DCSIMG

Alan Biggs: How keeping faith reaps rewards

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Football management is about being positive against all manner of adversity. And yet there are two negatives that add up to a much underrated positive: Not fixing things when they are not broken.

Time constraints, not to mention personal ego, often see managers try to put their own stamp on things too quickly and shatter what was already in place. Look no further than David Moyes’ self-destruction at Manchester United.

Closer to home, at Sheffield’s United, we recall Bryan Robson’s early demise from imposing a radical change of style. The same was true in part of David Weir.

But Nigel Clough has got the balance just right and it’s surely no coincidence, either, that the squad he left behind at Derby has been kept largely intact by a grateful Steve McClaren, whose push for the Premier League has merely underlined the harshness of his predecessor’s sacking.

At Bramall Lane, Clough has doffed his cap to Danny Wilson from whom the core of a judiciously strengthened team was effectively inherited. But among half a dozen and more survivors (including the highly influential Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn) there are three who’d probably express gratitude to the ill-fated and largely forgotten Micky Adams, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time with a team on the slide.

It was Adams who blooded Player of the Year Harry Maguire and Adams, too, who signed Neill Collins and Michael Doyle, having managed the midfielder at Coventry.

Doyle also happens to be the best example of a manager keeping an open mind on his new charges. Clough faced intense fan pressure to drop Doyle but instead formed the same verdict as the three bosses before him, Weir included.

The player appreciates that more than most and, to his credit, refuses to crow back at a crowd who have too often made him a scapegoat for general shortcomings.

Doyle tells me: “There’s nothing you can do about that. Once the manager and players know what you can bring to the team, that’s the most important thing.

“We had a really difficult start to the season and fans look for scalps.

“You can either hide or keep playing. I’ve done the right things and managed to turn it round.

“What’s the point of having a go back? People are entitled to their opinion. You get people who are unhappy and as captain you have to accept that.

“The demands and expectation levels are so high here that when you’re not living up to them, people will turn on you sometimes.

“But you come through things like that. I’ve ignored it and played my own game. It’s all really positive now and I’m enjoying it.”

And that little speech, ladies and gentlemen, illustrates exactly why Clough has kept – and is keeping – Doyle at the heart of his plans. A player most certainly not broken (even by his critics) and who does not need to be fixed.

 

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