Sheffield United, their big idea and the David Weir dilemma: Rip it all up and start again? Or replace him with someone who can stitch the plan back together?
There is, of course, the club’s preferred option of sticking with their sixth full-time boss in six years. But the job of a man who has achieved a solitary victory from a dozen new recruits, and who has lost seven of the last eight games, was hanging by the proverbial thread as the Telegraph went to press.
If the thread hadn’t broken by the time you read this then, barring a stop to the rot on Sunday, it seems highly unlikely to stretch beyond the away clash with Coventry where a television audience will focus on Weir’s ordeal.
Yesterday, following an awful defeat to Hartlepool, he seemed to be sustained by three things... that it was only the JP Trophy which most clubs factor out, United’s senior hierarchy were not present and there is no obvious stopgap for Sunday. Lee Carsley? I doubt angry fans would accept Weir’s assistant by association. Chris Morgan again? That wouldn’t wash, either, and besides, why should he accept after the way it rebounded on him last time?
Ideally, the former Rangers and Scotland defender will buy himself and his club a little time. United’s problem is that it is about a great deal more than the personal faith invested in the novice manager.
Bramall Lane entrusted his regime with an entire new philosophy in a rebrand embracing all age groups. It was a well-intentioned move and, for me, it’s the one part of the equation that must survive in some form. To suddenly employ a pragmatist and kick-out all those long term principles would expose the club to yet more ridicule after the series of calamitous decisions (Danny Wilson sacking, Morgan caretakership and ignoring the case for experience) that has got them into this mess.
So, if Weir still has to go – and I sincerely hope he doesn’t – then I can see one obvious and sensible solution. Send for Russell Slade. The ex-Blades coach has similar footballing principles plus the experience, particularly in the lower leagues, that Weir lacks. I believe, despite results, that he would inherit a talented and decent squad.
Slade’s stock could not be higher with his unbeaten Leyton Orient setting the pace to the collective amazement of a very strong division.
Would Slade swap top for bottom? In my opinion, yes, and for one club only. You’ve guessed it. There would be compensation, of course, and Slade’s tenacious chairman Barry Hearn can certainly box clever, but I think Russell would make his feelings very clear. Forget all the sexy choices and the name appeal that helped Weir himself land this job. You appoint according to where you’re at.
Meantime, let’s hope for the sake of a decent and intelligent football man that a dramatic – and essential – turnaround can still be achieved.
Owls must show steel
Halloween’s next up, then Bonfire Night and Christmas Day. Or do we have to wait for the New Year of 2014 for either Sheffield club to win a game of football?
If you consider that the Steel City’s solitary victory (the Blades’ over Notts County) occurred on August 2nd, a day ahead of the big kick-off, then the season proper has been a total write-off and it’s Autumn.
Sheffield Wednesday’s next opportunities are big pressure games at the foot of the Championship, in which they are now the only team without a victory. First a trip to Bolton and then the derby at currently bottom Barnsley.
It was at Oakwell in the middle of last season that boss Dave Jones, below, scraped a win to save his job and I don’t rule out a similar scenario barring at least another improved display at Bolton (preferably a breaking of the duck).
Some good watchers tell me the Owls went too long again in parading a more attacking 4-4-2 (my preference certainly) in the draw with Ipswich. The balance is close to being right but still proving elusive.
Socrates set for World Cup adventure
A Sheffield ladies football team are planning for an unexpected away fixture – to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar!
The invitation came from the Qatari government, after a member of the team challenged the Gulf country’s record on human rights.
Now the entire team of the Socrates club, based in Totley, will be Qatar’s guests at a group match in the tournament. Player Sophie Williams carved open the Qatari defence – so to speak – during the debate on Stephen Nolan’s Radio 5 Live show.
She challenged a member of Qatar’s sports ministry, who was on the panel. “I asked him about women’s rights in the country and whether they could walk safely alone on the streets,” said Sophie.
“The official said there were many misconceptions about life in Qatar – and he would invite me and the team over so we could see for ourselves!”
And for Bully’s special prize...
Big thank you on behalf of Lee Bullen and myself for the fantastic turn-out at his Hillsborough book signing last Saturday. The demand for “No Bull” was so high that another signing is in the pipeline. But there are no retirement plans from either of us... yet! Cheers all.