Dick Campbell was the longest serving manager in the Scottish game until he was relieved of his duties at the weekend. But he says the chance of anyone else troubling that seven-and-a-half-year tenure is slim unless chairmen toughen up.
Sacked due to an 11-match winless streak, Campbell stressed that within that run of results were six draws. He also believes that, with the team only six points off a fourth shot at promotion, he should have been given time to turn those results into victories. But, despite his track record of guiding the club, which was at the bottom of the fourth tier when he took charge in May 2008, up from the depths of the game, Campbell has not been granted the time to turn the recent blip into something more positive,
That means Peterhead manager Jim McInally is now the longest serving boss in the SPFL, having passed the four-year landmark in October. The fact that no other manager in the Scottish professional leagues can boast of an association that stretches even three years is a sad indictment on the game, according to Campbell.
“Almost eight years is a long time to be at one club, almost a lifetime these days. If this is the road clubs want to go down that is up to them but I think managers deserve better.”
One of three managers to part ways with their clubs in the past week – ex-St Mirren boss Ian Murray and Alloa’s former gaffer Danny Lennon are also now in the doldrums – Campbell says even the fact that Jose Mourinho is walking a tightrope underlines how little wriggle room there is for managers, who are expected to deliver week after week.
With the Chelsea board apparently discussing whether the man who has guided the Stamford Bridge club to so much success in the past and whose team romped to the Premier League title last season, should be given time to dig the side out the current mire, Campbell said the level of expectation and the knee-jerk style of judgment is undermining managers and costing good men their jobs.
“I was talking to Walter Smith about it the other day and he said: ‘You’re better out of it. These days managers only get a year.’ And that’s about right. But it takes longer than that to build success. The expectations and the demands aren’t realistic. You have to be given time if clubs want you to build something with solid foundations.”
Campbell added that it should also be recognised that form at every club suffers troughs as well as peaks but he lamented the fact that, rather than stick with managers throughout that rollercoaster ride, trusting the men who had brought them promotions or trophies or moved them up the league in the past, club directors are happy to disregard pedigree and listen to panicking fans instead.
“You hear it at the games. The abuse is getting worse. I was speaking to Alex [Smith] and Walter and we were saying that there is no other job like it for having to put up with that kind of shouting and swearing from people standing behind you. I think it is one of the reasons that crowds are dropping because people don’t want to listen to that for 90 minutes. But these are the people the chairmen and the directors are listening to. Them and people on social media.”
Rather than hand the terracing and internet trolls power, Campbell would have them turfed out of grounds, but he says that chairmen are cowed and see sacking the manager as the easiest and cheapest way to appease and distract them from their own inadequacies.
“They need to be tougher and stand by their managers but instead they sack them and appoint a younger, cheaper version. But I tell you what, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m an even better manager now. Look at Alex Ferguson, he won European Cups in his 60s. He was probably as successful in his 50s and 60s as he was at any other time.”
Careful never to leave himself completely dependent on the game he still loves and is determined to get straight back into, Campbell’s day job is in recruitment. “And we would never try to put a square peg in a round hole,” he says.
The same cannot be said for those making managerial appointments. “There are managers and coaches and they are very different roles. A coach can put together good drills but a manager has to recruit players and motivate and get the very best out of what he has. That takes time but few managers get that.”
Guys who are being lauded one month can be installed as favourite for the chop a few months later. “Look at Terry Butcher, Stuart McCall and Derek McInnes. I rate Derek highly but look what happened at Bristol City. He didn’t get the results, wasn’t given the time to turn it around and he was seen as a failure. About the same time Terry Butcher was at Inverness and was the bee’s knees and Stuart McCall was at Motherwell and everyone was raving about him and quoting him for every big job going. Now look at them.”
But while the unrealistic demands of life as a ready-made scapegoat irritates Campbell, he is adamant it will not put him off returning to the dugout.
“I have already had a couple of calls. I would have loved to have stayed at Forfar for 10 years but it wasn’t to be. But I have been a coach, assistant manager and manager for something like 1231 games and I might get to 1500 yet!”