The Untouchable One (?)
At the time of writing Nigel Clough is the fifth longest serving manager in English football.
Over the 4 years and 228 days (as of today) Nigel has been our manager there is no doubt there were numerous occasions where he could easily have been sacked and probably would have been at most other clubs. Indeed he has often been described as “untouchable” by people inside and outside DCFC circles.
Having pondered our start to the season over the last week, I have started to wonder if this is still the case.
When Nigel took over in January 2009, he was greeted with a shambles of a club. A bloated, expensive and underperforming squad, a youth academy that hadn’t yielded a player of note for nearly 5 years and a fan base with zero belief in the club after the humiliation of our record breakingly horrific Premier League relegation.
It was never going to be a quick fix and whilst GSE would talk about the “slow build” Nigel did at Burton, in reality they knew his name would buy time and goodwill from the Rams long suffering fans, which it did.
Whilst it has been a slow and very bumpy journey, there are plenty of ticks in boxes. Our wage bill has been reduced significantly year on year whilst the squad has constantly increased in quality and value. Our youth academy is now widely regarded as one of the best in the country and in Will Hughes and Mason Bennett we have two of the best young players in English Football. Even in terms of leagues positions and points we have got better every year and lets not forget we never got relegated to league 1 when plenty of clubs of similar standing with similar problems did (including Forest & Leicester).
With all of that done and a more than competitive squad in place, we now simply need to start winning football matches regularly and get in the top 6 if not the top 2. Is Nigel capable of winning those tight Championship games on a regular basis to achieve the same?
The Burnley game last week was a massive disappointment. It wasn’t just losing to a bang average team; it was the predictable nature of it, the poor team selection, the late substitutions and the complete lack of a plan B (or at least a willingness to try one).
Pre season, I heard an unqualified rumour that Nigel had “until October”. Yesterday I heard another one saying that he has “3 more games”. There are also constant rumours of other managers being discussed coming from people very close to the club.
Whilst none of this is necessarily true. I do think that Nigel has now done what he was bought in to do and Sam Rush clearly isn’t here to be mid table Championship.
Hopefully we can crack the home form and we will be challenging in and around the top 6 all season. However I think if we have many more days like Burnley, Nigel may find that he isn’t untouchable anymore.