Eyre: 6 months, 7 days, 4 wins
Sunday, 18th Dec 2011 13:53 by Col
Five years ago this weekend, Dale sacked Steve Parkin as we stared down the barrel of the gun of relegation.
That decision could not have been an easy one for Dale Chairman Chris Dunphy. It was a brave decision, possibly the first big decision that Dunphy had faced in his role as Chairman, and it would have been made extra difficult given the relationship between the two men who had worked together for many years.
But it was a tough decision that ultimately proved to be the correct one. Of course, you could argue that we got lucky with Keith Hill proving to be the best manager in the club’s history, but make no mistake, we were only heading in one direction with Parkin at the helm and no amount of hope / backing him vocally / patience would have turned round that season.
Fast forward five years, and we find ourselves in arguably an even bigger hole that we did following that sorry night in Hartlepool. This season, we have looked like relegation certainties pretty much from day one, and despite numerous changes in both personnel and tactics, the end result remains the same with not a shred of evidence of improvement. Put simply, we are heading for the drop and it will require a big decision again from the Chairman to prevent it happening.
You don’t need me to tell you how dire things have been this season, and proper, genuine good performances can be counted on the fingers on one finger. Mistakes have been made and continue to be made in terms of tactics, selections and recruitment, and whilst there are genuine concerns about Steve Eyre’s footballing background and his suitability for a managerial job in League One, it is his performance as manager of Rochdale which is proving to be his undoing.
We are now very much in the territory of “when” the decision is going to be made rather than “if”. Critics would undoubtedly point to the fact that Eyre is only six months into his job as a way of justifying keeping him in his role. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the job that he has done at Dale, and comparisons with Alex Ferguson’s time at United are simply laughable. There isn’t an argument in existence which suggests he is doing a good job.
The precedence is there at this club. In the past thirty years, there have been three seasons where we have found ourselves in genuine relegation trouble in December, and all three occasions saw a change of manager. And whilst its far from being scientific, survival has been achieved in all three cases.
In those seasons, Parkin had just 20 points from 22 games when he was given the boot, Buckley had 26 points from 24 games and Halom had a miserly 14 points from 16 games. Eyre’s record fares even worse than all three.
The timing of the much needed change is crucial, and I don’t believe the club can afford to wait a single day longer than they already have done. Hesitating now will see the Christmas period whistle by and we’ll suddenly find ourselves in the second half of the season with the task becoming more and more uphill. With 51 points the usual benchmark for survival in League One, we are significantly behind target, and we are fast approaching a time where we will require Play Off form the remainder of the season simply to achieve safety. You cannot expect that to happen under a manager with just four wins in half a season to his name.
Delaying his departure will make survival unrealistic, and the long term effects of relegation without so much as putting up a fight to avoid it could be catastrophic for a club that has made such leaps and bounds from the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s. We have rightly garnered a reputation as one of the most progressive clubs in the League, yet are staring into the face of a massive step backwards. The phrase of relegation with a whimper is fast becoming overused.
Heading into the transfer window with Eyre in charge will be the biggest gamble this club has taken in years. With so many of the squad on loan deals, we will at least have the opportunity for a replacement to shape his squad for the remainder of the season. We cannot afford to find ourselves changing manager in February when key decisions over personnel have been taken by his predecessor, especially ones which could be a desperate last throw of the dice.
A thought must be made with regards to the attractiveness of the job to a replacement. As the games tick by, the job of staying up will become more and more difficult, and undoubtedly we will reach a stage where any manager worth his salt will look upon survival as being an impossible task.
At Dale, we have a good club, decent finances, a fantastic chairman + much respected board of directors and an excellent reputation for developing talent, so the job has much to appeal to any prospective manager. If we reach the point of needing snookers, it will become so much easier for a manager to pass on this job and wait for the next one to come along.
Of course, there’ll be a media backlash, especially making such a crucial decision at Christmas. There’ll be some questioning why Eyre has only been given a limited amount of time to turn things round. But the fact is that those defending Eyre are not the ones attending games week in, week out and are those without a vested interest in the club. It’s much easier to defend Eyre from the comfort and warmth of a MediaCity studio rather than a freezing away end at Milton Keynes or Sheffield.
There’ll be talk about how he’s not had the chance to replace Dawson and O’Grady, but the fact is that the club have backed him. No manager in the club’s history has been afforded the opportunity to make twenty signings in search of success, and yet when we talk about our better performers, it is still the likes of Kennedy, Adams, JLAA winning the plaudits from the terraces. Twenty signings in, and the rebuilding task is seemingly an even bigger one that it was in the Summer.
So it’s a big, brave decision required by the Chairman right now, and one which won’t be universally popular, but he will be fully aware that it’s his duty as Chairman to look after the interests of Rochdale Football Club rather than the interests of Steve Eyre. At time of writing, we can still recover from this mess we find ourselves in, but we have to act fast to ensure that history judges this as a blip rather than a turning point for the club.
Not doing so may as well see us throw the towel in right now, and start planning our trips to Macc, Hereford and Fleetwood, and nights like that dreadful night in Hartlepool will again become commonplace. Have the last five years been for nothing?
Photo: Action Images
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