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The dust settles

Been some week, hasn’t it?

After the emotion of Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday, the tears, the hugs and the reaction that at times got disturbingly mawkish (seriously, naming a stand after TB?), we are where we are right now.

For the first time since Terry Eames was elbowed, we’re in a managerial limbo. And for the first time in the AFCW era, we’re genuinely managerless with no replacement. Back after Eames went, Nicky English came in and was pretty much nailed on for the rest of the season.

Tomorrow, Simon Bassey takes charge, and by his own admission he’s only here as a caretaker. Mind you, the managerial vacancy as advertised on the OS (an unusual step but not the first time it’s happened – Torquay did the same too) is pretty much stating the club wants somebody with proven experience and a track record.

More on that later, but there is the little issue of us playing Wycombe tomorrow. And it’s one of those games where you genuinely cannot predict what is going to happen.

As our caretaker manager says, tomorrow is an audition (for him as well as the squad, and more on that later too) so who knows what our mentality will be? One suspects the players have a little bit of a guilt trip over TB’s sacking, so we might see the footballing equivalent of an apology in front of our ex-manager.

Wycombe are almost as bad as we are, and it seems from reading around that Gary Waddock is teetering around as much as TB was this time last week. They are fighting for early season stabilisation too, and those who are there tomorrow may well get to see a damn entertaining game.

Even if it may not necessarily be a good one.

We are of course still shit in defence, and being sans Midson and presumably Jolley isn’t going to help. Plus we’ve lost Pim and CH-B too, although a cynic could argue that’s strengthened us tomorrow.

What is guaranteed tomorrow though is that nobody is going into the game with any dread. The watershed moment has happened, there is a belief since then that things can’t get any worse, and even if we do lose 6-0 tomorrow it’s only because we’re in limbo.

That said, there is pressure on us – if only because there is no excuse for a lack of reaction tomorrow. We might have seen odd glimpses of such a fightback against Rochdale, but tomorrow some potential new managers will be looking at them with a wary eye.

You think of what may happen if one or more players have a stinker at Adams Park. Under TB they could always blame the boss, but now they can’t. As Bassey has told them, it won’t just be him, TB and us fans looking on at them tomorrow, and any thoughts of sentiment and loyalty won’t count for shit under the watching glaze of a future boss…

One wonders what the loanees are thinking right now. Especially Gregs, who came simply because of TB being a father figure to him. Will he want to return to Dean Court? Will he just simply stick it out because Bassey and both Moores are still here? Of course, he may well wait and see what happens, and how he gets on with the new boss. He doesn’t have much to lose by doing that right now.

Mind you, this whole thing is generating more questions than answers. What of the existing senior players? Especially somebody like Sammy Moore, who always seemed the most vocally pro-TB voice in the dressing room, but who hasn’t really set the place alight this season?

Perhaps their nights are just a little more sleepless right now? Not that I have any sympathy for them right now, they do need that uncertainty. They do appear to have a shit attitude right now, given the amount of errors they deliver on the pitch.

Oh, and one more question – who is Bassey’s right hand man now? Paul Priddy? I have to admit that I’m surprised SC wasn’t kept on with a caretaker role for a little bit longer, although I guess that might have been too much for him.

That’s all for tomorrow. Post-Wycombe, of course, we will now have the small task of filling up the position. And it’s going to be one of those ones where we have to get the timescale right.

We can’t remain in limbo for too long, as Bassey can’t hold fort forever – especially as we have no intention of making him the permanent boss. That said, it’s not one to rush either – we absolutely have to get this right without panicking. Remember that there are still around eight months worth of games to play, and we don’t want or need a second load of severance pay to cough up if we can avoid it.

It’s worth looking at the other clubs who are/were in the same boat right now for some guidelines. Andy Thorn was sacked by Coventry on the 26th August, and they only put Mark Robins in two days ago. So that’s three and a half weeks.

Bury lost their manager to Crawley on the same day we lost to Pompey in a PSF, and they still haven’t filled their managerial vacancy. Although they appear close to be making a decision on a permanent boss. That’s just over five weeks of putting up with Peter Shirtliff.

And Chesterfield still haven’t got over the shame of losing to us since John Sheridan got his marching orders two days after Andy Thorn left the Ricoh. Again, that’s three weeks gone for them, although they haven’t done too badly since then.

So with those timescales, that could take us up to Cheltenham at home or even Fleetwood away. Now, if Bassey does manage to stabilise the side enough, we might be able to get away with that. But if Erik’s comments about starting interviews next week is an indication, it’s clear we want a new man in as quickly as possible.

The club does at least have a fair idea of the sort of candidate they want, and this is perhaps what has been considered during this last month anyway. It appears that Harry Bassett is going to take part in the interview process, and his help is beyond invaluable.

Reportedly, the first thing Harry told the board when he ran his eye over us was that our defence was shocking, we had too many youngsters and not enough experience, and that our style of play was wrong. OK, we could have told the club board that in December last year, but coming from Harry it seemed to finally register.

While it’s tempting to overstate his current role, you have to admit that people will listen to him. He is considered a legitimate elder statesman in football, and still regularly gets Sky Sports News gigs. And while he may not appear to “love” AFCW as much as any of us (remember how he left WFC under a cloud), he obviously regards us highly enough…

We are still managerless, but we are in that “fun” bit of this stage where we’re getting all the different names bandied about. Some are clearly 2+2=5 ones – the vast majority of WFC-related ones for a start.

With the exception of Steve Cotterill, who may or may not be tempted to take a pay cut and manage at us lot, and possibly Sanchez, all other names you hear will be just the usual sentiment value. And at total odds with what the club actually wants.

There will also be the usual mentions of people like Sean Dyche. Again, like Cotterill – would he really come down as low as us, with a minimal budget? That said, you never know with managers, especially those who have been paid off and don’t need to worry about the mortgage.

The likes of Mark McGhee and Aidy Boothroyd may be getting more dough than the £70k we reputedly paid TB, but it still takes a lot for them to be in L2 to begin with. And given the scarcity of work around for unemployed managers, the need to be “involved” in the game again may trump over the money.

I’m not saying we’ll get a “name” manager who will make your non-AFCW mates go “bloody hell, you got him as your boss?”, but I wouldn’t entirely rule it out either. Remember, it’s an employer’s market right now, and many managers can’t be picky.

That said, we’ll still more than likely end up with somebody who you will probably have to Google. Which is no bad thing providing they fulfill the criteria needed – motivation, tactics, ability to work within a tight budget, Football League experience, knowing what to do with the youth policy etc.

Names like Andy Scott and Brian Reid have been mentioned, and today the SLP has thrown in names like Lee Bradbury (ex-Bournemouth),  Glyn Chamberlain (ex-Macclesfield) and Steve Tilson (ex-Southend). No doubt there are more who may or may not have applied, but even with the inevitable crank CVs that FM-playing losers send in “as a laugh” there’s enough potential there not to be worried.

And who knows, maybe in December time we will look back on this period and the games before it, and wonder why we didn’t make the change sooner?

That’s for later, whatever that delivers. This does start raising yet more sodding questions – questions like, what does all this mean for the long term future of Simon Bassey? He’s clearly only going to be the caretaker manager, and his role for the new boss will effectively be the continuity man – namely, he will know the strengths and weaknesses of the players.

Other than that and “being able to talk to the players”, when the new boss is up to speed what will his role be? His problem is that there are plenty of Simon Bassey type coaches knocking around with a lot more Football League experience than he has. While he may be doing coaching badges, and he may well be a lifelong fan, he didn’t have much of a playing career above Ryman level.

The upcoming period isn’t going to be one for sentiment, and being here for a decade isn’t going to be a decisive factor if the new boss wants his own men in. Because of that, the next couple of games may well be a shop window for himself too. If we’re being honest here, he’s lucky that he’s this high up in the divisions, and you can very well see at some point this season him doing what Marcus Gayle did and take over at a Conference South side.

In fact, there are quite a few people whose positions you now have to start questioning. Will people like Paul Priddy be here? Remember he was another one of the TB at Aldershot era. Apparently, Mike Raynor has said this week that everything is up in the air with regards him and the club. And you have to wonder whether the likes of Jason Moriaty, Robin Bedford and Trevor Williams are guaranteed to still be a part of the setup.

FWIW, I think most of those will be, at least the ones actually employed by the club. But what it does demonstrate is that when you get a new man in, it’s not just the bloke doing the dressing room talks who changes. In fact, part of the deal of getting a new manager in is to sweep away some of the old ways of doing things throughout the setup – otherwise, there wouldn’t be any point in changing a manager to begin with.

Whatever transpires, it’s going to be interesting. Already there’s a slightly fresher feel around the place, and at least we know whereabouts we stand – at least in terms of what will finally happen.

I type this as I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, though hopefully I won’t get to do Palace and instead get sent to our game instead. And I can’t remember the last time I ever wrote that