In the last 10 years whenever, Huddersfield Town have employed a new manager it has always been a case of excitement at the prospect of employing someone genuinely brilliant followed by a feeling of disappointment when we inevitably employ someone who hasn’t won the Champions League.
So when we sacked Simon Grayson there was once again that feeling that we were on the brink of employing a genuinely great manager, despite all past experience suggesting the contrary. In fact it seemed to be too much of a coincidence that we sacked Simon Grayson just after Nigel Adkins became available, it did seem to a lot of fans to be a foregone conclusion.
However as the weeks went by it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be Adkins. He seemed to be on an epic holiday after his sacking, probably headed to India to really work on his poetry, and after the initial excitement it seemed that he might actually be well out of our reach with his stock being so high after doing a great job at Southampton.
So with Adkins out of the frame it started to get ridiculous with a new manager being the overwhelming favourite with every passing day. Steven Pressley, Richie Barker, the ghost of Herbert Chapman, the concept of irony and most worryingly of all Gary Megson seemingly seconds away from standing in the John Smith’s, holding a scarf above their head or posing holding a pen hovering above a contract as the chairman stands behind him smiling awkwardly.
And yet this never happened but the one name that wouldn’t go away was that of Mark Robins. Now on hearing his name my initial reaction was “Oh, that’s up there with Andy Ritchie and Simon Grayson in the boring appointment stakes” but I was being typically unfair purely because he wasn’t who I had wanted.
My hope was for a maverick manager who’d play a brand of football that would have people from miles around flocking to the Stadium to see the Barcelona of northern England was always unrealistic, so I had to accept that Robins was very much the sort of manager we would pursue and compared to others linked with the role his CV compared favourably.
So despite the fact that Coventry denied us the chance to talk to him initially, we ultimately agreed a compensation package and were given the opportunity to talk to him. Once this happened it was inevitable that we’d employ him, especially considering that this is the first time I can remember us paying for another team’s manager.
In the past we’ve only employed managers who were out of work, so this would suggest that the board were really sold on the idea of Mark Robins. And this is the big difference between Robins and other managers we’ve employed in the past. Excluding Lee Clark, who hadn’t had a previous managerial position, we’ve only employed bosses who have failed elsewhere and ended up either walking out or getting the sack.
Robins on the other hand hasn’t failed anywhere, and was the first manager in years to make a positive impact at Coventry which suggests that he is of a higher calibre than I had originally thought. I had also forgotten just how well he did at Rotherham under all the pressure and point deductions imposed on the club, keeping them up comfortably even after starting the season on minus 17 points.
Overall I think the appointment is a solid one, and certainly less of a risk than many we could have made. I personally hope that this is an appointment for both the present and the future. Robins has to focus immediately on the task of keeping us in the division and appears to have the stomach for that fight.
If he succeeds in that task then I hope that he realises that the club has to adapt and build for a long and sustainable future. He is going to have to operate on a sensible transfer budget, alleviate the reliance on loan players and work with the academy coaches to bring through some of the promising younger players at the club. And then there’s the style of football.
In the last few weeks Mark Lillis and Steve Eyre have made more developments and changes to the approach to the game than has been made in the previous two years under Clark and then Grayson. Gone are the aimless long balls, and suddenly we are attempting to pass the ball from the back, maintain possession and not just hit an aimless ball towards a none existent target man. I hope that Robins continues the good work they started, and keeps the ball on the deck. If he does it won’t take him too long to win over the doubters.
He might not be the big name many craved, and he unquestionably has got a big job on his hands, but I’m confident that he’s capable of succeeding and becoming the first man in years to really push the club forward after years of false starts backward steps.