This isn't panic

Cod Almighty | Article

by Pete Green

3 September 2015

This one goes out to all the Paul Hurst fans out there. It's just a bit of friendly advice. I'm not going to tell you what to say and what not to say, but – no, actually, I am.

Regardless of John Fenty's vote of confidence today, I am neither for you nor against you. I just want your case to be made properly, to inform the debate.

So don't say "we've only played seven games". Because it's now four years since Paul Hurst arrived. Yes, it's early season. But it's not early career. (Hello up there, Forest Green Rovers. Feeling dizzy yet?)

And please don't say "this isn't the time to panic". Because in late 2015, the critique of Hurst, and the call for change, is not based on panic. For the most part, it is now based on a rational assessment of Hurst's performance over those four years. And on what now appears to be an ongoing pattern whereby excellent players only sporadically perform to the standards they're capable of.

There are plenty of occasions when Town fans have called for a change of management based on panic, based on a misplaced sense of entitlement, based on an impoverished attention span borne of our accelerated culture and too many all-nighters on Football Manager.

The fans hoisting a "Slade out" banner in the Pontoon during Russell Slade's first season in charge were probably feeling pretty silly when Town topped the league a few months later. Even Alan Buckley faced early calls for his dismissal during all three of his spells in charge. This was stupid even without the benefit of hindsight.

This is not panic. This is not a kneejerk response. Supporters are becoming concerned because the same thing keeps happening over and over again

This is different. This is not panic. This is not a kneejerk response. Yes, a few idiots are just chucking abuse (NB: John McDermott is technically a Yorkie). But many more thoughtful supporters are becoming concerned because the same thing keeps happening over and over again.

Whether Hurst should go or stay, I don't pretend to know. Habitually, I'm not one to call for sackings, even when they probably are justified, because I seldom feel well enough informed to make such a call. In general I tend to think chairmen sack managers to distract supporters from their own bad decision-making.

Irrespective of my opinion, I suspect Hurst will stay. My instinct is that John Fenty is in a comfort zone with Hurst as his manager, both personally and professionally.

In contrast with the more prickly Rob Scott, Mike Newell and even Alan Buckley, Hurst's easy-going demeanour is unthreatening to Fenty – a man haunted by insecurities, both despite and because of all that he has achieved. Meanwhile, season after season of heroically not quite getting promoted allow Town's non-chairman to present himself as another suffering fan like you and me, and to imply that our club's non-League status is down to bad luck rather than maladministration.

But this isn't about what I think of Hurst. Or Fenty, for that matter. This is about the way the parameters have shifted in the debate.

You want to defend Hurst? Please do. Perhaps you'll be vindicated: perhaps this time Town will go to the play-off final and make it over the line. Go for it. I hope you're right. Hurst is a likeable man and I'd love to see Town go up with him at the helm, or just play good football and win matches.

But if you're going to back Hurst, do it in a way that informs the debate. Talk about his qualities as a manager. Cite examples of his tactical nous. Quote evidence that shows the eventual success of sticking with a nearly man. Just don't characterise the arguments your opponents are making as "panic". Because this time the case for change is based on something slightly more substantial. If Hurst is to stay in charge, he'll have to raise his game – and you'll have to raise yours.

What do you think? Get in touch and tell us.