|Leaving without a legacy|
|Written by Mark W|
|Thursday, 26 February 2015 23:41|
I have been a huge fan of Lee Johnson during his 23 months in charge of Oldham Athletic yet despite being disappointed at his departure this week, I am far from devastated. The overwhelming feeling I have is one of surprise.
From everything I have heard from Lee, and said about him, I have gained the view that he is both confident and highly ambitious. The decision to leave for Barnsley, however, calls this into question.
I need to clarify that statement as it could easily be misunderstood. I am completely willing to accept the view that Barnsley are, at this moment, a ‘bigger’ club than Oldham. It you determine size based upon the average attendance, potential fanbase or recent seasons’ league positions, you have no choice but to accept it. I would never hold it against a manager to walk out on a club per se as every manager knows that he is only a bad run of results away from facing the sack. Why should a manager show loyalty when clubs rarely show loyalty to them.
In this situation, though Lee Johnson is a manager who was in his first managerial job and whilst he had got Oldham playing some decent football (on the whole) he hasn’t actually achieved anything. If you are in the early stages in your career, you need to create some kind of a legacy. Should Lee fail at Barnsley, as other decent young managers have done in the recent past, his CV is going to look rather bare.
When Lee took over in March 2013 we were 21st in League One whereas he leaves us sat in 9th. I think this has to be caveated though. We might have been 21st but we had recently beaten Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and taken Everton to a replay in the FA Cup. We might have been struggling in the league but nobody could argue that we didn’t have it within us to stay in League one. I am not taking the credit for keeping us up that season away from him but I do believe that it will be something that he will struggle to hold up as a major achievement.
Perhaps I am misreading the situation. Perhaps his legacy will be that he stabalised the club and produced significant profits on a number of players that he brought in, developed and sold on. Sadly, in this era of the undisclosed fee, we will never know and he will struggle to validate the claim in future job interviews.
I also think that despite my previous statement about clubs not showing loyalty to managers, Simon Corney has tended to show more loyalty than most. He showed this by sticking with Dickov long past the point when most would have given him the chop and the long term deal he gave to Johnson showed that he saw him as someone he would give time to.
Had Lee stayed with the club until the end of the season at the earliest, he could have genuinely achieved something. For what it’s worth, I don’t think we would have made the play-offs but even if we had finished in the top ten, that would have been an achievement in itself, certainly something that looks better than a 15th place position in your only full season in charge. Furthermore, I feel that if Lee had stuck with the project into next season he could, given support from the Board, have instigated a genuine promotion push. In those circumstances his stock would have been much more in demand than it was this week.
I like Lee and I hope for him that I am wrong. I hope that he can take the lessons he has learnt here and use them at his new club to enhance his reputation and progress to the highest level in the game. I’m not bitter towards him and hope this piece doesn’t sound as if I am. If I was a betting man, however, I would be putting my cash on him having moved to a club with a lot less patience than he is currently used to and he will be out on his ear within 18 months.