David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Gary Smith’

Are we good enough to sack Gary Smith?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Is four wins out of the last fourteen league games a good enough reason to sack Gary Smith?

Fortress Lamex has become a limp bouncy castle with only 17 points from a possible 45 claimed on home soil.

Other chairmen would have surely axed the former Colorado Rapids boss by now, but I believe that Phil Wallace is doing the right thing to back the man at the helm.

Loyal Boro fans reply to the taunting trolls on the fans’ forums- “Who would you have instead?”

Rash sacking decisions are a risky gamble. They can pay dividends like with Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield in the closing stages of last season which saw both clubs promoted, or you can become a laughing stock like Nottingham Forest in the league above.

Gary Smith was never destined to live in the shadow of former boss Graham Westley- his ruthless style of football and nonsense in the media were not going to be missed. Players followed the previous manager north and Smith has had a clean slate this season. What did we honestly expect? The team is pushing through a transitional phase and I am excited about seeing the new look Stevenage FC take shape.

Chairman Phil Wallace is man who believes in long term projects. A new training facility and plans for a new £1.2 million north stand just reiterates his commitment to the club and its progression. The appointment of Smith was well thought out back in early 2012, and Wallace is always a man to look at the bigger picture.

It was over a week ago that Notts County handed Keith Curle his P45 after just winning two matches in their last 11 in all competitions.

Similarly at the beginning at the season, Paul Groves of Bournemouth was sacked ten games into the season having only won one game of the new campaign.

These are bigger clubs than us who have higher expectations- reaching the playoffs last season was like another fairytale despite defeat at Bramall Lane. This season hasn’t been a let-down either, we have found our place in the footballing world.

With Brentford, Oldham, Shrewsbury and Scunthorpe completing the fixture list in a tough February; it is time to really see what Smith can do as he adopts a 4-4-2 formation after the January additions of Sam Hoskins and Steve Beleck.

Every Boro fan will be awaiting the return of the animal Jon Ashton back to the defensive line, a player who has been dearly missed for an extensive period this season.

I for one am proud to say: In Smith I trust!

Written by Chris Penn, We Are Going Up’s Stevenage blogger

Chris tweets at @cm_penn11

Well wasn’t that eventful…

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Well wasn’t that eventful!

The first foray into unknown territory is often a daunting prospect. This season, however, Stevenage FC found themselves battling ex-Premier League big boys for a third successive promotion and a crack at the Championship -– rather than settling for any old spot outside of the bottom four. Mad? Probably. Exciting? Definitely. Unique? Certainly.

As a fan, the past season brought with it a whole spectrum of emotions – from sheer ecstasy through to denial and uncertainty, finishing up with immense pride (admittedly, tinged with sadness) at what the club had achieved. Not just this season, but in the two or three that had preceded it.

I don’t need to go over previous seasons, because everyone knows where we’ve come from, but this season alone has seen some huge achievement. We’ve been victorious in battle with eventual champions Charlton; completed the double over automatically-promoted Sheffield Wednesday; and remained undefeated (in the league anyway) against play off finalists Sheffield United.

It’s seen us rack up six goals twice – at Yeovil and Colchester; five goals twice – away at Rochdale and at home to Sheffield Wednesday; and despite early predictions, not once seen us on the wrong end of a result that emphatic.

It hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride, of course. The departure of Graham Westley to Preston looked set to plunge us into turmoil, until Captain Fantastic Mark Roberts stepped up to the plate and guided the club through three matches without defeat – including that 5-1 win at Rochdale and a 4-2 home win over MK Dons.

The season fell flat for a short while upon the arrival of new manager Gary Smith. A string of draws looked to have derailed our play off hopes, but we put the work in (with a small amount of luck in the form of Brentford’s penalty taking!) to pull off a customary run of positive results when it mattered most and extend our hopes of promotion for another couple of games.

In the end, Sheffield United did what they’d failed to do in the earlier league games – hold us to a draw at The Lamex and then nicked a winner on home turf just as extra time was looming. If we’re honest, it was a fair result over the two legs, but that makes it no less cruel that it came so late.

And so it was. Our first season in League One ended with a paradox – it may have been extended, but it came to premature halt. With the end of the season, came the end of an era at Stevenage Football Club and everybody knew it.

It sounds melodramatic, but the final scenes were poignant.

Standing in the away end at Bramall Lane, witnessing our visibly broken trojan of a captain clamber through hundreds of Blades fans mocking our downfall and refusing police advice to go back down the tunnel. He then beckoned out his team, which merely confirmed what we’d known for a long time – this group of players we’ve cherished for so long had yet again given their all to the club, the shirt and the fans and we’ll probably never know another group like them.

The team has already been broken up with the departure of seven fringe players, adding to the loss of long term right back, Ronnie Henry; self proclaimed “goal scoring left back” Scott Laird; and the scorer of the goal that made this season possible, John Mousinho.

There are undoubtedly more to follow to – it’s the price you pay for punching above your
weight.

It’s difficult to look ahead to next season, what with not knowing who’ll be pulling on the shirt. But any player we sign can be assured of one thing – they’ve got some very big boots to fill.

Written by Mark Hollis, We Are Going Up’s Stevenage blogger

Mark tweets at @HollisMark

Nobody likes change

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I worked for my previous employer for the best part of 10 years. I’d been through an apprenticeship there, learnt my trade there and was comfortable there. I knew my role inside out, knew everybody and had a lot of friends.

Then the company hired a new manager who tried to shake things up and work “his way” and I didn’t like it. The reason for this wasn’t because I didn’t agree with the new man’s methods; I knew he was right, but it was different. It just wasn’t how I was used to working and the feeling of comfort I’d had for so long had gone.

I knew I could earn more money elsewhere and so decided to leave. My thought process being that if I was going to be made to change, I might as well be made to change for more money in an office nearer to my house.

And so… Gary Smith and Stevenage.

Smith’s arrival at Stevenage has heralded a period of uncertainty and fan division not seen at the club for many a year. It’s difficult to imagine from the outside a Stevenage fan who would have the temerity to feel dejected, but trust me, there are plenty. As with all periods of uncertainty and change, Stevenage has spawned a vociferous element that likes to make their ill-thought-out opinions known, and there is already a growing ‘Smith Out’ brigade among the fanbase.

The recently buoyant terraces are full of misplaced moans and muted boos at final whistles. I even heard one bloke ludicrously suggesting that this summer – the eve of another assault on a league we’re too small for – would be the first in years that Stevenage fans would be “at a low.” Ridiculous, I know.

Don’t get me wrong, Smith hasn’t done much to endear himself to the fans. His two forays into the loan market have been not far short of woeful with Patrick Agyemang seemingly unable to do anything you’d expect from a footballer and Jordan Slew seemingly more bothered about trying to get sent off than actually score goals. But the positive of those two arriving is that at least Smith has recognised quickly what we recognised a long time ago; that the club’s strikers don’t find the net often enough.

He’s also committed the cardinal sin of not applauding the fans after every match – something which I’ve never really understood. If I was getting whinged at and booed after two months in my new job I can’t imagine I’d be queuing up to ‘go for drinks’ on a Friday.

The main problem is that Gary Smith has inherited Graham Westley’s Stevenage squad and is not winning games that people think would have been won under Westley. It would appear that it’s Smith’s fault that his predecessor decided to up sticks with his whole management team in the middle of the season. It left captain, hero and living-legend Mark Roberts at the helm for three matches while chairman Phil Wallace frantically scoured the globe – and I do mean the globe – to find a replacement.

It would appear that it’s Gary Smith’s fault that Stevenage have had injuries to key players and that others were sold before he arrived, which has meant that he’s had to shuffle personnel about into unfamiliar positions.

It would appear that it’s Gary Smith’s fault that he has inherited a collection of players whose achievements have exalted them to the status of Gods. A collection of players who have taken Stevenage from non-league obscurity to League One security. A collection of players who have reduced grown men to tears. A collection of players who simply cannot be bettered and must never be disbanded… Ah.

The truth is, this team needs to be disbanded now. There was always going to come a day when somebody moved on. Truth be told, even if Westley hadn’t moved on, the team was never going to stay together beyond this year and the change in management will have unsettled the entire squad as much as it has the fans.

There’ll be players in the squad that dislike Smith, players that Smith dislikes, players who want to move closer to home and players that have simply had their heads turned by the opportunity of Championship football and associated wages. There will also be players who have no intention of leaving but face a period of uncertainty, knowing that the hugely successful team they’ve been a part of will be no more.

I fully expect four or five players to leave the club in the close season. If rumours are to be believed then one or two have already tied up moves, and good luck to them. They’ve more than earned their stab at a higher level or more money and every single one of them will move with my blessing and my thanks.

However, as sad as I’ll be to no longer see these players in a Stevenage shirt, I do find the thought of a summer revamp quite exciting. The club have coped perfectly well when losing star players in the past and hopefully will do so again. I genuinely believe that, given a transfer window and some funds, Gary Smith has the right contacts to bring in some very good players to this club. If he can keep enough players in the spine of this team and build around them, there’s no reason why we can’t press on again next year.

And let’s not forget, there’s still a chance that pressing on might even be done in the Championship.

Written by Mark Hollis, We Are Going Up’s Stevenage blogger

Mark tweets at @HollisMark