Wow, it’s Karl

Was Karl Robinson really Tiger’s ‘wow’ appointment? Who knows? We don’t know the scope of his ambition; where ‘wow’ begins and ends. Maybe he was thinking about Patrick Kluivert or maybe someone decidedly more down to earth. Like an erratic firework, a wow appointment could have seen us sparkle in the sky or blow up in our faces.

It was an unfortunate phrase, because there’s no such thing as a wow appointment, every manager carries a risk, virtually no manager has universal appeal – unless its Pep Guardiola (or whoever’s the de facto best coach in the world at that time) or a returning hero (think: Bobby Robson at Newcastle). The only genuine wow appointment for us would have been Michael Appleton.

It was quite conceivable that Tiger would try to appoint a ‘name’, quite a few were bandied about – Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Sven Goran Eriksson, Jaap Stam. Any of those would have been a coup, it would have given Tiger and the club plenty of exposure, but ultimately it would have been a vanity appointment; Eriksson’s farcical reign at Notts County and Teddy Sheringham’s disastrous career at Stevenage should act as a sobering reminder of what typically comes of these appointments.

The idea of David Unsworth or Craig Bellamy would have been very Darryl Eales style appointments. Young, ambitious and thoughtful coaches looking to break into the next stage of their management career. Superficially, these would have followed the mould of Michael Appleton, although that ignores the fact Appleton already had experience as a manager before he came to us.

Whether Tiger was just a bit too liberal with his hyperbole, or whether his ambition was tethered somewhere along the way, Karl Robinson represents a good appointment for us. He has nearly 10 years managerial experience and he’s still only 37. He has a decent track record of success. So, while no managerial appointment is devoid of risk, Robinson is as good a fit as we could hope for.

The next step for Tiger in gaining the confidence of the fans, is establishing a stable, well-funded, foundation on which Robinson can do his work. For all the machinations around MK Dons, their owner runs his club well and Robinson thrived in such an environment.

It’s more than just opening a cheque book; the executive team needs sorting; managing director Niall McWilliams has been absent throughout the management debacle, we can’t have this dithering when signing players. Either Tiger takes over that role, empowers the current incumbent or brings in someone he trusts to do his bidding, but it doesn’t look sustainable at the moment.

There’s work to be done, but that’s in the future. Robinson is a good resolution of a painfully drawn out process; a good start for Tiger. Perhaps we can start thinking about football again.

The aftermath (part one)

I can’t quite yet proclaim myself to be ‘hollow’ or ‘devastated’ as some have since Wednesday. I can’t, however, seem to shake a certain fug. Perhaps it’s the abruptness of the season’s end, perhaps it’s simple overload from Wednesday but something isn’t right.

Where do we go from here, seems to be a common theme. Plenty of unknowns seem to be floating around. Nobody was prepared to fail, I know I wasn’t. So where do we go from here? Well, why not start by assessing where ‘here’ is starting at the top and the management team of (broadly) Nick Merry, Jim Smith and Darren Patterson.

Call it a gamble or a major strategic error; but the decision to bring in players with lots of league experience was the wrong one. League players who can’t get league teams don’t really add up. They are either too old, too injured or just not good enough anymore.

It worked when it worked. But when the injuries came and the gaffer tape holding the Phil Gilchrist together unravelled, we had no plan B, no depth. The assumption from the outset appeared to be that we could last the season with two left backs who have a combined age of 74. It was always going to be a risk.

Nick Merry is a positive force in the club, of that there’s no doubt but he is perhaps a little to wedded to Jim Smith to be totally objective about his management team.

The one component that can make this work is Darren Patterson and the move to make him Assistant Manager was as good one. This season’s team was a core of experienced pros surrounded by a smattering of youngsters, but the formula required may be the complete opposite. Smith is not the strongest tactician in the world; he’s a motivator and networker, an old fashioned wheeler dealer. He has never been a strong teacher and has little pedigree with bringing players up through the ranks. He’s working with players less able than he’s used to and this may be an area in which we’re struggling. Patterson has the experience in the youth team and the qualifications to get the basics across that will turn us into solid unit.

If Patterson was to take up a central role as team manager getting the core right, Smith can use his networks to bring in the one or two experienced pros needed to support the core. There’s no way you would want to lose the experience of Smith if he’s prepared to stay, but a role away from the front line and frustrations of team management could be the solution that’s needed.

Next: the goalkeepers.

Patto the back

So the auction to be assistant manager at Rosie’s testimonial had a serious side, who knows how much Darren Patterson bid, but it must have been a decent whack given he’s secured the job permanently.

A logical move, without doubt. Patterson’s youth team have been absolutely flying, and (say this quietly) – I suspect, had he been in charge at the end of last season we may have stayed up. No criticism Jim Smith; but Patterson was appearing to instil a robustness into the side and would have offered the continuity that was perhaps needed. As Jim said himself, he’s a manager so he was always going to struggle to come in and not influence team direction at such a perilous time.

One of the nagging doubts about the Merry revolution was his assertion that ‘Jim could be manager for as long as he liked’. What would have happened if we’d been languishing mid table this season? This move suggests some succession planning is now being put into place.

The two should work well together; as good a manager as Smith is, he has always worked best in a duo whether it was with Maurice Evans in his first spell at the club, Steve Maclaren at Derby or Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth.

The timing is interesting; Patterson’s reputation is growing and perhaps it’s a defensive move to ward off clubs looking for his services. Perhaps a refresh is needed in the final push for promotion. Perhaps Jim has decided that enough is enough and is preparing Patterson to step up in the summer.