Ten reasons why we mustn't sack George Burley

Last updated : 16 January 2008 By Saint Bobby
1. His record in his first two seasons is actually quite good. When he took over in 2005 we faced a possible threat of relegation to League One - after months of farcical managerial instability. He swiftly consolidated our performance and our position. In his second season, we qualified for the play-offs - only losing on penalties to the eventual play-off winners.

2. His record this season is pretty good too. Saints are five points off the play-offs and well clear of the relegation battle. And this after losing our parachute payments and some of our best players too.

3. He has been a highly proficient buyer in the transfer market - particularly given our tight budget. I think it's fair to say that he has yet to buy a total turkey. Safri, John, Viafara, Rasiak, Skacel, Thomas, Saganowski, Davies….the list goes on. Some brilliant bargains and some okay ones. But no chronic duds. Pound sterling for pound sterling, his purchases have been exceptional. Maybe not quite as good as Arsene Wenger, but still quite superb.

4. He has been an exceptional seller in the transfer market. Or rather he has been forced to be and has adapted well. Bale, Baird, Jones sold for a total of c. £20m is good business. It is thanks to Burley that our team is not obviously £20m worse simply because of these sales. On my rough calculation, we have made more on the transfer market in the run-up to this season than any other of the 92 English clubs. The deterioration on the pitch is noticeable, but not THAT noticeable.

5. Nobody knows our best midfield formation. We have a plethora of talent in this department. All that anyone can say is that it's never quite clicked. Fortunately, the theories of football theorists who stay up late at night playing Championship Manager are never put to the test at St. Mary's. Their strategies are only ever tested against what Burley might have done/could have done/should have done…never against reality.

For example, I wouldn't have reorganised the midfield the way Burley did at 1-0 up vs. Scunthorpe on Saturday. But for all its possible faults, his formation went on to win 1-0. Mine may have lost 1-4. In my dreams, of course, my formation would have gone on to win 6-0. But that's all it is - a dream.

6. There is no stand out, sensational, sure-fire alternative. The grass is not always greener. If Jose Mourinho was smashing down the door demanding to be given the chance to takeover the reins of managing Saints on a salary of £25,000 a year I might think differently. But - oddly enough - he isn't. The various names being bandied around as Burley's successor MIGHT be better than the present incumbent. But they might not. They might be about the same. They might be worse.

7. Sacking Burley could be expensive. To hazard a guess, I'd say forcing him out against his will could cost about £700,000. The knock-on effects (i.e. backroom staff coming and going) could easily raise the bill to a million. That's not an absolute bar to firing him, but in our present financial plight, it's not a decision to be taken lightly. I can't think of a credible new management team who are obviously £1,000,000 better than the present one. And we aren't in a position to gamble that sort of cash.

8. It's too late anyway. The prospects of Southampton being either relegated or promoted this season are incredibly remote. I'd say there's about a 1% chance of either. To spend big money now on trying to increase our promotion prospects to 3% or reduce our relegation prospects to ½% is NOT money well spent. Saints don't have many luxuries at the moment, but near certain mid-table mediocrity is actually one of them. We have the luxury of being able to properly audit Burley's performance after another 19 league games. It's not a luxury we should casually throw away.

9. There could very well be a radical and permanent shift in the ownership of the club in the next few months. There are no guarantees here, obviously. And there have been a lot of false dawns. But SLH's major shareholders and its board are supposedly seeking out possible new owners.

Any new chairman/board should be accorded access to a blank sheet of paper with regard to team affairs. In short, it would be ridiculous to appoint e.g. Glenn Hoddle in March, only for a new board to takeover in April and decide they want Graeme Souness. A new board may even wish to back Burley. But it would be madness to hamper them with the employment of a new boss selected by the hapless, dying, outgoing board as their last desperate throw of the dice. We can afford to wait. So let's wait.

10. We all remember where the managerial merry-go-round got us after 27 years in the top flight...

Read the alternative viewpoint from Roger Moore:
Stablility for stability's sake: Roger Moore scores