Suddenly Sol Campbell not looking so silly

Stop press! Ian McParland sacked by Notts County.

After having his job placed “under review” a couple of weeks ago, the final straw for the board was a 2-2 home draw with Torquay leaving the team 5th in League Two, four points off the top.

Now there’s no false statement in the above paragraph, no artistic licence taken, no exaggeration made for comic effect.

So I urge you read it back, and as a fair minded individual try not to cry a silent solitary tear for the soul of football.

I won’t even ask you to imagine trying to work against the backdrop of a club that’s almost overnight become a media circus.

A club where a former England manager is announced as Director of Football, committed to a three year project, but whom I’m prepared to bet my next dole cheque won’t be there by the time we’re all gorging on Christmas dinner two months from now.

The club where that said same Director of Football doesn’t even know who’s bankrolling the club.

I tell you who’s looking like a wise man now where once he was condemned... Sol Campbell.

I wonder if the unfairly-maligned and instantly judged Sol knew more than he let on and read the script early.

I’m already feeling for my mate Ade Akinbiyi, who spoke highly of his manager when we chatted after the Torquay game.

Whatever the truth, McParland appeared to be putting together a 'team' in the truest sense of the word, from the sum of expensively assembled parts.

On the evidence of the televised game against Torquay, they’ve clearly gone down the galacticos route, and built from the front first.

Much money has been spent on the forward line and midfield, but they probably lack no more than a top class centre-half, and were hence exposed by a valiant Torquay side.

Never mind the oft-heard 'project' from the board of directors, it was clearly a work in progress and the next incumbent will be a lucky man inheriting a talented squad until perhaps a year or so from now, when he’ll probably be moved on again.

And what now for Ian?

Well he can come and chat with the rest of us, the Great Unwashed of the rejected football coaching fraternity.

Like modern day Ancient Mariners, we’re forced to spend our days wandering aimlessly, haranguing perfect strangers or writing online blogs to rail against the injustice of it all.

“I used to be in football you know” we shout, to no-one in particular, sipping Powerade from brown bags at the crack of dawn, while people hurriedly cross the road to avoid us.

Come and join our gang Ian, they’re not worth it... by the way do you have the number of the chief executive there, I just wanted to erm… chat about.. erm… hey another cereal bar anyone?

He could do a lot worse than go back to basics, and take in a junior game one Saturday.

Asked to watch a couple of players at an Academy game last weekend, I found myself reluctantly handing over my hard-earned £5.40 to cross the Severn Bridge to watch Cardiff vs Reading U16s and U18s.

As a way of watching some possible future stars of tomorrow, it was a rewarding exercise, but even at this level there are signs that the game’s commercial tentacles are deeply embedded.

I expected to see all the big clubs represented here. Even after the recent 'poaching' scandals involving Manchester United and Chelsea, the fact is that the practice has been commonplace.

I spent a year before becoming manager of Swindon in October 2006 as Head of Youth at the club.

I was told of so many examples that it barely raised an eyebrow, but the idea of players as young as 14 being given boot deals was a new one on me.

Boot deal? 14 years old? I played across three decades for 15 years on this green and pleasant land, and the deal for me was simple: buy own boots, shoot, score, win games, be happy, the end.

Reminds me of that song in the 80s (anyone under the age of 25, look away now!), Too Much Too Young by the Specials. 

Next it will be adverts, presumably for acne!

Boot deals, honestly. Stop the world, I want to get off!

At least the games themselves restored my soul a little. U18 games are generally renowned for their more primal quality. No prima donnas here and no quarter asked or given, it can be fairly attritional stuff.

But amidst the flailing boots and tackles, you could glimpse the Kanu-like fusion of legs, arms and sublime skill in the young centre-forward for Reading, or the calm maturity of Cardiff’s centre-half, who brought to mind a young version of the still-young Jack Rodwell of Everton.

Here was the authenticity I felt, right down to the cup of soup. All present and correct too were the parents in attendance, wildly cheering and supporting their offspring to pursue the goals of kids (and parents) everywhere.

I even saw some wannabee wags, heavy on the lipstick and hair extensions, junior Cheryls and Danielles right down to their tottering stilletoes. It was like X Factor without the tears.

There are some elements around the margins of the 'beautiful game' where the phrase could hardly be less appropriate.

And when money rewards the young before they’ve rightfully earned it, you can only cross your fingers and pray it doesn’t corrupt them.

But if your glass truly is half-full, and if like Ian McParland you’ve been dealt a cruel hand, you can still see the hypnotic pull of it, typically in the faces of the young.

It was nice to go back and see some junior games this week, and if my next move is involved at this level, then it might be a case of back to the future.


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