Just before the dawn

From the Rage Online newsdesk Wednesday, November 21st, 2001  

They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn.

In the pre-season optimism abounded amongst United supporters, many predicting an immediate return to the Second Division under new manager Mark Wright, with the team at last playing in a new stadium. Rage Online generally shared this optimism and these high expectations is what makes this season such a disappointment so far.

Things on the pitch have sunk so low that many people expect it to be only a matter of time before Mark Wright becomes the latest victim of Kassam’s hunger for success. This has been compounded by the allegations of racist abuse from referee Joe Ross, which in themselves would be grounds for dismissal if proven.

Should Wright be sacked, just fifteen weeks into his first season as a league manager? Certainly a compelling case could be made either way: the results, Wright’s insistence on a formation that doesn’t work, his disciplinary record, the team’s disciplinary record, Wright’s poor PR are all arguments for him to go; stability, the amount of time required to turn the club’s fortunes around, the (further) damage to United’s reputation, the difficulty of finding a replacement are all arguments for him to stay.

The statement made today on United’s official web site (www.oufc.co.uk) made no direct reference to Wright, but there was certainly a heavy hint that his future is under consideration by the chairman. Rage Online would be surprised if Wright’s dismissal was forthcoming, for the reasons mentioned above and also because it would be a very short term solution to problems that need a strategic, long-term input. The very infrastructure of the footballing side of the club has not been properly addressed since Maurice Evans and Malcolm Elias left and this, coupled with Wright’s inexperience, is the real crux of the matter.

Rather than sacking Wright and leaving himself open to further problems which a successor may not be able to resolve, Kassam could instead bring in someone with experience of various different levels of football. This would be both to advise Wright and to offer expertise in setting up a structure at the club capable of sustaining a squad right through from a youth set up to a scouting network and all points between. Whilst the obvious choice would be Jim Smith, there is a danger here of heart ruling head, and we would be reluctant to be in the position we found ourselves with Malcolm Shotton. However, if it was a temporary, no strings attached, role and if Wright is capable of accepting advice from the man whose first move when he became Oxford’s manager was to sell Wright to Southampton, then that could be an acceptable alternative.

Let’s hope that the dawn really does follow the darkest hour…

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