Wednesday 23 October 2019

From the Stands: Precedent for clubs in succession of clichés

Probably the most frequently uttered phrase since Alex Ferguson announced his resignation on Wednesday has concerned the startling revelation that his will be a tough act to follow. Indeed, it has also been revealed that his shoes will be extremely hard-filled.

But clichés only become clichés because they are true and a glance through the list of some of the most famous football managers and their successors proves the point.

When George Graham stood down from the Arsenal hot seat in February 1995, there followed a period of turmoil during which Stewart Houston served two terms as caretaker boss, Bruce Rioch was in charge for a season and Pat Rice also took charge before Arsene Wenger was appointed in October 1996.

When Brian Clough eventually departed Nottingham Forest in 1993 after 18 years in charge, it is interesting to note that over the next 18 years, up to 2011, the club employed no fewer than 17 managers. And speaking of Clough, he followed one of the toughest acts of all, Don Revie, who enjoyed 13 years at Leeds United before Clough took control, famously, for a mere 44 days.

But the most relevant, of course, is Matt Busby. Busby built United into one of the biggest clubs in the world during his 24 years in charge, but when he stepped down in 1969, his shoes proved too big to fill for Wilf McGuinness. McGuinness lasted just 18 months before Busby returned briefly prior to Frank O'Farrell's reign which, coincidentally, also lasted 18 months.

Tommy Docherty managed the club through relegation, promotion and an FA Cup victory, at a time when that trophy still meant something; Dave Sexton had four years in charge and Ron Atkinson added two Cup wins in 1983 and 1985.

But it wasn't until 1993, when Ferguson guided the club to their first league title since 1967, that Manchester United supporters could start to believe that Busby's shoes had been filled. They'll be hoping it won't take as long to fill Ferguson's.

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Former Irish sprinter Gary Ryan is expected to be confirmed as team manager for the Irish athletics team at the forthcoming European Youth Olympics in The Netherlands.

Athletics Ireland will send a 14-strong team to the games in Utrecht in July with Ryan, a former director of coaching with the association now based in NUIG as Elite Sports Development Officer, at its head.

The Tipperary man's specialist event was the 200m, in which he held the senior record, but he was also part of an Irish team with David Gillick, Robert Daly and David McCarthy which took bronze in the 4x400m relay at the 2004 world indoor championships. Ryan was one of several people interviewed for this position by an AI panel which included chief executive John Foley and High Performance Director Kevin Ankrom and, according to sources, his expected appointment will be well received as he is highly regarded within Irish athletics.

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BY now you will no doubt have seen the tweet: 'Maggie Thatcher dies and Alex Ferguson retires. Somewhere there's a scouser with a genie and one wish left'.

Very clever. And very popular. It's incredible how many people posted the same line, or a variation of it, without managing to point out that they had stolen it from someone else.

So take a bow Dave Webb (@davewebb_SA) from Adelaide who we are now following. Those of you who presented the tweet as your own can consider yourselves unfollowed. That'll teach you.

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Over 150 leading personalities from sport, business and government will descend on UCD's Smurfit Business School next month to take part in a novel conference concept, the Business of Women's Sport.

"It will be a day of knowledge sharing and inspiration," says Rob Hartnett, CEO of Sport for Business. This is Hartnett's brainchild and the latest in a series of seminars, conferences and round-table discussions in the last 12 months.

The June 20 seminar in UCD will look at ways in which business can capitalise on a surge of interest in women's sport. "We will also launch a new initiative aimed at highlighting role models for younger girls in sport," adds Hartnett.

For more information, see

Fergus McDonnell and John Greene

Irish Independent

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