DOWN at Leyton Orient, Russell Slade is going through the kind of period every manager dreams of – a genuine once in a lifetime purple patch.
Win, after win, after win – you start to feel invincible. You can’t see how anyone can possibly beat you. It is an amazing time in your life, off the field and on it.
Russell was a youth coach when I was at Notts County. He was working as a schoolteacher at the time and was so, so diligent. Alongside my assistant Mick Walker, he used to give up every spare hour he had.
In the following years he ended up in charge at County with Mick, then had a couple of temporary spells at Sheffield United. He even ended up managing Scarborough so we’ve crossed paths plenty of times.
I’ve always kept in touch and I’m very pleased for him. He’s a lovely man and one of the hardest-working managers around.
He had a very successful two years at Grimsby, who gave him the sack three days after he’d got them to the play-off final. I thought he did a great job keeping Yeovil in League One as well, but they sacked him too. That’s life as a manager, I’m afraid.
That’s why I think you have to give Orient chairman Barry Hearn a lot of credit. There have been occasions over the last few years when he could have sacked Russell.
They’ve had bad runs, indifferent spells, even gone bottom of the league for a bit. It would have been very easy to say ‘Sorry, but we need a change’.
Instead, Barry has supported Russell and given him the strength to know he can have a bad run and come through it.
That’s paid off and I don’t think enough chairman are brave enough to do that. At the first sign of trouble, they panic and pull the plug.
But Barry isn’t a successful businessman for nothing. He knows that stability is vital to any organisation and he’s getting his rewards now. So as much as Orient’s run is credit to Russell, Barry must take his share of the praise for sticking by him.
I’m really pleased because it’s a lovely club, one of those places I always enjoyed going.
For Orient to be top of League One – given the size of the ground and such a small budget – means they’re really punching above their weight.
Runs like they’ve had are largely down to confidence, although the form of Kevin Lisbie has had a big impact. He and David Mooney are scoring goals for fun and if you’ve got two strikers doing that – at any level – you won’t be far off the top of the league.
But I’m sure even now Russell is just pleased to have the points on board because he knows it won’t be like this all season.
Their first XI can beat anybody. But beyond that? I’m not so sure. If Lisbie and Mooney got injured tomorrow, the clubs with bigger squads will haul them in.
So they’ll need a bit of luck to last the pace, but I hope they get it.
WHEN GRAHAM AND I SAW A FAN BRING THE ROOF DOWN
THE game that grabbed my imagination yesterday was Shrewsbury v Wolves.
That’ll certainly have brought back memories for Shrews boss Graham Turner, who managed Wolves to so much success all those years ago. I remember when I won promotion with Scarborough in 1987, our first league match was against Wolves and Graham was in charge.
Their fans came up to the old McCain Stadium in force and absolutely packed the place out.
And I’m sure nobody who was there that day will forget when one of their fans climbed up onto the tin roof and fell through.
He hit the floor hard and me and Graham thought it had killed him. But he was so drunk he didn’t feel a thing! He just got up and walked away.
We talked about it for years later, especially when we looked up and saw the patched up roof!
Anyway, it just shows you how long Graham has been in the game and what a passion he has for it.
He’s a fabulous person and it’s fantastic to see what’s doing for yet another unfashionable club after his heroics with Hereford.
WELLS TALENT WILL GET COSTLY
I’VE not seen a huge amount of Nahki Wells, but talking to people I know over there, the Bradford striker has a chance of making it big.
He went a bit wayward for a while but he’s knuckled down this last couple of years and now he’s top scorer in League One.
He’s got a good bit of pace. I know a lot of people are looking at him and I’m sure Bradford will see keeping him as the key to getting promoted again.
If I was managing in the Championship, I’d have gone for him in the summer. In fact, I’d be very surprised if all the Championship clubs weren’t looking and I even think a few at the lower end of the Premier League too.
I was speaking to Stuart McCall at Motherwell a couple of weeks ago and even he was raving about him.
I daresay managers just wanted to see how he got on in League One but they might pay for it later – by the time he’s proved himself, he’ll cost twice the price and bigger clubs will want him!