A menacing by Magpies & a dinner with Digger

Another week, another victim: welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the fickle fate of football management.

Mike Newell of Grimsby is the latest to fall in the Month Of The Long Knives, where nervous directors gauge the mood, scan the horizon and then opt for the nuke option!

I’m in danger of sounding like a managers' apologist, embittered by experience, a lone crusader for this increasingly endangered species.

I was happy to be shaken out of my comfortable reverie of literary bliss last week as at last my blog invoked the fury of Notts County fans as I attempted to defend the honour of the late – in management terms – Ian McParland.

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I spluttered into my coffee and all but abandoned my morning fill of Jeremy Kyle and Homes Under the Hammer as I reeled from the blows and heavy artillery dropped from Robin Hood country with menacing intent.

It brought to mind the fondly held chant of crowds up and down the country: “It’s nice to know you’re here, it’s nice to know you’re here, it’s nice to know you’re here, now...”(I imagine you’re familiar with the subsequent sex-and-travel advice offered!)

All I was saying about McParland was that if they thought he was the best man for the job back in July, he should have been given more time.

Had the new regime decided in summer that they wanted a new man, that would have been dangerously like common sense and long-term planning - making the decision three months later, with the team fifth in the table, smack of exactly the opposite.

Mike Newell's case is different, both in terms of the length he’d been at the club and its league position.

He’s a good guy, Mike, and I feel sorry for him like anyone in that position – but I’m sure that, as honest as he is, he would have known the repercussions for being down near the bottom.

In that case it’s not too difficult to understand the Grimsby board’s decision either.

I suppose it’s just the fact that a year isn’t a long time in any job, and he’s got a good track record to boot.

I must just be getting soft in my old age, or have spent too long in the company of good football people.

It was just such the case last week as I enjoyed a day out in London meeting with some of the bodies in the game to discuss the way to increase the participation of more black coaches in the senior game.

"Oh no, not the race card too," I hear you say.

Well, fearlessly treading where angels fear to go... it was actually a very positive meeting.

Much was made of the strides made in recent years and the fact that all advances such as these take time.

As noted by John Barnes (very eloquent, also recently sacked), when the likes of Theo Walcott finish their careers, it should barely be an issue anymore.

I might also add a personal view for the record.

We’re essentially talking about a niche industry here. There are literally thousands of qualified and experienced coaches of all backgrounds out there chasing 92 jobs plus the same number of assistants.

Let’s face it, they’re not great odds, whatever the colour of your skin. As ever, good luck to all, both in and out of work, including Your Correspondent. See, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

It was nice talking to JB (oh stop sniggering at the back, we’ve always been close!) about his experiences both at Tranmere and at Celtic before that.

And it made me think it may be a blessing in disguise that I was a jobbing pro instead of a garlanded international with a cupboard at home groaning under the weight of medals.

Eh? Well, John Barnes was one of the finest footballers of his generation, so obviously much more was expected of him than would ever be expected of a journeyman like me.

You can also factor in the likes of Tony Adams at Portsmouth, Paul Ince at Blackburn and Roy Keane’s present troubles at Ipswich.

Maybe after the success of coaches with no great playing CV – Mourinho, Wenger, Benitez, even McParland's old boss Eriksson – media and fans alike don’t expect great players to succeed.

See, there was method in my madness all along.

And there’s a rich irony there, too. For their extravagant gifts, the footballing gods bestowed huge talent, success and financial rewards to the great and the good players.

Surely it would be too much to also give them nous, man-management, tactical acumen and (stand up Diego Armando Maradona) luck as well?

So as I sat there enjoying a skinny latte with John Barnes, winner of 70-plus England caps and one of the most widely respected players of the last 30 years, I could at least be content.

Because although the likes of me toiled away at the coalface struggling to control a beach ball while his type was capable of trapping a tennis ball seemingly in his sleep, it’s comforting to know that the Big Guy upstairs does eventually redress the balance.

“Two sugars with a little milk please John, old boy. Now tell me again: why weren’t you as successful playing for England as you were for Liverpool?

“John? John? Where are you going? We haven’t even opened the biscuits!”

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