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Adam Virgo column: The grass is not always greener – managers are being asked to work miracles

Adam Lockwood, Adam Virgo, Barrow, Cox, Guiseley, Hartlepool, Hartlepool United, HUFC, Kevin Nicholson, Lockwood, National League, Nicholson, NLP, Non-League, Paul Cox, Pools, Torquay, Torquay United, TUFC, Virgo

By Adam Virgo – @AdamVirgs19

LESS THAN a month into the season and three National League clubs have had a change of manager – they should be careful what they wish for.

Kevin Nicholson was sacked by Torquay, Paul Cox resigned from Barrow and Adam Lockwood was axed at Guiseley.

Nicholson was the first to go. As I said on Twitter, I really feel for him. Sometimes I wonder if people actually realise how difficult a job it is to manage a part-time side, like Lockwood was at Guiseley, or a club like Torquay where you can never look further than six months.

You get to January and people move on, they’ve only got six-month contracts or one-year contracts at best. It’s ever-changing.

It’s not like you can sign players on lots of money. Say Torquay or Guiseley offer a player £300-a-week and someone else offers a little bit more. The player will go for the better offer.

It must be so frustrating for managers like these guys.

What is Kevin Nicholson actually meant to do down at Torquay? He’s been a successful player down there and I think he’s been a successful manager.

He’s admitted himself he could have won more games – that’s probably his professionalism – but you have to look at it objectively.

After staying up last season, he would have been thinking, ‘Right, I can build on this’. Then all of a sudden players go. He lost people like Dan Sparkes, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Brett Williams. Every summer players would just move on.

I’m not saying the players he brought in are bad players, but they are all he can really afford to attract.

Clubs will get found out if they don’t change their ways. I use Sunderland as an example. They just never learnt from their mistakes and ended up getting relegated. At least they had money to do something about it.

Kev will get another job soon. He deserves it. He probably had a million things he wanted to say when he left the Gulls, but he can’t come out and say, ‘Well, what do you expect me to do?’ People will see that as a weakness.

But he’s left with his dignity and hopefully people will look from the outside and understand that he’s done okay, produced some good players and played some good football.

I feel for Adam too. He’s a young manager and he took over last season when the club hadn’t won a game. He kept them up and I highlighted what an achievement that was.

But the goals they’ve conceded this season have been so poor it does make you question if the players were actually taking on board what he was telling them.

That is the sign of a struggling manager. You can be difficult to beat but when you’re letting in really poor goals, over and over again, alarm bells ring.

Gulls, Kevin Nicholson, National League, Nicholson, NLP, Non-League, Torquay, Torquay United, TUFC

Former Torquay boss Kevin Nicholson was sacked just weeks into the new season (Picture: Action Images via Reuters)

We covered their game against FC Halifax and he was saying then, ‘We’re conceding too many goals from full-back areas’. The first Halifax goal came from exactly that area.

I always feel, deep down, that players aren’t as honest as they should be. Are players really working as hard as they can? Are they taking the mick a bit? Are one or two turning up late to training?

When you’re winning that doesn’t matter – it’s kind of a ‘funny fine’ if someone turns up late. But when you’ve lost again on Saturday and two lads turn up 20 minutes late it’s seen in a completely different light.

It’s always interesting to see how teams react to losing their manager and how their next few results go. Do they start trying harder?

Of course, when there’s lots of turnover in the summer, managers need time. Cox signed a lot of new players at Barrow after finishing seventh last year and he lost some good players too.

That’s testament to Paul. Jordan Williams went to Rochdale, Richie Bennett to Carlisle and Nick Anderton – who behind Lincoln’s Sam Habergham, was the best left-back in the division last year – left for Blackpool. It’s difficult to replace them quickly.

I don’t understand why chairmen would let their manager go after 14 player changes in the summer.

From the outside it looks like a misunderstanding in the direction the chairman wants to go and the direction the manager wants to go.

I know the chairman Paul Casson is a successful businessman and he may see things differently. But Paul Cox has been there and done it.

Cox’s phone will no doubt ring again very soon when another team decides to change their manager.

But that’s football’s merry-go-round for you….


Irked Pools need to be patient

HARTLEPOOL UNITED can’t afford to panic.

Yes, they’ve had a bad start and only got their first win on Bank Holiday Monday, but that feeling quickly spreads through the players.

I know it’s the demands of an ex-Football League club. They want to get back at the first time of asking.

Their fans may look at a team like Sutton and wonder why they’ve started so well but their team haven’t. The fact is Sutton have built from a stable squad.

Hartlepool have had to start from nothing, they’ve got to get used to the new league, they’ve got a new manager in Craig Harrison. All these factors mean patience is required.

Craig Harrison has endured a tough start to life at Pools (Picture: Action Images via Reuters)

Fans are passionate, they pay their money and they’re entitled to their opinion. I get why they panic first.

A memory from Tranmere springs to mind. We did their home game against Guiseley on BT Sport. After 20 minutes it was 0-0 and their fans were on them. All Guiseley were doing was sitting back and soaking the pressure – they weren’t even trying to counter at that stage.

But because Tranmere weren’t winning the fans started to grumble. All of a sudden the players were forcing passes and shooting from distance when they were never going to score.

I don’t think Hartlepool will do a York City and slip straight through – but they don’t fill me with confidence at the minute and they need to get going soon.


This article originally featured in The NLP, which is available every Sunday.

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