The task of a leader is to get people from where they are to where they’ve not been. Henry Kissinger’s words obviously didn’t reach Jackie McNamara.
Dundee United’s manager is on the brink, his tenure now over pending final confirmation from the club [Update: he’s now left]. I’m normally the first to say that managers need time. In Jackie’s case the circumstances outwith his control were challenging, I don’t envy the job he took on. But in truth the writing was on the wall and his departure has been a long time coming. I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner.
I don’t know if Jackie just wasn’t the right fit, if he was desperately unlucky in having to see so many players leave, or if he and his management team were out their depth but whatever the reasons why our relationship never worked out, don’t let emotion get in the way of fact. Which is why the Bring back Jackie Mac!! petition to reinstate him is all the more puzzling. Funsters.
Those teams who have fared best in the Scottish Premiership so far this season are those who’ve made fewest changes to their starting line up in the first game in August 2015 compared to the corresponding fixtures last season, and who at the same time have shipped out more players than they’ve signed. Now I’ve hit 40 my Saturday nights aren’t filled with as much excitement so I spent time doing a little analysis, so believe me, it’s a fact.
There’s obviously more to this than meets the eye but this indicates why keeping your starting line up as consistent as possible while replacing the weakest members of your squad are key ingredients for success. For United, only John Rankin was the sole survivor in the August 2014 line-up to grace the field on 2 August 2015. No other team had the same or more number of changes, other than Partick Thistle who are sitting rock bottom two points below. Notably, however, every team made changes, in excess of seven on average in fact. So why is it United who are so much more badly affected?
Of the starting team that infamously beat Dundee 6-2 at Tannadice on 1 January 2015 only Rankin and two others, Erskine and Dillon, remain at Tannadice ten months on. It’s been a tumultous year. Off-field issues including a challenging financial landscape have led fans to question the Board’s commitment and the bonuses paid to the management team for selling players on, and other matters and internal politics that have angered many. Sprinkle on top controversy about the timing and handling of the decision to sell our best players in January and it’s a bleak picture. But in some ways that’s football. It happens. Most fans don’t know half of what goes on behind the scenes at any football club. Me neither to be fair. The arguments. The punches. The banter. The scandal. The prima donnas. The meddlers. The money men. The agents. Luggy’s new book might be an interesting read…
A true leader in the dugout needs to deal with all of that, making sure players’ minds are focused. I read Daily Record blogger Derek Keilloh state that United fans: “…are not unrealistic. We know we do not have the best squad in the league. We know we don’t have the worst one either.”
That’s a fair point but I’d contend, given the state of Scottish football, United should be challenging teams at the top end of the table not just settling for accepting somewhere in the middle. Let’s consider United allegedly have the third biggest player budget in the top flight and in my humble opinion have a number of very talented players including in Fraser a future Scotland captain in Armstrong’s mould.
I really do believe United can kick on and get their season back on track. It’s not too late. But to get there we need a little stability. And a bit more dig.
Consistency Consistency Consistency
Only once since McNamara fielded the same team in the 2-2 draw away to Partick Thistle on 4 January that inhiliated Dundee on New Year’s Day have the same players taken to the field two league games in a row. That was back at the very start of May when we were beaten away by Aberdeen and then Caley.
I understand young players are inconsistent and know injuries happen but it seems to me Jackie just didn’t know his best team. This is fatal for any Manager especially under pressure. Players want to play, they don’t want to be in one week and out the next. We aren’t Manchester United, constant team rotation just won’t work. But what will work is, just like Manchester United, putting faith in players to perform supported by a few solid seasoned professionals. That means giving them a run in the team.
Lack of tactical sophistication, no Plan B, no clear first 11, and no confidence has taken United to one of their worst runs in a generation. Whoever the Board bring in they have a job on their hands but there’s enough potential with which to work to turn this season round – we’re only nine games in.
I’d settle to begin with for someone who’s decisive, tactically astute, and with excellent man-management skills. Madly waving and remonstrating from the sidelines isn’t necessary but it helps. As long as they’re not waving goodbye just as soon as they’ve arrived.
Arabest for the future Jackie and thanks for the memories. I look forward to the book…
Photo credit: Kenny McDonald @MarCommsKenny