Friday, 7 November 2008

Banstead Manager Resigns

I was surprised to read the news that the manager of Banstead Athletic, Dave Leworthy, has resigned. To be totally honest, I'm not sure why I was so surprised. I have never been to Banstead Athletic, never watched them play and up until the draw for the Second Round Proper of the FA Vase, had never really given the club more than a passing thought. Managers resign, are sacked, or walk out of clubs frequently. It is not an unusual occurrence. High profile names that have been flung off the manager merry-go-round at speed already this season have included Kevin Keegan, Juande Ramos, Iain Dowie, and Aidy Boothroyd with Joe Kinnear and Harry Redknapp jumping on board. The phrases 'job security' and 'football management' are not happy bedfellows.

There are of course exceptions. Yesterday (6th November), Alex Ferguson celebrated 22 years in charge of a certain well-known club from the North West of England. Only this week the Football Association officially recognised Jimmy Davies as the longest serving manager in English football. Davies set up Waterloo Dock FC (Liverpool) in 1963 and is still in charge after 45 years of management. But this level of loyalty in the game is rare.

I guess one of the reasons I was surprised by events down at Merland Rise is that there appears to be no obvious reason for Leworthy's exit. The club has had a successful start to the season; at the time of his departure Banstead were lying 4th in their League and were seen as genuine promotion contenders; they have also navigated a tricky path through the FA Vase to set up the tie with Arundel. Confidence was high at the club. So why did Leworthy leave?

This is the official Press Release from Banstead Athletic

"The Club can confirm that Dave Leworthy has resigned as manager of Banstead Athletic F.C. as of Thursday 23rd October 2008. Mr Leworthy has stated personal reasons for his departure and he leaves the club in 4th position in the Combined Counties Premier Division, as well as in the 2nd Round Proper of the FA Vase. In an unfortunate turn of events the majority of the 1st team squad also departed with Mr Leworthy on Thursday evening. Considering the team has started well and the Manager has been given full support throughout his time at the club we find his decision very strange but wish him all the very best for the future. The Club can confirm that in no way have we gone back on any promises given to Dave and his team throughout his time at the Club. Graeme Banyard is now caretaker manager and in only 24 hours put a team together, including only 3 of the previous management’s squad, which won 2-1 away at Ash Utd last Saturday. Any players that wish to return to the club please ring Graeme, or turn up at training on Thursday 30th October where the committee will be available to answer any questions."

As the statement says, Mr Leworthy evidently left for personal reasons; I doubt the real reasons will ever be made public and I am not going to speculate. The thing that surprised me most is the obvious impact this departure has had on the club, specifically that most of the first team players and back-room staff have also decided to follow the exit signs. This happens in football; once a manger goes, sometimes players also go, often following the manager to a new club. This is predicted to happen at Portsmouth following Redknapp's exit. But at non League level, the scale of player departures are often more significant. Without the tie-in of complex and lengthy contracts, players can, and often do, leave clubs at short notice and players leave in large numbers. The strange thing about this particular case is that the players that have left have gone off in different directions (e.g. Sol Patterson-Bohner has joined Whyteleafe) and this is not a case where all departing players have followed the manager to pastures new. There is no news about whether Leworthy, who used to play for Tottenham Hotspur and spent 10 months in charge at Banstead, has joined another club.

The problem for Banstead Athletic is that now, at very short notice and apparently completely out of the blue, the club is bereft of players. The new caretaker manager is Graeme Banyard, who started this season as Website Manager but has previously had an 18 month spell in charge of the club. He faced an immediate problem in getting eleven players together for a League game only a day after Leworthy left the club. I had already made contact with Graeme before this all happened, so I guess part of my initial surprise was fuelled by a great deal of sympathy for Graeme in what must be an unbelievably difficult and testing period for him. A couple of days ago Graeme explained to me that the last two weeks have been "manic"; in Graeme's own words "not the ideal preparation for our important Vase match next Saturday!"

An understatement to say the least.

No comments: