St Mirren have made a change of manager just three months after hiring Alan Stubbs, but while some may question the impatience behind the decision, Craig Fowler explains why the Paisley club were justified in doing so
There’s a strange rationale which in exists in football. It states that every new manager deserves more time in their job, regardless of how disastrous they are at doing it.
More than likely, this is a natural, societal reaction to the cut-throat nature of the sport these days, as chairmen have become, on many occasions, ridiculously trigger-happy. A manager who has been hired in June should, in theory, be given until at least the turn of the year to prove he’s up to the task. Traditionalists would argue that grace period should be even longer. But if a club are so certain they’ve made a mistake, then why should they wait around just because that’s typically the done thing? You can’t apply a rule that fits all.
If you’re looking purely at St Mirren’s results this season then Alan Stubbs’ sacking does seem extremely harsh. They’ve won once in four games, a stretch which has included away trips to Ibrox and Tynecastle. They also managed to make it out of their Betfred Cup group. However, a board must judge their manager not only on the results that he’s achieved, they must also forecast what’s going to happen in the near future. And St Mirren’s hierarchy didn’t like what they saw further down the line.
Each case has to be judged individually. Had Stubbs held the full backing of the playing squad and showed signs that things were heading in the right direction on the field, then a backlash would have been fully merited.
But if the numerous and varying sources on this matter are to be believed, Stubbs had already lost the respect of several key members of the club’s dressing room. Importantly, these were the guys who had helped St Mirren gain promotion to the top flight under previous boss Jack Ross. Stubbs had ostracised a few, replacing them with inferior talents, and released a few others.
Captain Stephen McGinn had recently been openly critical of the recruitment policy in the summer, saying: “I think the problem this window is that we have signed a lot of players who have not played a lot of football.” Those at the Livingston defeat also noticed the midfielder running 20 yards over to welcome Cammy Smith on to the pitch after the attacker had come on as substitute. News spread during the match that the attacker, one of St Mirren’s stars last season, was free to leave the club, something Stubbs didn’t strenuously deny when asked about it after the game, saying: “I don’t know, no. At the moment, no.” Strangely, Smith started the trip to Tynecastle the following week.
Going back to the recruitment, it was odd that someone with a lot of experience in the Scottish game, and who bought so well at Hibs, seemed to underestimate the quality so badly. Stubbs picked up a raft of players from the English lower leagues, including two from Jamie Vardy’s V9 academy who’ve barely been seen. Jim Kellerman arrived from the fifth tier of English football, Cole Kpekawa from the fourth. Alfie Jones and Hayden Coulsen came from the respectable heights of Southampton and Middlesbrough, respectively, though neither had made a first-team appearance prior their loan move north.
Then there’s the shambolic defensive displays. Had that area steadily improved over recent weeks then Stubbs could rightly claim that things were working themselves out. Instead, they arguably got worse. Even their lone victory in the league, a 2-1 win over Dundee, was more than a little fortunate with Dundee missing some excellent chances. From there they were thankful to Ross McCrorie’s red card for keeping the score down at Ibrox, endured a first-half hammering up at Aberdeen in the cup and were beaten easily at home by Livingston, a side who had finished 12 points behind them in the Championship last term and replaced their own manager in the week leading up to the game.
Tynecastle on Saturday was the final straw. Four goals conceded again, this time all in the first half, encouraged members of the away support to chant for Stubbs to go. You can judge all you want from a distance, but these are the guys who know their team more than anybody, and they’d seen more than enough.