Lee Clark can have no complaints after Huddersfield dismissal
If ever a managerial sacking could be used to illustrate the difference in mindset between an ordinary football fan and the seasoned football betting punter, it’s the departure of Lee Clark from Huddersfield yesterday.
On the face of it, the dismissal is a harsh one. Huddersfield have improved year or year since Clark was given the job four seasons ago, finishing in the play-offs for the past two campaigns and starting this one by completing an impressive 43-match unbeaten league run. The Terriers are currently fourth in the table with another top-six finish a near-certainty and they started this week’s defeat to Sheffield United just one point behind the second-placed Blades.
However, whereas there were many questions about the wisdom behind the timing of Mick McCarthy’s dismissal from Wolves earlier this week, there’s nothing knee-jerk about Clark being given the boot on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Danny Wilson’s men. For quite a while now, punters have believed that something doesn’t quite add up with the hype that surrounds the Geordie.
The first rule when analysing clubs by their managers as a means for betting on football is that a manager should only be judged according to the resources at his disposal. Some ordinary folk understand this when they recognise a small club punching above their weight in a tough division but it’s a rule that applies equally to those at the top of the table and you shouldn’t always assume the size of a club’s budget by the historical connotations of the name.
Sometimes, even second place and automatic promotion behind a fallen giant in a league of 24 teams isn’t good enough when the right foundations are in place and the playing budget far exceeds what is available to everyone else. We can only speculate on what Clark was working with at the Galpharm but there’s compelling evidence to suggest his resources were far greater than what Gus Poyet worked with at Brighton last season, ditto Darren Ferguson at Peterborough, and it’s much the same story among the bigger names out-performing them this year.
Indeed, Clark was very spiky about the issue when I casually threw in an innocent question about the competitive balance in League One when I interviewed him the summer before last. In recent years, the clubs reported to have the biggest budgets have routinely occupied top six positions but my question wasn’t aimed at Huddersfield specifically, rather the disparity between top six and the rest. The unmistakable paranoia that filled Clark’s hostile response revealed rather more than I was anticipating from the session and suggested he was carrying a heavy load in more ways than one.
However, perhaps the most damning exhibit in the case against Clark is his own friendship with Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle. It’s well-known that the two men share a close bond and that their families regularly dine together, so it’s only fair to assume that Hoyle wouldn’t have sacked Clark unless something didn’t add up.
Nonetheless, the immediate response from the ordinary folk was one of general bewilderment when news of Clark’s dismissal broke yesterday afternoon – another case of a trigger-happy chairman and his unreasonable demands. What right have Huddersfield got to think they should be finishing above Charlton, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday? They’ve all been in the Premier League, don’t you know.
As punters, of course, it’s our job to see through the smoke and mirrors of the conventional wisdom shaped by national media coverage and judge things in terms of rationality and probability, so it was no real surprise that my Twitter timeline was generally occupied by a frenzy of those crying injustice (ordinary folk and national media journalists) while the much calmer voices of reason were generally provided by most of my punting associates.
Even when removing the speculation that surrounds the finances, Clark has had a serious case to answer. It’s often said that a 20-goal-a-season striker is the difference between winning the league or coming up short, yet despite the fact that Jordan Rhodes has come of age so spectacularly this season, scoring 27 league goals with less than two-thirds of the campaign gone, it’s a sad fact that Huddersfield are once again bang on course to be the nearly men of League One.football, football league, huddersfield, League One, lee clark
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