Should we sack Walter because of this
Alan Doyle provides the case
for Walter Smith,
without invoking the Board of Directors or the condition of the Club
I have seen a lot of negative comment on this website (and others)
regarding the future of Walter Smith and would like to provide a
counterpoint to them.
I sincerely hope that Walter Smith will be our manager for many years to
come. I am both horrified and mystified by the many calls for his head
and would like to explain why.
We can all sympathise with the familiar arguments regarding the financial
constraints that the man is under. We all realise the scale of last
season's unprecedented injury crisis would have ravaged any squad in the
Premiership and severely impacted upon their on-field performances.
For many of us, those facts alone provide sufficient reason to retain faith
in Walter (for now at least). For the less forgiving, I'd like to
discuss football where it matters - performances on the pitch and points in
Many of the calls for Walter's head appear to have stemmed from our
recent "appalling" run of results. Four defeats in a row
means an on-field crisis, which means the Manager must go, right? Well
I'm sorry, but I can't agree. I can't help but feel that Walter's
long-term critics (and every manager has them - I've even seen morons
calling for Alex Ferguson to be sacked) are using these results as a pretext
to whip up a bit of fervour amongst some of the more gullible and malleable
Consider the evidence:
The first in our run of defeats occurred at Old Trafford. There is
no disrespect in losing away to a team who are both the defending champions
and one of the finest teams in Europe. Sure, it's disappointing that
we can't genuinely compete with them at the moment, but we won't be the only
team to be mauled there this season. Only days ago, Ipswich - a team
that qualified for Europe last season, a team that was strengthened over the
summer - fared worse than we did at the hands (or perhaps feet) of a weaker
United side than the one that we faced. Should Smith go because of
that defeat? Of course not.
The second defeat was the Worthington Cup knockout at the hands of
Crystal Palace. Yes, I concede that it was a poor performance against
a side that we really should have beaten. However, in realistic terms,
all that happened was that Palace outperformed us at the footballing
equivalent of Russian Roulette and knocked us out of a second-rate
competition that only the eventual winners pretend to care about. No
other manager will find his job in jeopardy because of a poor Worthington
Cup result. Nobody else gives a toss and nor should we. Should
we sack Walter because of this defeat, then? I don't think so...
The third, and probably most galling, defeat came at the hands of
Liverpool. Quite simply, we were outclassed by a better side. We
all hate losing, especially derbies, but calls for the Manager's head smack
more of wounded pride than footballing realism. The fact is that
passion alone can't help us win these matches any more. It's hard to
admit, but Liverpool have had more quality than us for several years
We cannot expect to be able to compete with Liverpool when Gerard
Houllier can throw around tens of millions of pounds whilst Walter Smith has
to make every single penny count. We have to accept that it will also
remain the case for many years to come. It will take years to build
our new home, longer still 'til we start to reap the rewards that it should
bring, and several seasons more to assemble a squad that has genuine quality
in depth. Who honestly thinks that the Manager should be shown the
door because of this defeat? Not me.
So, how about the most recent defeat, the loss away to Blackburn Rovers,
the so called straw that broke the camel's back? No-one would deny
that the result was disappointing, but the quality of the performance was
highly encouraging. We totally dominated a side that almost managed to
overwhelm Manchester United a matter of weeks ago. We dominated
possession and created more (and indeed better) chances than the home
team. Only a combination of poor luck, poor finishing, and a
world-class performance from Brad Friedel prevented us from taking the three
points that we deserved.
We can't blame Walter for our poor luck. We certainly can't blame
him for an absolutely inspired performance by the opposition's keeper.
Should we therefore blame him for the finishing? I would argue not -
at least not yet. I believe that Walter has acknowledged that we have
problems in that department and has taken steps to rectify the
situation. The purchase of Tomasz Radzinski, a proven goalscorer,
should have addressed our deficiencies in that area were it not for his
unfortunate pre-season injury. As far as I can see, finishing is a
problem that has already been solved, so should we sack the man for a
thoroughly undeserved defeat on a day when the fates conspired against
us? Don't be so bloody stupid.
And so we turn to the League table. Football wisdom tells us that
it never lies, but what truths can it tell us?
Well for a start it says: Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 3. It says Played 6,
Points 7. It says Position 12. To many loyal fans, that actually
makes good reading. You see, if we continue to have a bigger number in
the Points column than in the Matches Played column, then relegation will
not be an issue. Should we remain in 12th place throughout the season,
we will have improved upon last years placing and proved all the pundits'
pre-season predictions of relegation hopelessly wrong. A final
position of 12th would represent irrefutable progress.
Reading between the lines, we can safely say that whilst Everton will
still be found wanting by the genuinely good sides such as Manchester United
and Liverpool (and no doubt in time Arsenal and Leeds) they are more than a
match for the majority of sides in the division. We certainly seem to
be distancing ourselves from our relegation-fodder tag.
However, most of all, the League Table tells us that, if we hadn't been
so unlucky against Blackburn, and if we hadn't been robbed of a victory
against Spurs by some utterly inept refereeing (and let's face it, only the
most blinkered Spurs or Rovers fan would deny that we deserved to win those
matches), we would have accrued 12 points. That's right, if we had all
the points that we should have earned this season, we would currently be sat
in joint 2nd position!
Ask yourself, who would be calling for Walter Smith's head if we were
currently sat in 2nd place, the place that our performances so far this
season have deserved? Who on earth would want a change of management
at a time when there are genuinely tangible signs of light at the end of the
tunnel? Only rabble-rousing fools and the idiots who follow them.
So, on behalf of the genuinely patient fans with a less blinkered view of
the situation, I would like to say to Walter Smith that we understand that
he is doing a very demanding job under very difficult circumstances and that
we appreciate his efforts.
Thanks, Alan Doyle
(Of course I may start to change my mind if West Ham stuff us at the
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