11 March 2014

Heartbreak (part 1)

For the outside world, it will look as if Chris Powell has been sacked beacuse of results and the team's position in the league. This is an injustice. It's becoming clear that Roland Duchatelet always wanted to bring in his own man. 

I had been trying to keep an open mind. When Dale Stephens and Yann Kermorgant were sold in January, I half-closed my eyes and tried to see it as a positive thing: with their contracts running out, it was a chance to get in a bit of cash and build the team either then or in summer.

Now those sales look like part of a campaign by Duchatelet to make Chris Powell's job untenable, to make it so difficult that he'd be forced to walk away. He didn't. A bunch of players were brought in. They may or may not be any good - we still don't really know - but it seemed unlikely that Powell had any say in the deals. He still didn't quit. There were rumours of disagreements over team selections. Key players' contracts remained unrenewed; Powell's contract remained unsigned. He still didn't quit.

Finally, if we are to believe the tweet from Simon Thomas of Skysports, Powell signed.

We can only imagine how humiliating the terms of that contract were. Duchatelet must have calculated that Powell would never sign it. His bluff called, he had to sack him, and presumably pay off the rest of the contract - all two months of it.

Of course Duchatelet is entitled to appoint who he wants. It would have been more honest if he had sacked Powell immediately, but, deliberately or not, the undermining of Powell's position has been reflected in results, giving Duchatelet a figleaf of rationale for the sacking now.

But in the short and long term, I can't see it being anything but a calamitous decision. Managerial changes at this time of the season don't usually work. Teams can sometimes experience a bounce-back when they lose a manager who's lost their respect but that's not the case here.

Most of the squad have contracts that expire in summer. They won't be expecting to be retained. Why should they bother to give anything back to the club? Opponents Huddersfield tomorrow and Millwall on Saturday must be delighted.The loanees will get their chance. Perhaps they'll surprise us all, but anything other than relegation will be astonishing now.

So, back to the third division we go, with all the loss of income that will bring. Financially a disaster, which, with FFP kicking in, may be hard to recover from.

And I haven't even started to cover the emotional response... More to follow.

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