St Andrews crisis as police arrest Gascoigne
Bruce under immense pressure
In the bottom half of the Premiership table, Newcastle and Aston Villa experience a slight slump in performances with both managers said to be under threat of their positions. Portsmouth are technically without a manager, their chairman has aimed to settle affairs with Southampton to no avail over Harry Redknapp, which could leave Redknapp in limbo for the remainder of the football season. Charlton have hit a slump that has seen them slide to 12th with their 5th consecutive league defeat, their 6th consecutive defeat. West Brom, Fulham and Blackburn Rovers are failing to keep a grip on any good run of form with erractic results. Sunderland display commitment but cannot gain a lead in their games and even if they do, they cannot hold it. Everton have had more poor results than good but now seem better favourites to emerge further up the table.
That leaves Birmingham City. Steve Bruce was at Crystal Palace for 5 months from June 2001 when Birmigham co-owner David Sullivan offered him the managerial position at St Andrews, Bruce taking charge there in December 2001. He was inspirational enough to take the club into the Premiership in the play-offs against Norwich at the end of that season, 2001-02. They have hardly looked back since. Yet this time last season, 14 games in, Birmingham had drawn 7, won 2, lost 5. After last night's game, their 6th league defeat out of the last 7, it is now drawn 3, won 2, lost 9 so far. They remain in the League Cup after a draw with Millwall and penalties, the south-east London side are currently bottom with 3 wins and 8 draws out of 22. And to top it all, last night saw three players go off with injuries in Martin Taylor, Mario Melchiot and Muzzy Izzet.
Last night Birmingham gained the lead through a superb through ball by David Dunn for Emile Heskey, who pasted Roy Carroll and finished with his left, good goal. Then they came under pressure and could not block out Bobby Zamora, who jingled his way through skillfully to hit an effort under Nico Vaesen. Impressive left winger Matthew Etherington sprinted past Birmingham defenders to cut the ball back, which suspiciously seemed to have just gone over the line but Birmingham players didn't appeal and the ball was allowed to go right cross to Marlon Harewood, who had time to set up a strike high into the goal. In the second half Birmingham came out for an equaliser and could have done better with Dunn striking a half-volley that hit the far post, Nicky Butt could have done better with control, then Heskey put the ball in the net with his right hand, was booked for it and then embarassingly made a face of injustice. Matthew Upson could have clearly scored but skyed his effort from 7-8 yards.
Birmingham have good attacked-minded midfielders and wingers, if they could get Heskey playing much better without the use of his hand alongside Mikael Forssell, they can score more. It is defensively where they need to improve, made all the more important with Taylor and Melchiot injured. Bruce does not deserve to go at all, so before such consideration the club should wait until the end of the season. 14 games so far, it is too early to call on where this club will be come May. They have Man Utd at home in the League Cup in 2 weeks time, between now and then they face another home match against Fulham and they are then away the following weekend to Man City, two matches to try to shore up their defence. Brum fans are going to have to be very patient for the forthcoming fortnight, at least.
Paul Gascoigne at Conference side Kettering Town as manager. I wondered if he was appointed just because he was Paul Gascoigne. An ambition to be a manager has to start somewhere, goes the cliche, but Gascoigne's reputation precedes him almost as much as Graham Rix's, particularly for alcohol consumption. I wouldn't include alcohol in this article but it's a factor amongst others that needs to be considered when offering a contract to anyone. That being that, he was appointed as manager and Kettering came to 2 each of wins, draws and losses under him. Over a month later, Gascoigne is sacked for his conduct, chairman Imraan Ladak claiming he was influenced through alcohol before, during and after games.
My view is that while Gascoigne has his opinion, in contrast to that of Mr Ladak, and possibly the board, dirty linen are being aired and should remain in the washing machine. Internally. Ladak states Gascoigne made a statement regarding the club which put matters under threat, and so Ladak decided he would go public with a statement of his own to balance that of Gascoigne's. But after having sacked the manager, something which I would expect to be as amicable as possible, if the manager decides to go public, that is his perogative.
As a chairman, my business is the concerns of the club and a sacked manager is not a concern. Where I wish not to make the matter public, despite what the manager says, I'll state so. Anyone asking questions of any response, my response is 'No comment.' I will not be brought into a public exchange or slanging match because one party goes public. Further, Ladak stating that Gascoigne had a drinking problem, was under the influence around the times of kick-offs, adds more of a stain to the club's affairs. Any reason other than a lack of responsive results under Gascoigne's management should have been kept internally.
Why? Because if there were concerns in the interest of the club, any suspicions or statements alleged to be of fact regarding conduct will go to dampen what could potentially or possibly be a very good managerial career elsewhere. Had Gascoigne been under the influence of alcohol before, during and after games yet Kettering topped the Conference North league with wins since his appointment, would he be sacked? Only if his behaviour as a result of that influence was to the degree of making a scene of himself, yes. Otherwise, no. But if his behaviour was substantially effected by such influence, then Gascoigne has only himself to blame, though I cannnot help but feel his appointment was made as a matter of drawing public attention.
Gascoigne is currently held in a police station on an allegation of assault by a photographer, said to have happened while Gascoigne was on his way from attending a charity event in Liverpool. He states that the Kettering Town fans are completely behind him and that he will attend their away game to Alfreton Town to give support, refusing to accept his dismissal and therefore intending to attend the match in a managerial capacity. Going to the match, and future Kettering Town matches under that impression, is something that could be difficult as a result of his arrest. While the former Newcastle, Spurs, Everton, and Lazio player has passion in his veins, he'd be advised to remain away from Kettering Town Football Club, home and away.
Kevin Wilson was moved aside for Gascoigne, refused an offer of the position as director of football as a result and is now reinstated for three years. He had steered Kettering Town to the top four in the league and further in the FA Cup since 2002 before his departure. I wonder who out of Wilson and the club are more fortunate of his availability for the reinstatement.