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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tykes call time on Davey

If the delight of football is often in its unpredictability, Simon Davey's departure by mutual consent from Barnsley was anything but surprising.

Rooted to the bottom of the Championship with just a point from their first five matches, the Welshman always appeared to be on borrowed time.

Despite their stunning run to the FA Cup semi finals in 2008, constant battles against relegation have taken their toll on the Oakwell faithful, and the prospect of another was too much to take for owner Patrick Cryne.

Indeed, it seemed the 38-year-old never really won around Tykes fans. There are some managers that fans instantly warm to, even if they don't get results. For Davey, it seemed he had to win games to even begin to win support.

His situation reminds me of the final few weeks of Paul Simpson's reign at Preston. Towards the end of his Deepdale tenure, Simpson's side lost 1-0 at Davey's Reds, missing a late penalty. It was typical of the kind of luck that goes against managers when their time is nearing an end.

Back then, after a promising start to the season, it was Davey who was in the ascendancy, a contract extension soon followed, as did those heady Cup wins over Liverpool and Chelsea.

Championship survival was once again secured, and his stock was so high he was even linked with the assistant manager's job to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Less than two years later, and he is out of a job - that's how quickly football can change.

Similarly for Simpson, after a great start with PNE, he was being touted for a return to former club Manchester City to take on the manager's job at Eastlands. In reality, he's now currently trying to rebuild his reputation in League Two with Shrewsbury.

What also links both however, is that they were both young managers at smaller second tier clubs. Simpson had only previously managed in League Two and the Conference before the move to Deepdale in 2006. Davey had only been the Academy boss in South Yorkshire before stepping up to the top job.

Attempting to get a club with few resources and a small budget competing is a difficult act, and even moreso for a young manager without the experience. Both struggled to adapt tactically, and whilst Davey's recruitments were often better, both failed to get the best out of the players they signed.

Barnsley was rookie Davey's first managerial job

However, while Preston fans may be frustrated by their side's constant play-off failures, and Barnsley supporters disappointed by their team flirting with the drop, are they expecting too much?

If there was some kind of award for overachieving at this level, then North End would probably get it. Crowds at Deepdale averaged around 13,500 last season - but Alan Irvine still managed to guide the club to their fourth play-off finish in nine seasons.

Across the Pennines, Barnsley attracted a similar average crowd to their home matches, and finished 20th. However, these was comfortably dwarfed by the attendances at all three of the clubs who went down - Norwich, Southampton, and Charlton.

It's further evidence of the fantastic job Irvine did last season, but also that Davey, or any Barnsley boss, will always have a tough task on his hands. However, try telling that to a Reds fan.

No club has spent longer in the second tier of the Football League than Barnsley. And why should they be satisfied with merely staying in the division when they attracted better gates than Burnley - who ended up being promoted to the Premier League.

If the Clarets, through a mix of fine management and a team of hard-working and talented players can do it, why not the Tykes? Resources do not have to be a barrier to success if the right recipe on the pitch, if not off it, can be found.

With a solid core of players already in place, that's what they'll be hoping for from Davey's successor.

As for the former manager, his record at Oakwell, as well as the exposure from that Cup run, should ensure he returns to the game sometime soon. However, for all the badges and courses, and the Welshman has them all, management is about much more than qualifications.


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