So once again, for the third time in around 18 months, Crawley Town are without a manager, this time seemingly of our own accord. The termination of Richie Barker’s contract came as a shock, despite the rumours about him taking the Portsmouth job gathering pace. The 38 year old had done a fantastic job with limited resources and a small squad, so to see him go comes as a blow and you have to wonder who realistically can we attract who will continue his good work?
The reasons for his sacking are as yet unclear, though you suspect it is closely linked to that vacant Portsmouth job. He became immediate favourite for the job (as short as 3-1 with some bookmakers) and the rumours did leave me feeling slightly uneasy, though when he took charge of last night’s 0-0 draw with Swindon it seemed business as usual and there was no indication that today he’d find himself (perhaps only for a short time if he does go to Portsmouth) out of a job. Whilst it does come as a shock, if it does turn out that he breached his contract by discussing the job with Portsmouth without permission, in my view that’s inexcusable and the sacking fully justified- for any other reason and I fear the board have lost their minds, because as I mentioned earlier he was doing a fantastic job all things considered and sacking him at this time of the season could prove to be an awful decision. Another thing that’s unclear is whether his backroom staff will follow him out the door- there’s been no word on that so far and it appears the club have, for now, adopted a ‘no comment’ policy so it could be a few days until more becomes clear.
As for what next, well who knows who the board have in mind? To me there are very few stand out candidates who are realistic, but the one name that does come to mind is Exeter’s Paul Tisdale. He likes to get the ball on the ground and is a forward thinking, bright young manager who’s well thought of by those who know him, but one issue will be the compensation- we’re hardly flush with money and I’m sure any new manager would want what little (if any) we do have to be put towards transfers. Another potential candidate is Steve Coppell, who is currently Director of Football at the club and I think would be a sensible choice to lead the club forward, at least in the short term whilst a new manager is sought out. He knows the squad and has had a hand in recruiting a fair few of them so he’d be good for continuity, though I said that last two times when Steve Evans and then Sean O’Driscoll departed and it didn’t materialise then.
What’s more likely, I suppose, is that Coppell will help the board pick out a new man to take the club forward, as he did when Evans and then O’Driscoll left (if memory serves me correctly). One man who would be perhaps a bit of a gamble but a popular choice with most fans is Gary Alexander. The 34 year old striker joined in March of last year and whilst he has no managerial experience, he has the respect of the players and has indicated a desire to go into coaching or management at some point in the future, and at least in an interim role it might be a risk worth taking. Often however you do see a senior player take up the job in an interim role, do well initially before being given the job and then it all falling apart, and to say it would also be a challenge for him to cope with being a player-manager would be an understatement.
Ideally any new manager would be in place by the time we face Crewe on Saturday but rushing into an appointment is far from the best idea and getting the right man for the job will take time and sometimes 3 or 4 weeks can pass before a new manager is named. Whoever gets the job though will have the full backing of the fans and board, and whilst it’s not a nice position for the fans or club to be in sacking the manager is only one half of the process- get the right name in and suddenly it could become an inspired decision.
One way to look at it is that it’s an exciting new chapter in the club’s history, and whoever does come in has a young, talented squad to work with, capable of playing some fantastic football at times (see Wolves away, where we lost 2-1 despite putting in a magnificent performance and tearing them apart at times). If I’m honest though, I didn’t foresee us being in this situation when I wrote my pre season blog on the dawn of this season… then again, I did say it promises to be eventful. We’ve not been let down so far…
Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger
Louie tweets at @louie_j_e