They say that football is a results based business and throughout the season, David Flitcroft didn’t shy away from the fact his players were on incentive based contracts – so it’s stands to reason that he’d be on a similar deal, but does a fourth placed finish and play-off semi-final defeat on penalties warrant Flitcroft’s departure?
The news has certainly rocked and divided the Stags faithful, who for the first time in nearly a decade at the clubs helm, are questioning the actions of Stags’ owner and chairman John Radford.
Personally I’m shocked. If I were in John Radford’s position would I have sacked Flitcroft? Probably not, as judged solely on last season I think fourth is a respectable finish having played the best brand of football for years, not to mention transferring players into sellable assets and rebuilding broken bridges between the first team and the academy.
However, Radford I predict will be judging Flitcroft of the entirety of his tenure which ultimately is two failed attempts at promotion, the first having just twelve games at the end of the 2017/18 campaign after Steve Evans quit, the second this season with his own team losing out on automatic promotion on the final day at MK Dons, losing their last three games of the campaign – and looking at it in that light, you have to say the decision, is just about justified especially if, going back to the incentives, promotion is your job remit.
Do I think the Stags board should have stuck with Flitcroft? Yes. Personally I’d have factored in things such as injuries and the fact the play-offs are a lottery and said, we’ll go again next season under review – expecting to be in the top five at Christmas with a certain points target. The fact we now start a fresh has its pros and cons for sure, but today’s news just shows how ruthless football is.
I had planned out a whole blog about an inquest into the seasons failures, which would have included a paragraph or two about stability from top to bottom, using the likes of Lincoln, Luton and Accrington as firm examples.
What comes of perhaps more of a shock in todays news is the immediate appointment of John Dempster as the clubs new manager. Dempster is a club icon for me who on the pitch was pivotal to promotion back into the football league and since hanging up his boots, has done an incredible job in restructuring the academy, however whilst I’m delighted to see him given a shot at first team management – I’m apprehensive and somewhat disappointed it comes where the pressure is more ‘into the inferno’ than ‘into the fire’. I'm not doubting the appointment, from the outside, it just appears rushed - though I'm sure the board and the Radfords have considered the options.
Going back for a moment to Steve Evans’ departure, it was then that Dempster should have been handed the reins as he’d have gone in on the back of a phenomenal time with the academy and had pretty much nothing to lose. Had we finished in the play-offs then great, job done, if not, it’s not a problem we can appoint a new manager to implement new ideas and tactics with his own squad – whilst Dempster returned to the comfort of the Academy.
Whilst Flitcroft did reshape and restructure, he already had a noose hanging loosely around his neck having drank from the poisoned chalice which awaited whoever followed Evans, which I believe now, has ultimately cost him his job.
Dempster will get my complete and utter backing as he should that all of Stags supporters, however I’m under no illusions that he faces a tremendous challenge to decide which of the current crop he wants to keep and now has to rebuild and challenge for automatic promotion – because unless the board have done a complete U-turn in expectation – it would be double standards to achieve anything less without the exact same consequences.
I would expect Dempster to also be tasked with giving more game time to the clubs younger crop of players having coached and managed them so well through the academy process, which could go one of two ways really. I just hope it doesn’t end with it blowing up in our faces.
As many have said Football is so ruthless and it’s 100% a results based business – if me or you weren’t reaching our targets in our jobs after a period of time, we’d be down the job centre too. I would have liked to see Flitcroft given more time to continue to build, but the decision has been made.
To Flitcroft and his staff who follow him out of the door, thank-you for your efforts and putting together a season which, whilst it ended poorly, as a whole was exciting to watch unfold and follow.
To John Dempster, the new manager of Mansfield Town – you know what promotion means to the supporters, go and deliver it and make a name for yourself in the world of senior management, a former manager of yours once said that success is built on strong foundations, you’ve certainly laid some good ones so far.
Football – it never fails to deliver does it!
Tenure: 19th May 2011 – Present
Former Club: Eastwood Town FC
Competitive Games In Charge: 105 (W 58, D 24, L 23) [League, FA Cup, FA Trophy]
Coaching & Backroom Staff: Micky Moore (Assistant Manager 2011/12), Adam Murray (Player Assistant Manager 2012/Present), Andy Todd (Player Coach 2011/Present), Richard Cooper (First Team Coach 2012/Present), Paul Ogden (Chief Scout 2011/Present)
Win Percentage: 55.23%
Arguably the most successful Manager in the club’s history, or at least since the late Ian Greaves, Paul Cox has performed nothing short of a miracle in taking our beloved club back to the promise land of the football league.
The 41 year old has taken a club with a negative ethos and transformed it into a club which breeds success from top to bottom, putting in place a structure which could see local young players rise through the ranks and become professional footballers with their hometown club – an action which certainly suits his opening statement to the press that ‘success is built on strong foundations’.
Fate is often a funny thing, we dare not imagine where Stags would be had Cox been appointed the previous two times he applied for the job – the most notable when Billy McEwan was dismissed back in 2008, would he have been given a fair crack of the whip by the previous owners, personally we don’t think so – Paul Cox has been allowed to succeed because of the faith shown in him by John Radford.
Eventually Cox was handed the job just weeks after our defeat at Wembley and began the mammoth task of rebuilding the club after yet more heartbreak, however perhaps his toughest task was to reinstall the faith and love in the supporters who at that point were perhaps ready to walk away.
The first pre-season as we know was eventful and Cox’s patience was put to the test, he grabbed the headlines when he withdrew his players from the pitch at Ilkeston in that ill-fated pre-season friendly, you could see then what a passionate and caring manager he is.
Some fans may have to hold their hands up here and admit they didn’t buy into Cox’s philosophy as by mid-December it looked like another season wasted however post-Christmas it all changed as Stags embarked on that tremendous run which saw them finish in the playoffs. Defeat was hard to take and in some ways mistakes may have been made in trying to repair the damage and once again some fans may have to hold their hands up and admit they called for the former Eastwood man to be sacked, especially when we were getting battered in virtually every away game at the start of the season just gone.
Through all the turbulence there was only one person’s opinion that mattered, the Chairman John Radford – because of his faith Cox was allowed to continue and once again that post-Christmas magic began. Thirteen consecutive wins plus that FA Cup match with Liverpool will be remembered for a long time and the end result naturally not forgotten either – that title win totally epitomised Paul Cox’s management style: even when things are against you, you never give up.
During his tenure so far there have been mistakes whether it be with team selection or signings but nobody is perfect, what matters is results and that something the former Notts County defender certainly gets – League 2 will be a journey that will be taken together, we feel that more success is just around the corner so long as Cox is at the helm.
Written by Craig Priest and Emily Sykes.
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