignorant but showed a lack of class that I didn’t think Weir would reduce himself to.
If the result alone wasn’t cause enough to provide David Weir with his P45 then this interview should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was impressed with the professionalism of Andy Giddings who went about his job fantastically despite the curt responses from Weir but it was sad to listen to our manager conduct himself in the way that he did. In that one interview alone he has dragged his own name and more importantly the name of the club through the mud. I hope the hierarchy at the club heard his interview and have reminded him of his duties as a manager and the debt he owes the fans of this club. The least he could have done was provide a professional and courteous summary of the night’s events.
I see no way back for Weir now and I am amazed that he remains in a job. I appreciate that the players haven’t covered themselves in glory but we have a better squad than we had this time last year and we are sat in the bottom 3 of the division. Good players don’t become bad players overnight. Maybe the style of football that has been played this season will work somewhere else but this experiment has now run its course and it is time for the club to take the plunge and cut our losses.
One reason that the club are yet to terminate the contract of Weir could be the lack of an obvious replacement. Having had a look through the list of out of work managers on the League Managers Associations website, it is clear that there are no stand out candidates. The likes of Michael Appleton, Steve Cotterill, Roy Keane and Paul Jewell wouldn’t fill even the most optimistic of fans with confidence. Other jobless managers such as Roberto Di Matteo, Tony Pulis and Martin O’Neil would obviously be miles out of league and not even worth contemplation. As a result it therefore means the board will more than likely have to recruit a manager who is already in a job. Hopefully our new co-owner will be able to provide the funds required to compensate any team whose manager we poach.
Having had a look up and down the leagues there are still no names that jump out and make you think ‘it’s got to be him’ or ‘he would be perfect’. There are a handful of managers that are currently doing a good job at their respective clubs but are unlikely to want to leave their current position. Uwe Rosler had a great 1st season at Brentford but is unlikely to want to come to a club in the bottom 3 in the league and given his relative lack of experience, I don’t think he would be the right appointment. Phil Parkinson may be a safe choice as he has been around the block a bit now and has done a great job at Bradford but I still don’t think he has enough experience of managing a big club or a club with the expectations that would be placed upon him if he was to take the hot seat at the lane.
If I was Kevin McCabe and I was asked to provide a shortlist of 3 managers to present to the rest of the board it would be very difficult but I would put forward the names of Steve Evans, Karl Robinson and…..dare I say it….Neil Warnock.
Steve Evans has done a fantastic job up the road in Toytown and in his previous role with Crawley. Not only has he turned mediocre teams into teams the win promotions and titles (with some cash to spend it has to be said) but he has done so with by playing a brand of football that mixes both entertainment and commitment. When you listen to him you can tell how much each result means to him win, lose or draw which I think would instantly endear him to Bramall Lane faithful. From the outside looking in he would also appear to have the skills to re-energise the players and provide them with the confidence to go out and play in the way they are clearly capable of.
In the summer we were heavily linked with Karl Robinson and at the time I thought he would have been a fantastic appointment. Nothing that has happened so far this season has made me think anything different. MK Dons play a fantastic brand of football and are a joy to watch at times. Last season they didn’t live up to previous campaigns but so far this year they have found another good blend of youth and experience that provides a winning formula. My only reservation with Robinson would be that he has had several attempts at getting MK Dons out of the division and is yet to do so. Would things be any different if he took over from our favourite Scotsman?
None of you need me to tell you why Neil Warnock would be a good appointment for the club and there is no doubt that he would have us in the top 6 of this division come the end of the season. The main problem is that he was drifted into retirement and may be too comfortable sat on his tractor or in the studios of TalkSport to take up another managerial post. I would like to think that the only club that may be able to push him into one final hurrah would be United but I think his frosty relationship with Kevin McCabe may put pay to a return.
Though David Weir will more than likely still be in charge come the weekend, I think it is now inevitable that he will be given his marching orders within the coming days and weeks. All we can hope now is that the right choice of replacement is made and the candidate that is chosen is one of a high calibre and with a vast amount of experience. Has anyone got Danny Wilson’s number?
Written by Ian Parkes, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger
Ian tweets at @ijparkes