And so the managerial merry-go-round is already in full swing after just two weeks of action in the Football League. Following Steve Coppell’s unexpected resignation and subsequent retirement, it was announced immediately after Saturday’s defeat to QPR that Sheffield United had parted company with manager Kevin Blackwell by mutual consent.
With the Blades finding themselves trailing 3-0 after just 23 minutes, the boos rang around Bramall Lane as the home fans began calling for the manager’s head. An opening day draw at Cardiff followed by defeat in the Carling Cup to Hartlepool and Saturday’s dismal performance has prompted the decision that a parting of ways would be in the best interests of all parties concerned. What is perhaps surprising is the timing of the announcement, coming not just a couple of weeks into a new season, but also immediately after the match.
So was it time for a change at Sheffield United? The former Leeds and Luton boss led the Blades to the playoff final in his first full season at the helm, following up with an eighth place finish last term, just falling short of the end of season lottery. A quick glance at last season’s results shows that United did make a late charge for promotion, with a string of positive results, however the performances were not there. In the modern world of football, where results and performances count for everything, a change was necessary but that does not answer the question as to whether the timing was right. Few would argue however, that two league games into the season is a good time for a managerial switch.
With Blackwell starting the season at the helm, the Blades would have prepared for the season in his way, with his new signings, in anticipation of playing his brand of football. Halfway through August, the board now have a very short space of time in which to appoint a new boss if they are to take advantage of the transfer window, assuming that any funds will be made available for the new man. Mutual consent suggests that this was an outcome with which the board were happy as well as Blackwell. With this in mind, surely this is a decision that could have been made at the end of last season, having fallen short of the playoffs?
Steve Coppell’s retirement from the game was unfortunate in its timing, but it was also a very honest move on his part. It was better for him to stand down sooner rather than later if he could not get motivated by the role. The Blackwell saga is more complex in that it was not exclusively his choice. As fans of the game, we can only imagine how difficult it must be to work in a packed stadium with a large vocal section calling for you to be replaced, and whilst it is honourable on Blackwell’s part to stand down, coming so early in the season, this writer cannot help but wonder if both parties should have considered the decision for a while longer.