Plate Spinning

I’m not sure I’d want to be a football manager. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of being the man in control. I’ve done the whole Football Manager thing (the computer game that is…). I’ve even taken it to the extent of dusting off my suit and watching the whole miserable ninety minutes of an 0-2 FA Trophy final defeat (against Bournemouth, for some reason that escapes my memory)… Our long and loyal sponsors have a fine game there, that’s for sure, but no matter how in-depth they make it victory depends on meeting a series of requirements the programmers determine makes a good manager – and once you’ve worked that out by a process of trial and error, success is achieved whenever you want.

Sadly, in the real world there is no magic formula that can be transfered from club to club, year to year. Thinking of all the variables required; juggling a squad of twenty or so blokes, ensuring the best eleven available are on the pitch at any one time and can coordinate a game plan to defeat the other eleven blokes who have turned up to play you – put simply it’s probably akin to keeping a thousand plates spinning while trying to juggle a thousand more. 

And yet the best managers appear not to micromanage. Legend has it Our Greatest Ever Manager was barely seen on the training pitch, turned up in the dressing room before games to shout a bit, dished out a few bollockings at half time then buggered off, leaving poor Terry Burton to pick up the pieces…

Whichever path you follow, the closer you get to success, the harder it seems to get. Lets consider the challenges facing Terry Brown over the next four, on first glance largely meaningless games. He probably wants to coat Danny Kedwell in bubble wrap and store him under the Strank Stand until early May, but even the more practical arrangement of leaving him on the bench will hardly see him match fit and raring to go. Viewing April as a mini pre-season is probably more appropriate, but there’s always the paranoia that amidst all the experimentation, they might lose the recently reacquired knack of winning matches.

Picking two entirely different teams for the Mansfield and FGR games probably sounds sensible, but won’t win us many friends at Altrincham, Southport or Tamworth… and that’s not even considering the ear-bashing Brown will receive from our army of volunteers, making the journey down to Stroud for their once-a-season jolly only to see our scratch XI fall to defeat against motivated opponents…

Yet even a mixed bag should surely pick up three points at a Histon side who have gone ten matches since picking up their last point… and their ‘time since last goal’ stat is edging ever closer to 500 minutes. It’s been a rough old season for the Stutes, and the worry is they’ll disappear down the pyramid as quickly as they have risen… their best possible scenario will surely involve a Lewes-esque scrap at the bottom of the BSS before being swallowed up and finding their level in the Southern/Isthmiam Premier a la Canvey Island.

At least they’ll have a tidy little ground to show for their travels to the verge of the Football League, albeit one I’ll probably be waiting a long time to see the Dons play at – I’m missing the game tomorrow for reasons you’ll have read about in last weeks Cambridge report. Then again, by the time I get to visit an enterprising chairman might have sold their new stands off to the latest village side elevated beyond their natural level. (A quick aside while I’m talking about second-hand grandstands – I see Farnborough are buying the old Darlington stand, or at least the structure of it… presumably they feel Cherrywood Road looks a little strange with only one unfinished steel structure looming over the pitch?).

It was only two seasons ago that Histon themselves had the pleasure of the playoffs, following a third place finish that saw them pip their eventual conquerors Torquay to third place, whilst the Dons were basking in the post-BSS title glory. A victory at Bridge Road will confirm the Dons at least match that, and with only long-term injury victims Sammy Moore and Fraser Franks now missing from the squad,Brown  has a multitude of choices. I’ve been shying away from trying to guess the Dons lineup of late (under those circumstances who could blame me?), so today I’m going to do something a little different, and select the XI I would prefer that Terry names…

Brown; Hatton, Gwillim, Johnson, Yakubu; Wellard, Minshull, Yussuff; Moore L, Mohamed, Nwokeji

Theres an argument for giving Jack Turner a game, but will he learn more by playing against Grimsby on the final day? Keeping the back four together seems sensible when they are on form and I think TB will agree with me on that. Midfield is where I depart from what I think Terrys thinking will be – he likes to build a midfield around Steven Gregory, but I’d rest him and let Ricky Wellard continue. Yussuff will probably miss out should Gregory play, and there is the returning Mulley to factor into all of this. Mulley hasn’t had any game time in three weeks, but it was a silly sending off and thems the breaks… besides, he’ll undoubtedly get some time over Easter, and there’s the little matter of a London Senior Cup semi-final before then…

At Cambridge, when Kedwell was withdrawn Nwokeji was sent on as a pretty much like for like replacement – I rate Nwokeji but I think we’ve seen that he can’t emulate Kedwell, I would however like to see him flanking Mohamed… I have no idea how effective Mo will be down the middle, but surely Histon is the ideal place to experiment. Again, Brown will go for Kedwell at least until the game is won, and will look to Hudson if he wants pace and width ahead of Ryan Jackson and not yet match fit Christian Jolley.

Then again, if I was Dons manager right now I’m sure a few of those plates I mentioned earlier will be crashing down around me. These are the sort of situations where good managers earns their money, we are in Terrys hands now, hopefully until 21st May and beyond…

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