Bye Bye, Shaun Derry

Tuesday 24 March 2015
reading time: min, words
Lasting 503 days at Meadow Lane, surely qualifies a Notts County management team for some kind of commemorative teapot?
Shaun Derry - Illustration by Ian Carrington

Shaun Derry - Illustration by Ian Carrington

There was a pertinent line in LeftLion's recent reposte to the departure of Stuart Pearce and that was "He gave us `12 years, we gave him eight months". Now whilst I wouldn't dare to compare the cross-river achievements of a man once hailed the City Ground's messiah to Shaun Derry's at Notts, it's a similar tale in the very least that patience is a long lost virtue in Nottinghamshire, if not just football in general.

Derry and his number two Greg Abbott (each were credited with our rise, so in turn each must be sadly credited with the recent fall from grace) lasted 503 days at Meadow Lane, which I'm fairly sure qualifies them in the very least for some kind of commemorative teapot of some description.

The duo's departure is a sad one for many, but unexpected only by a few. Working for a board with the itchiest trigger fingers in the business, you imagine even the one misplaced glance could land you in hot water. But the sacking of the pair who fought tooth and nail to keep us in League One last season were given plenty of time to rectify matters on the field whilst being over-seen by owners who have sacked managers for far less let's be honest.

On a personal level I'm gutted. I had hoped that this might be the one occasion where we stood by our men come what may but ultimately when home fans are rollng up in numbers less than 3,000, you feel that's the driving force behind the decision more than anything else. For me however the timing is well off. If the trigger was to be pulled, why not after last week's 2-1 defeat at Meadow Lane to Rochdale which stands out as one of the worst home displays in years? Why give him MK Dons away to fix matters? Talk about being sold down the river one last time, but we were never going to take anything from that game.

Illustration: Adam Poole

Had the team been sacked last week, in the very least it buys you more time to source an adequate replacement and have them in situ that little bit earlier. That's what rankles with me the most. Well that, and the post-dismissal public outcry of support for Derry and Abbott which was inconspicuous by it's absence in the weeks and months leading to his dismissal.

But all the good news done with the exit of Chief Executive Jim Rodwell to Scunthorpe (putting the cun... no, I'm better than that) has all been undone for many which is a sad thing in itself. You've had a number of supporters baying for Rodwell's blood for so long (without really knowing the details as to why) who have been appeased, then the ones relieved and still believing in Shaun and Greg have the rug swept from under their feet. For many the one-two punch felt unncessary.

However football is a results business, and business ain't been great for a while. There was a glimmer of hope not so long back that things might be on the up - we were still losing but Christ at least we were seeing glimpses of the fight that had us as high as third in the table at one point this year. But you see a team full of pedigree (old, aching legs?) like ours has lost it's way immesurably. What once was a juggernaut of brutes that would run through walls for the manager quickly became as forceful as the charity clipboard types who blight your Saturday afternoon walk through the High Street - you know they're there, but getting past them is hardly the greatest inconvenience in the day.

Perhaps the most ill-timed aspect of the sackings is what lies ahead in our immediate future. Saturday will see the visit of Scunthorpe United to Meadow Lane - a side one point above both us and the relegation zone and whom we have beaten twice this season already. For that game Jamal Campbell-Ryce could return from injury, Taylor McKenzie should be well having picked up a knock in the footballing aisle of Milton Keynes' Asda, as should Curtis Thompsom - but most importantly Jimmy Spencer made his return a nine month injury lay-off last Saturday that will provide everyone with a boost.

Brighters days could quite easily have been round the corner - instead those baying for the collective blood of Derry and Abbott will use any positive result we might get as evidence that the partners in crime should have been sent to the gallows long ago. Regardless I don't believe for a second that a relegation six-pointer is the time for making such moves, and for the first time this campaign I'm left thinking that we will get relegated.

Derry spoke long, hard and on dozens of occasion of how the squad he had assembled was one of real men, people he would want in the trenches with him when things got nasty. But with the Commandant out of the picture - what comes next? Will it have the often desired effect of having the players raise their game and show what they're really made of - or do we face a repeat of a few years back when Keith Curle was sacked and locker room politics dictated we'd spend the next 18 months battling relegation with a group of children sucking their thumbs for 90 minute spells? I dearly hope to God it's the former, but such is the nature of the modern footballer who can really tell?

Shaun and Greg leave Meadow Lane with nothing but my respect and appreciation. No one's saying there haven't been some really bad times - but as managers go in such a short space of time the highs are innumerable under him. Last year it wasn't just about the Great Escape at Oldham (thank you Alan), it was the weeks leading up to it too - the scenes as Callum McGregor swept the ball into an empty Swindon net, a home win against Crawley which aged us all about ten years, victory at Crewe on a freezing Tuesday night. Most bizarrely still, when you lose 6-0 at Rotherham and still adore the man running things, you know you're onto something good.

And fifth from bottom as we may be, this season hasn't been without games that will live long in the memory. Michael Petrasso's double at Barnsley as we came back from 2-0 down, 90 minutes of backs to the wall torture at Port Vale for the sake of victory, or our constnt shithousery in taking points from and making enemies of Peterborough, Preston North End and Sheffield United in particular. And let's not forget the Hungarian invasion of Leyton Orient when Balint Bajner stole the show. Sure, it's likely to be his only worthwhile contribution in a Notts shirt, but what an occasion none the less.

Turning points in the campaign aren't hard to find either sadly though. For me though not being able to bring back Louis Laing from across the river has been most the most costly - Haydn Hollis has seldom looked the same player, whilst defensively we're too often a shambles and needing to reply on our strength and conditioning coach to plug gaps. That's not how you survive in League One sadly.

It's a horrible time for our club when a man who kept us up is spite of being seven points adrift of safety with nine to play can be so easily discarded by supporters, but such is life. Thank you Shaun and Greg for the good times, and thank you further for the bad times that made the good times all the more worthwhile.

Read our Shaun Derry interview from 2014
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