Alan Biggs: Bosses must be backed not sacked

Alan Biggs Telegraph
Alan Biggs Telegraph
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Well, that’s a first in my experience. Significant numbers of fans at BOTH Sheffield clubs calling for the manager to be axed before the leaves start falling from the trees.

Mind you, football’s sack race is every bit as seasonal as the weather and Paolo Di Canio won’t have the field to himself for very much longer.

Autumn is when the starting pistol goes off; that’s the sad reality of it all and every manager knows it.

So does every fan and every journalist, which is why attempting to ignore the issue here would require the mugshot at the top of this page to be buried under a very deep pile of sand.

Imported from Saudi Arabia or elsewhere!

But let me say from the off that, to the best of my knowledge, there is absolutely no appetite in either boardroom to bow to a clamour that can be artificially amplified by the more vociferous.

Milan Mandaric wants to hand over a tight ship to a new Hillsborough investor, not rock the boat.

Kevin McCabe and his new partner know that credibility is on the line at Bramall Lane just eight games into the reign of a sixth manager in six years.

Which is not to say that heads can’t roll.

Results decide eventually and those of both Wednesday and United are currently unacceptable.

Neither club can countenance a relegation battle.

Begging Dave Jones’ pardon, a question over the flak he was getting from fans after an abject defeat at Birmingham was, in my opinion, neither “stupid” nor “silly” even at this early stage.

The natives are indeed restless and I’m on record here that I don’t expect Mandaric to tolerate another toil against the drop.

Jones has to be vulnerable. He needs more impact from his players, the ones he has signed rather than the reliables he inherited from Gary Megson.

Hopefully, the latest, Stephen McPhail, can liberate Wednesday’s matchwinners.

Where Jones has been unlucky is the constant disruption to an ever-changing defence that caved in at St. Andrews.

This is still an experienced, proven boss. Another thing. On Jones’ budget, I reckon it’s fair to look at mid-table, no higher.

If he can get them there, the question can be withdrawn, though you sense there is not much leeway beyond Saturday’s highly pressurised Hillsborough derby with Doncaster.

On paper, at least, Wednesday’s home programme has been a big opportunity missed so far... that first win can’t wait that much longer.

Time is pressing for the Blades, too, but a tough trip to Kevin McDonald’s Wolves should not be defining for David Weir.

Respected judges tell me last Saturday’s display against Preston North End at Bramall Lane was similar (and better) to the one I saw in an equally narrow 1-0 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons; so near to getting it right. Prince Abdullah’s representatives saw that for themselves.

They are preaching patience and fortitude in a much more open interaction with fans via social media.

Good on them.

There are times when change becomes inevitable but football history suggests that holding your nerve often pays off in the long run.

King deal is out of character

Managers love to prattle on about researching the “character” of prospective signings. I suggest you don’t listen in future... to any of them.

Sheffield United have taken plenty of stick for signing Marlon King but they are not alone in appearing to put expediency ahead of morality. At a rough guess, I’d expect around 91 other clubs to do the same when it suits them.

And it was a Sheffield Wednesday manager who once told me: “I’d sign Jack the Ripper if he could get goals for me.”

That comment was off the record and off the cuff but the point was made.

It has stuck with me ever since and I can’t think of many managers before or since to whom that would not hold true.

Which doesn’t make it right. I made it clear on Twitter last week that I couldn’t defend or support the Blades over King.

If anyone still needs to know why then just check out the “Personal life” section of his Wikipedia page, which is considerably longer than this article. It’s the one that seems to tell you about a player’s “character”.

So much for those manager checks!

Apart from anything else, United were almost inviting bad publicity considering their recent failed promotion bid amid the jailing of a star player for rape.

Was it a sign of desperation after manager David Weir had evidently declined an opportunity to sign King just a week earlier?

Whatever, the moral high ground was quickly surrendered and you’d be surprised if Weir, a devoted family man, wasn’t privately a little uncomfortable with it all.

But there is no law against employing a free man who has done his time – even if some, on checking King’s lengthy criminal record (including being jailed for sexual assault and causing actual bodily harm), might well question his liberty let alone that he plays professional sport.

And his on-field record is just as compelling in reverse.

He’s a goalscorer, pure and simple.

It’s not for this column to set some kind of moral compass considering the needle went haywire in football long ago.

But I do find it refreshing to note that, if clubs don’t seem to have a conscience, then it would seem that a great many rank-and-file football fans most certainly do.

The King issue divided Blades followers more than any other signing I have known.

Maybe there is hope after all in the way that so many aired their scruples... which I trust will be remembered if and when the striker gets among the goals.

From Gazza to Fergie, there’s no Bull here in Owls legend Lee’s memoirs

Well, you’d expect me to say it’s a brilliant read because I’m ever so slightly biased. But “No Bull” by Lee Bullen is exactly what it says on the cover.

The story of Lee’s life in football, which I’ve had the honour of writing with the Sheffield Wednesday legend, is due out this weekend. Highlights include:

* “I was there the night Gazza sat in the infamous dentist’s chair... and I’ve sampled it, too!”

* Dropped for the Scottish Cup final: “I was like a raging bull.”

* Summoned to a team meeting by Paul Sturrock on the eve of a vital Owls promotion game. And the boss arrives with boxes of booze!

* Doing the Conga down a busy motorway on the trip back from winning the 2005 play-off final in Cardiff.

* Going to bed that night with Mrs. Bullen – and the trophy!

* Playing in every position on the field in the course of a single season.

* Picking the brains of Sir Alex Ferguson in a special Q and A with the Manchester United manager.

Bully relates his globetrotting football adventure via Australia, Hong Kong and Greece all the way back to his native Scotland - and finally to Hillsborough where he is now the club’s development coach.

This is a guy who has truly worked his passage, having also had “proper” jobs along the way.

He also describes his role as a partner in Sheffield’s Spencers estate agency.

* “No Bull” (Vertical Editions £16.99) is available online and in all good book shops from this Saturday, September 28.

Bullen will sign copies of the book in Wednesday’s Megastore before the Ipswich game on October 5.

Meanwhile, for those of a red-and-white persuasion, stand by for “Blade Heart,” the autobiography of former Sheffield United defender Tony Kenworthy, written with journalist John Brindley.

There’ll be a sneak-peak at that in a future column.