Burley backs protege to be top boss

IF anyone knows about the highs and lows of being an Ipswich manager then George Burley is the man.He appreciates what Jim Magilton is going through right now but is confident his former midfielder has what it takes to progress as a top manager.

By Derek Davis

IF anyone knows about the highs and lows of being an Ipswich manager then George Burley is the man.

He appreciates what Jim Magilton is going through right now but is confident his former midfielder has what it takes to progress as a top manager.

When Burley took over at Ipswich in December 1994, he lost 17 of the 23 games remaining that season, the same as Magilton has in 38 matches this season.

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In the first 15 games of the following season Burley lost just six, taking him to 23 defeats in 38 matches, and the turnaround was slowly changing for the better.

Over the next five seasons, Burley built a side that reached the play- offs three years running before finally winning the final and going up into the Premiership.

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By then, the side was so solid that it not only survived the first season in the top flight but finished fifth and returned to European competition.

Burley believes Magilton also needs time and support to build his own team capable of being serious contenders.

He said: “Jim needs to build his own team but it doesn't happen overnight and you have to keep working on it.

“Every club is different and he has started in difficult circumstances. It was never going to be easy for him but he has shown all the hallmarks that he is going to be a very good manager.

“He is cut out to be a good manager and this season will stand him in good stead.

“When I took over at Ipswich the club was on the verge of relegation and had a squad of 45 players. At first it was about steadying the ship, reducing the squad drastically and rebuilding. That was the scenario then but every club and situation is different.

“At Derby, we had to rebuild and when I took over at Hearts we had virtually no players so that was difficult in another way.”

Although Southampton were among the pre-season favourites, Burley warned in the summer that, with all the changes he had made to the squad, it would take time to forge a strong unit but they would come on strongly in the latter stages of the season, and that has proved to be the case.

The Saints are currently sixth and eyeing an automatic top-two spot, although Burley admits that will be a big ask.

He said: “Derby getting beat on Wednesday helped us but we know we have to be very focused if we are to get into the automatic top-two places.

“It is extremely competitive but really, with 12 games to go, any from 10 teams could finish in the top two.

“We had a lot of changes in the summer and it has taken time but I'm pleased that we are in the top six.

“We started slowly but have done okay of late, even though we have had a lot of injuries. We have some key players back and that gives us balance.

“We have to keep in the top six and Jim will be looking to steady things. I can see it being a very open and entertaining game with both sides needing to win.”

“I was taught a way to play as a 17-year-old and I have tried to stick to that style. We are a very disciplined team that likes to get the ball down and play through midfield.”

Although the Saints have lost just once at home since September, Burley knows that Ipswich are something of a wounded beast at the moment and, after being on the wrong end of a surprise result in Iain Dowie's first game in charge at Coventry City, is wary about the Town visit.

He said: “We had a bit of that on Tuesday when we went to Coventry, who had a new manager, and we were not at our best to begin with.

“We know that we have to be completely focused for the full 90 minutes or we could be made to suffer.

“That said, our home form has been decent and we hit five past Barnsley last time. Our defensive record is also pretty good, so we have to be confident but aware that we need to be at the top of our game.”

So Burley will be welcoming another of his protege's tomorrow, proud that, like Geraint Williams, Magilton has taken the first steps on the precarious managerial ladder. He said: “I doubt there is anyone in the country that thought Colchester would do as well as they have but George has a tremendous attitude.

“He is another player I had at Ipswich and, like Jim, was a great professional, so I will not be surprised that both go one to be top managers. But both need time and the experience in the first season will help them enormously.”

For the record, Burley has won far more games as a manager than he has lost, with 185 victories and 97 draws in 409 games in charge at Portman Road.

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