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Game guys…

Other than to say that I know Gilbert Lawrie (quoted in the article here) very well, there’s nothing I can add!


Setting Sons

There are several unwritten laws in football.

One is that when a team sacks a manager after a long run of poor results, suddenly, from somewhere the skill and guile are found to win a game. This seems to be for two possible reasons 1) The players didn’t like the old manager or his methods and want to prove a point or 2) They respected and liked the old manager and want to prove a point.

The bounce rarely lasts although to be fair that depends 1)To what extent the outgoing manager was culpable and 2) Whether the man they bring in is better at the job than the man he replaces and most importantly 3) What resources and budget he has available

As I reflect on my boyhood and young adulthood I can recall Celtic winning the European Cup (forerunner of the champions league)and Rangers winning the Cup Winners’ Cup (one of the forerunners to the UEFA cup).

I can recall Scotland beating the world champions on their own ground and qualifying for five world cups in a row.

I can remember seeing my wee club Dumbarton in the old Scottish First division and then the Premier League. I have seen them being rather unfortunate in two cup semi finals and taking points from every senior team (at that time) in the game (the exception was Aberdeen).

These days are gone. The very idea that Glasgow will once again produce a European champions team comprised of players born within 30 miles of each other is fanciful in the extreme. Or that another starting eleven selected on not just football ability but also their religious denomination would also win a European trophy? A crazy notion.

Scotland may never compete in another world cup or European championship in my lifetime.

As for the Sons then they currently lie in 22nd place in Scottish football. Bottom of the first division with not a win to their name this season. They are a part time team from a small town trying to compete in a league largely made up of full time teams from towns with double and upwards of a population and up to six times the number of people paying through the turnstile to watch them.

One of those unwritten laws I mentioned came into play yesterday. Manager Alan Adamson is a guy who two years ago did a sterling job in helping to keep the club in the second division when a return to the third looked likely. Last season he turned around a dismal start to somehow get the club into the first division play offs and win them.

Yesterday he was sacked.

It would be rare indeed if not rather inexplicable if a football manager at any level after seven defeats and two draws were to remain in his post. The unwritten law that it’s the manager’s fault comes into play.

However Dumbarton FC will have to be careful because there is a rather more obscure unwritten law in Scottish football and it is that any small part time club who has the audacity or temerity to reach the first division does so at its peril.

Clyde, Stranraer, Alloa Athletic, Cowdenbeath and Stirling Albion have all found themselves in the third division in jig time after vain attempts to compete with the big boys in recent years. Going back a bit it happened the last time the Sons tried to compete at this level too.

I’ve supported my wee team for 42 years and yesterday marks the 22nd change of manager during that time. Four guys account for 18 years between them (two of those with two stints each). That means that of the remaining 17 incumbents, their average tenure in the post has been shorter than seventeen months.

That average has been pretty much maintained since 2000 when the club moved to its new stadium. Eight managers have been in the job in that time which has seen three promotions and two relegations.

I don’t know what the long term answer is for a club like Dumbarton. Of course when they achieve promotion on merit they can hardly turn it down. However to stay in the first division on any long term basis is a task that looks sadly beyond them and their resources.

In the economics of the modern age, the days when the corner shop could compete with the supermarket or the retail park, are gone….and gone forever.

I don’t envy the new man in the job his task.

It looks like an impossible one.

But no doubt there’ll be a willing fall guy willing to give up seventeen months and his reputation in the attempt.

A decision to make

So the Sons responded to my rallying cry by managing to keep the score down to five at Livvi yesterday. I have a feeling that the word on the street will be right and that Alan Adamson’s position will be discussed by the board post haste.

I genuinely sorry for him because it seems that the club is out of its depth at this level and that certainly isn’t just in the managerial sense.

Dumbarton are a second division club, with second division resources, trying to compete in the first. Cowdenbeath are doing the same, albeit at the moment with more success. At the end of the season it will be a surprise if these aren’t the two clubs occupying the bottom two places and currently Sons look like they’re heading for the wooden spoon.

Will a change of manager alter that? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Fitba

What an unforgiving game it is.

On December 10th 2011 I witnessed Dumbarton being outplayed by Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill in a league game. A 3-1 defeat which left the Sons in a relegation play off spot and the hosts near the top of the table.

From that point onward it was a different story. Sons went on a long unbeaten run through which they qualified for and won the first division play off. Rovers struggled but managed to salvage their second division status in the play off at the bottom end.

The general opinion amongst the Sons support was that we were lucky to be promoted. Furthermore, everyone agreed that this was going to be a tough season and that staying up would be a tall order.

Knowing the Sons support as I do, I’m not surprised at the lucky tag. I’ve seen them promoted seven times in 42 years and probably only on two occasions has the fatalistic “we were lucky” analysis not been applied.

Jeez! in 2004 we missed promotion by a point and there was a perception that we “would have been lucky” had we gone up.

This season so far has been poor. A first day defeat to Airdrie by the same score (4-1) as we prevailed over them in the away leg of the play off was the curtain raiser, which was followed by a 3-0 home defeat to Cowdenbeath. Both these sides are part time like Dumbarton so they are games where we were looking to take points.

To put the Cowdenbeath result in perspective, last August Sons suffered a 5-1 defeat by Stirling Albion on the corresponding day of the season. At the end of the season the two clubs headed out of division two in different directions.

On Saturday, it was a 3-0 defeat to Partick Thistle who are one of the favourites to win the first division.

Every season on the internet forums, usually about late September or early October, there will be the first restless movements by Sons fans.

Like a doctor with the pen already hovering over the pad, they have the prescription to improve things.

Sack the manager.

I was quite surprised that the first migration was a bit early this year and the subject was raised at the weekend.

It really is just as well that the rest of society doesn’t operate the way football does. I can’t think of a football manager who has been in continuous employment for as long as I have. I even beat Fergie at Man United by a year.

I suppose the fact that I work for a rotten boss (ie myself) assists in this regard. Many of my customers probably think they could do my job better than I could without beginning to realise the issues and challenges involved in the everyday actualité

And so it is in football management to the power of ten.

The average DFC manager’s tenure is about 18 months.

Last season Dumbarton started with survival in the second division as a target. At the turn of the year that target looked as if it would be missed. And yet the club under Alan Adamson somehow managed to turn things around and get promoted.

I bumped into a former Sons director in Glasgow yesterday and the conversation turned to the club’s current status. “You have to say that two more bad results and the manager will probably be off”.

He’s probably right and I find that quite depressing. However his next line was even more of a shocker.

“In fact they’d probably have been better getting someone else in at the end of last season”

That surely takes the hiring and firing of football managers to a new craziness.

On the issue of luck, a wee look here and here might put some perspective on things.

And as a footnote, the former Sons director I met wasn’t the one who left recently and I know reads this blog regularly.

Other than that, no names no pack drill.

Meanwhile – Fitba’ News

Actually I haven’t been writing much about the Sons this season. That’s for two reasons, I haven’t been to many games (regulars will remember that I was actually scunnered wi’ fitba’) and anyway, Simon Barrow and Alan Findlay do a much better and more informed job over at the club website.

However it is worth the mention that whilst Scotland in general and football in particular became caught up in a welter of administration Employment Trusts and unpaid tax bills, Alan Adamson quietly picked up his award for being Irn Bru division two manager of the month.

Because of a poor start to the season, many, as is the way of these things, were calling for the manager’s head.

However the last five games have yielded four victories and a draw. Impressive when three of the games were away from home. Well done Alan and the team!

The AA Route for Sons?

Until a couple of months ago Dumbarton FC were having a horrendous season. Then there was a change of management. Jim Chapman who had led the Sons to their 2009 Third Division championship had struggled badly with results this season.

It happens.

It happens because football is a microcosm of life. Confidence is needed to just get through everyday challenges. To rise above them takes self belief and respect for those who make the decisions that affect you.

Since stepping into the manager’s job on a temporary contract, Alan Adamson has produced the goods. Sons have taken 16 points from their last 18 and even the two points dropped were by virtue of a last minute equaliser by Airdrie United.

Alan Adamson. Picture at http://www.dumbartonfootballclub.com

Today at Forfar, if Sons win, they will equal a record set in 1892 of five away victories in a row.

Not bad for a club who gave the appearance of being stranded at the bottom of the league a few short weeks ago.

The media has sat up and has taken notice as this article in the Scotsman articulates.

Managerial appointments are a nightmare for football clubs. What seems a great appointment can soon lose its shine with a change in fortunes.

Ain’t that life?

But despite the fact that March and April can be very telling and unforgiving months in the season, I reckon the DFC board should secure the services of Adamson and his assistant Rab Sneddon now.

Before someone else does.

Bad news on the eve of the game:

Sonsdiary is GOING.

Funny Old Game

A few weeks ago the Sons, aka Dumbarton FC , were at the bottom of SFL division 2 and looking forlorn.

However today’s 2-1 victory at Peterhead means that that they have won their last four away games and now the league looks like this:

It’s quite a turnaround, and surely strengthens Alan Adamson’s claim for a permanent appointment to the job