by Andy Robinson
With last weekend being an International break and England having done their bit on the Friday night the following afternoon left me with very little choice in order to get my football fix. I could stay at home and watch the Scotland game or I could venture out and watch my local non – league side in the FA Cup qualifying first round. It had been a long time since I had ventured to Cantilever Park to watch Warrington Town. The last occasion was to see the under 19’s take on Lincoln City in an FA Cup Youth tie and one of my mates “Jacko” managed to get embroiled in a big row with Lincoln’s manager, the late Keith Alexander over “serious foul play” (trust me I haven’t got time to explain). After paying what my friend Colin described as an astronomical sum of £8 to gain admission we decided to stand and not sit and found ourselves two yards from the home dug out. I then had the misfortune to witness the world’s worst football manager in action; and I am old enough to remember what Malcolm Allison did to Manchester City the second time around.
Warrington’s opponents for the day Maine Road from a division below seemed to be made up almost entirely of sixth formers and they played a neat and tidy passing version of the game. Warrington, another young side but with a couple of obligatory older heads at centre-half and a burly Lee Hughes lookalike at centre forward, played a poor version of Man United’s 4 -4 -2. At least I presumed that was the system – it was so hard to tell as every time one of his players ventured out of this set-up or made a slight error he was given a tirade of abuse from Mr Manager. With less than 10 minutes played I actually started to count the blasphemies. By the full time whistle we had 9 “c***s”, 23 “f***s” and 11 “t***s” and I had lost count of the “w*****s”. The first half which was a dull affair with little goalmouth action saw most of this abuse directed at the left back and the kid on the left playing out wide. Other gems of wisdom emanating from the manager were “knock it down the line” and if a player had time on the ball -“travel”. Late in the first half after miss –controlling a pass the manager dragged off and substituted Warrington’s only midfield player. With Maine Road’s passing style knocking the ball around him and his central midfield partner playing far too deep as practically a sweeper and Warrington’s defenders hoofing it up for a Lee Hughes knock down or out wide to the wingers it was hardly a surprise. I am sure the kid was glad to get off. However Mr Manager didn’t even look at the lad or say a word as he reached the dug-out. Not one word and it’s an embarrassing, soul destroying before half time substitution remember.
Early in the second half Warrington went down to 10 men and it was here the game changed. The totally indecisive Mr Manager first of all pushed the left-back forward going to a 3 -4 – 2 but within minutes and after nearly conceding twice he dragged the lad back again as he went 4 – 3 – 2. The improvement in Warrington’s play however wasn’t down to tactical switches or anything the coach had done – it was due to these two young lads mentioned earlier specifically being away from the manager in the dug-out and using that freedom to play. All Warrington’s limited attacks started from the left-back and the winger – a speed merchant who had nothing but stick in the first half now dominated the play and possession by drifting inside and holding up the play becoming his side’s first port of call. Warrington scored a belter of a winner with nine minutes to go and as the sixth formers tired badly in the sunshine they never looked in trouble.
Mr Manager wasn’t finished though. With minutes remaining he had a talking to from the referee about holding on to the ball when it went out of play and then a few minutes after that as the ball went out of play again he kicked it into the crowd. So I was fortunate enough to see the most deserved red card since Cantona thought he was Jet Li. Mr Manager wouldn’t go though; insisting that he was trying to give the ball back to the opposition. “You are sending me off for having a bad touch” he screamed repeatedly and so did his cronies a few yards from us. He should have gone an hour earlier for persistent foul language at the officials which really offended my friend as small children were well in earshot.
When I got back home I looked up Mr Manager on Wikipedia. Shaun Reid, younger brother of Peter and with a wealth of experience in the game. Over 400 appearances for Bury, Chester, York City and Rochdale where he was once short listed for the manager’s job. He has also had coaching roles at Swindon Town and Plymouth. You can only guess at his contacts in the game but I bet you wouldn’t be far out if you included the names Pulis and Allardyce both former team mates and coaching partners of his brother and along with Peter Reid football’s biggest exponents of the long ball and bitching about refereeing decisions. I also have a story in my locker about the disgraceful treatment dished out to a reserve team player at Bolton by Fat Sam just because the kid didn’t fancy a pint on a club tour but that’s for another day.
The cherry on the cake in all this is that Shaun Reid is actually in possession of a EUFA “A” Coaching Badge.
Now I am not a football coach and I have been told to be careful what I say as Warrington Town were unbeaten this season until this weekend but I am an experienced manager in another line of work and a good one too with a hell of a lot more staff than Shaun Reid will ever have. Long or short term – bullying, terror tactics and abuse of personnel is the fastest way to losing the respect of your staff and ultimately a loss of control and the sack. You encourage, cajole, work on weakness, promote and develop your young people to get the best out of them – you don’t call them the “C” word.
The next time you read an article in a paper or watch “Supplement” on Sunday morning and they bemoan at the lack of British managers given a chance at one of the top jobs think about what can go on at the breeding ground for younger managers at the lower levels in the game and more specifically what they can get up to or get away with. Reid may be a one off but I fear that he isn’t.
Hopefully Dan Ashworth with his fancy new job title and the new St George’s Park facility can go a long way to addressing this issue in the lower echelons of the game and raise the bar as far as coaching is concerned because from my view last Saturday afternoon the game certainly needs it.