Graham Turner has always been highly competitive in my dealings with him. He is a gentleman, but a stern one. We have competed in the Conference, in League Two and in League One.
In fact we faced each other in the 2005 Conference play-off semi-final and could easily have met in the final of the League Two play-offs in 2011. So I know him well and wish him all the best after he brought up 35 years in the dugout this week.
Graham took charge of Shrewsbury Town for the first time on November 21, 1978. He is of course back in that Shrews hot seat having won four promotions in jobs with Aston Villa, Wolves and Hereford to add to the two promotions he has won with Shrewsbury.
He has 664 wins in 1,681 matches. That managerial career is one he can already have great pride in. I want to record my high regard for his work right here, right now. He has been a tough opponent.
At Wolves he won 164 out of 386 games, a 42 per cent success rate. So it is absolutely staggering that Graham was out of the game for 16 months after his Wolves dismissal and has never returned to the second tier since that sacking.
When we consider the dearth of managerial and coaching talent in our country, we should look seriously at situations like Graham’s.
How can a man with such obvious talent, rising from the fourth to the second tier with Wolves, be left to start at his beginnings again some 16 months later because he failed to escape the second tier when he got there. Within two years his difficult inheritance at Hereford had led to relegation from the Football League.
Surely the game should think more seriously about re-opening the door of opportunity to talented managers like Graham if they suffer a difficult spell along the way. I really don’t understand why the ‘qualifications’ gained by promoted managers do so little to earn them better chances in the game.
Having managed Aston Villa and Wolves, Graham was surprised that something bigger didn’t follow. I am sure he would have learned a lot in those jobs that would have benefitted his next ‘big’ employer.
WORLD XI AT WORLD CUP
The debate rumbled this week about whether a World Cup is truly a World Cup when lesser teams reach the finals ahead of better teams because they come from a weaker geographic region. And whether players like Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic should ever miss out on the greatest show on earth because of their nationality. It does seem sad that some of the greatest players will miss out on the World Cup because they fail to qualify with their country.
So why not introduce a World XI to compete in the finals, made up of the best players in the world whose countries have not qualified. Then we would get to see all of the world’s best talent on that World Cup stage.
VENUS IS A RAY OF SUNSHINE
Mark Venus would have loved the Middlesbrough job. He is hugely ambitious and a very switched-on guy. It is a shame he didn’t get the permanent chance to show what he has to offer because he has clear vision and good ideas.
I studied alongside him for my Pro Licence where he always gave you something to think about. He always had ideas for player development and a strategy for winning.
He was also one of the funniest fellas I have met. His sense of humour would keep any camp bubbling along. Importantly he could laugh at himself. Which he did when he told the story of him returning home to the North East after time away playing at Ipswich.
He took a taxi to his mum’s, wandered up the path and in through her open door.
He passed a painter in the hall, went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. He then asked the painter where his mum was.
“Next door lad,where she’s always lived.”
TIME TO BRING IN A LIVE CLOCK AT GAMES
I attended a fascinating audience evening with David Dein in London this week. David talked insightfully about a number of the big issues in the game.
We heard his views on young player development, on handling Premier League stars, on the evolution of the Premier League, on Arsene Wenger and on Arsenal in general.
Arsenal were a hugely successful club in the Dein era and the audience was understandably captivated.
For me, one of the most interesting topics was around technology. And in particular the subject of match time keeping.
It is a topic abound which I, like most managers, have regular debates. I do not have a clue why we do not have a live clock, managed by a timekeeper, visible to all so that we are all clear about how long has been played, how long there is to go, when the clock is stopped and when it is not. It would save so much frustration and anger.
And it would lead to some clarity.
I was shocked recently to be told by the head of Football League referees that there is no 30 second rule at substitutions. I am told that the time taken for a substitution should be added on exactly and that the 30 second ‘rule’ is a myth.
I swear I have stood in a dugout on numerous occasions, asked where three minutes has come from and been told ‘six subs’. Or I have asked why only 30 seconds are being added on when a 60 second sub happens in added time. Never have I been told that exact seconds should be added. I am glad to now have this clarification.
I strongly believe in independent timekeeping and it cannot come too soon for the good of the game.