John Ward deserves more time as U’s boss

COLCHESTER United have never had a tradition of sacking managers, at the first whiff of trouble, and the Essex club should not start now.

COLCHESTER United have never had a tradition of sacking managers, at the first whiff of trouble, and the Essex club should not start now.

There were a few chants of “Ward out,” accompanied by a chorus of boos, at the end of Saturday’s disappointing FA Cup exit, at the hands of League Two visitors Swindon Town.

It was United’s third defeat on the bounce, following previous losses to MK Dons (5-1 at home) and at Carlisle (1-0).

Knocked out of all cup competitions, a distant eight points off the play-off zone in League One, and with a very limited squad, it is not hard to work out why a minority of U’s supporters are calling for the head of the manager.

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But John Ward does not deserve such treatment.

Owner and chairman, Robbie Cowling, has put his faith in Ward, and he continues to back him. He certainly shows no signs of wanting to change course.

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The experienced Ward is one of the oldest and most respected managers in the Football League. The 60-year-old has been in management for the best part of 20 years, so he knows how to oversee the running of a football club.

Cowling was let down by his two previous managers, who both jumped ship after enjoying considerable financial backing.

Paul Lambert left in controversial fashion, after responding to an approach from Norwich City, a mere week after the U’s had humbled the Canaries 7-1 at Carrow Road (August 8, 2009).

Lambert’s successor, Aidy Boothroyd, was another big-name manager who was given scope to spend money in the transfer market.

And yet Boothroyd lasted for just one season, guiding the U’s to eighth spot in League One before moving on to Coventry City in the summer of 2010. He is now of course the new manager of struggling Northampton Town.

So Cowling has experimented with the approach of choosing ambitious young managers, and then splashing out his cash in a short-term bid to gain promotion back to the Championship.

It has not worked.

Now, Cowling is looking to the long term. He has invested in new training facilities, and is looking to recruit the players-of-tomorrow via an improved youth team set-up.

Ward’s job has been to steady the ship, and build for the future.

He has had no money to spend on exciting new players, so surely it is a bit rash, and harsh, to suddenly call for the manager to be sacked after one mini-slump in form?

Ward has had to make the best of a bad job, in terms of a restricted squad.

There are not many managers, if any, in the whole of the Football League who have persevered with just two strikers for most of the season, especially when one of them has the injury history of Steven Gillespie!

Ward has been reluctant to bolster his squad with extra strikers, just for the sake of it. He has had to work to a tight budget, and has been careful not to waste his chairman’s money on gambles that are unlikely to come off.

The three-month loan stay of winger Michail Antonio was a big hit, and hopefully the U’s WILL strengthen when the transfer window reopens in January.

Supporters want to see quick results, on the pitch, and the U’s have not been able to deliver that this season.

There is no prospect of the club returning to the Championship in the foreseeable future, but that does not necessarily represent a failure on the part of Cowling, or Ward.

I feel that supporters have been spoilt by two fantastic seasons in the Championship (well, the first one was fantastic, the second one more of an ordeal!), when the club was over-achieving during that memorable Phil Parkinson/Geraint Williams era.

Now everyone needs to take a reality check.

The U’s have lowered their sights, but still have the potential to be a good League One club, capable of mounting a promotion push when things click into gear.

The Essex club have not sacked many managers over the last 20 years. George Burley, Mick Wadsworth, Parkinson, Lambert and Boothroyd all left of their own accord.

The others, Roy McDonough, Steve Wignall, Steve Whitton and Williams, were all given a fair crack of the whip.

That’s why I believe Ward deserves more time.

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