“You’re not good enough. You’re sacked. But I like you. So pop back in a couple of weeks and manage the team for the final, would you?”
It may sound ridiculous, but that is effectively the message that Southend chairman Ron Martin sent to manager Paul Sturrock after showing him the door last weekend.
Less than a week after the preposterous sacking of Blackburn manager Michael Appleton after only 67 days in charge, the farce of football ownership welcomed a new cast member in the form of chairman Martin who explained the dismissal of Sturrock by releasing this reason, logic and grammar-free statement on the club’s website on Sunday.
“A stream of self-indulgent shit” is how the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast has described the statement and reading it through, it’s hard to disagree when it reads like it was drafted by Lionel Hutz. In the rambling 900-word piece Martin chooses to describe the Johnson’s Paint Trophy final against Crewe Alexandra in two weeks as “the day out”, as if he were taking the team on a trip to Thorpe Park.
Martin, presumably whilst waving away the objections of an exasperated PR office, goes on to say that because Sturrock is an “experienced, nice, honest and likeable man” he has asked the outgoing manager to come back and take charge of the final. So two weeks after banishing Sturrock for a string of “unacceptable” results, the chairman wants him back to manage the most important game of the club’s season. Welcome to the twilight zone.
Fittingly, the man brought in to join Martin’s party is none other than the equally eccentric Phil Brown, who despite being the most successful manager in Hull City’s history, brought himself down with a series of eccentric incidents like berating his players on the field at half time and lying about talking a woman out of jumping off the Humber Bridge. In Brown, perhaps Martin sees a kindred spirit.
Perhaps the comparison between Venky’s at Blackburn Rovers and Ron Martin at Southend is unjust. Martin, despite his astonishingly inept handling of the process, presumably wants the best for Southend and in Brown he has at least appointed a manager recognised for having an astute footballing brain.
In contrast, Venky’s have treated Blackburn Rovers and their supporters with breathtaking contempt. Their chairman Anuradha Desai famously said they bought the club to spread the Venky’s brand name around the world. In part they have succeeded. In this country at least, they began as a laughing-stock by producing a cringeworthy advertisement for their chicken products, in which a bewildered-looking selection of players took part.
Since then though, the situation has becoming decidedly less amusing. Venky’s takeover and running of the club is more akin to abduction and abuse. Ewood Park has since become emptier by around 10,000 supporters in two years and a succession of senseless sackings has left the club in utter disarray.
It is, of course, the supporters who suffer the most. Most followers of professional clubs would acknowledge that despite their emotional and financial devotion, the owners could not care less about them. But the increasingly despotic nature of the owners has become an insult to them and the clubs they love.