1st November 2013
IT’S going to be very difficult for Mark Venus to step out of the shadows and become the Boro boss.
I hope he is successful because that will mean Boro have been winning games and getting results.
But he knows, we all know, that he has a massive task on his hands.
The transition from being the assistant and sounding board to being the guy making the tough decisions can’t be easy.
And unless you get the time and the finance to change things around dramatically then you are faced with the same problems that got the last guy the sack.
I know. I’ve experienced it. I was at Boro when Bruce Rioch got sacked and his assistant Colin Todd took charge.
That wasn’t a great success. It didn’t work out. Toddy was only there a very short time and that tells its own story.
The thing is that the two guys in a management teams tend to be chalk and cheese.
They work as a team because they are very different people with different ideas and different personalities and when they do the job they have different responsibilities and get different things out of the players.
Clubs sometimes think they are getting continuity when the manager goes and they keep the assistant on but they don’t. It creates as many problems as it solves.
When Colin Todd took over from Bruce we stuck with more or less the same attacking 4-4-2 tactics and generally the same team – we didn’t have much choice because there weren’t too many of us – so that wasn’t any great shock.
But as a person he just wasn’t the inspirational figure Bruce was.
He didn’t have the same aura or discipline or motivational skills to get as much out of the squad.
And personally I think he struggled to get a grip of the top job at Boro.
He had been the good cop to Bruce’s bad cop. He was the one who put an arm around players and geed them up, the sympathetic guy you could talk to.
But he really struggled when he became the gaffer and had to get tough.
His management was poor. Just look at the time he went public and told the Gazette and the squad he was putting 11 players up for sale in the summer just before our play-off game with Notts County.
Toddy struggled to make the big transition from assistant to manager.
He couldn’t carry the players with him when he started to crack down on guys he had been joking with a few weeks before.
That is the problem that Gareth Southgate struggled with when he was promoted too.
One minute he was in the dressing room joining in the gossip and secrets and knowing all the gripes, the next he is the boss and having to discipline people who were his mates.
And that is the problem that Mark Venus will have to overcome, the change in his role and how the players see him.
Now I don’t know Venus or what kind of man he is or how he relates to the guys in the team, whether he has been Mogga’s joker or an enforcer and motivator.
But whatever he was, now he is the boss so that is all about to change.
He has to stamp his mark quickly on the team and assert his authority and he has to get the results to keep the fans and the chairman on board.
He has some big advantages too of course. He knows the players. He sees them in training. He knows their strengths and which players will combine well. He is not coming in cold from outside.
And in his first game he showed he is not afraid to make the big decisions.
He made six changes, he dropped both full-backs, he took the armband off Rhys Williams and gave it to Jonathan Woodgate and he switched to two up top.
They are all correct decisions in my view but they were bold ones and it could easily have gone wrong.
And if he had got it wrong then the fans – and the chairman – would have been on his back from the off.
If there had been a poor result, a poor performance and a terrible atmosphere then that would have sent out all the wrong signals.
That would have been the wrong sort of continuity.
If Venus wants to avoid the kind of pressure Mogga was getting he has to keep on winning games and clawing up the league table.
If he wants the job then he has to keep on getting results AND get the team playing well, especially at home.
He has to keep on making the right decisions and getting results.
And it has to be said that against Doncaster he got it bang on.
The shape was exactly what we have all been crying out for all season: It was solid at the back, he plugged the gaps in the full-back positions, he played two midfielders that complimented each other and he went with two attackers.
It helped that all the front four were superb and that the crowd responded to the attacking mentality. He got the win, he got a clean sheet and he got the fans buzzing.
It has to be said that the fixtures were kind for him and his debut was Doncaster at home.
You won’t get an easier game that that – although you still have to do the business.
Now it will be interesting now to see how he sets the team out against tougher opposition at Blackburn.
Will he stick or twist?
Newcastle bullies hit easy targets.
NEWCASTLE have shown themselves to be bullies and dictators by banning their local papers.
Reporters from the Chronicle, the Journal and the Sunday Sun have been told they can’t cover Newcastle matches or press conferences because their papers reported a protest march against owner Mike Ashley and the chaos at the club.
The papers had every right to do that. If there is a big demonstration in the town centre they have to report it. That’s their job. They can’t ignore it.
With this ban Newcastle are trying to use their power to control public opinion and they have no right to do that. It’s not Soviet Russia.
Clubs everywhere have always tried to control the press and prevent any criticism.
It shows an arrogance. They know that when things are going wrong on or off the pitch then fans can have some harsh opinions and are not afraid to air them.
If supporters want to air grievances that’s fair enough. They are the lifeblood of the game and have been for 100 years and more and they have every right to have an opinion, to boo the players or boo the board or organise protest marches and boycotts or whatever.
The clubs don’t like that. They don’t like to see supporters get organised.
And they don’t like it when the press report it either.
They know they can’t control or gag the fans but they think they can gag the press. But they can’t, especially these days of social media and the internet.
Now a story goes around the world at the press of a button.
And Newcastle are trying to bolt the stable door after the horse has bolted.
All they have done with this ridiculous heavy-handed action is make themselves look stupid and small minded. They have managed to make the ban the story.
And they look like bullies. It is easy to pick on the local paper but would they pick on Sky TV? No. They wouldn’t dare.
They wouldn’t take on anyone with the power to hit back.
Sky Sports, the BBC, ITV, all the national papers reported on that protest march but are they banned? No.
Newcastle have picked on the local press because they are an easy target.
If they ban the big boys they will get it with both barrels in return. If they ban the local press they think they will cave in and do what they want. They think they can put a lid on the story.
But it never works. The local press will always get the story anyway.
I remember when I first came to sign for Middlesbrough in 1985. Eric Paylor met me at the train station – no-one from the club did – and he made me feel welcome, told me the ins and outs and then directed me where I had to go.
Then he asked me if he could have a quick interview and warned me it could get me in bother before I even walked through the door because he was “banned”.
Eric? Banned? What for? For reporting the club was in financial trouble and heading for relegation? They were!
That shows you what it is all really about. Clubs don’t want their local papers reporting the truth when things are bad.
But they are picking on the wrong guys. The local reporters do more than anyone to support their teams in good times and bad.
And they do more than anyone to reflect what the fans are saying and thinking.
They are always there, not just for big games and cup finals when all the national newspapers and Sky Sports turn up.
I’ve got thousands of cuttings from the Gazette in the loft. Praise and criticism. And while some of the criticism stung a bit at the time I have to say it was always an honest opinion.
And that’s what clubs don’t like during the bad times, honest opinion.
If Newcastle didn’t like what the papers were writing they should have got those reporters in and cleared the air with an honest discussion, not sent letters out saying they were banned.
And if they don’t like what supporters are saying about the club’s leadership, finances and direction then they should go public and make their case.
They should be transparent. They should tell the fans the truth.
Newcastle supporters must be embarrassed about their club. They seem to make a mess out of everything they touch.
And they’ve done it again with this petty ban.
It’s a shoddy thing to do and at an awful time.
The team are in a mess, they’ve just lost to the Mackems – again! – and the club looks divided internally and between fans and owner.
And their way of dealing with it is to throw petrol on the flames.
Thanks to The Evening Gazette.