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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 6

26 September 2012

If you look at Colchester United's record of four defeats and four draws in their opening eight npower League 1 games this season, you could argue it was no great surprise that the club decided to sack John Ward on Monday. It's a poor start and the U's are struggling in the bottom four.

But that's not the full picture. Don't forget they lost three big players in Ben Williams, Steven Gillespie and Kayode Odejayi over the summer and the club decided to set up a new Under-21 side that they wanted to integrate into the first-team set-up. It was a bold move designed to help Colchester live within their means and develop home-grown talent.

To my mind, that kind of change in philosophy needed time to bear fruit and that's why I'm surprised John is now out of a job. Young players are rarely overnight successes and I would have thought John would have been given at least half a season to see whether he could make the new set-up a success and bring the kids through.

Presumably John sat down with the board in the summer to agree the new approach and everyone was on board, which makes his dismissal even more mystifying.

Colchester obviously ran out of patience and yet again we're talking about a manager getting sacked before we're even in October. People like me must sound like a stuck record but it really does stagger me how little time managers get these days.

In contrast at Bury, they're still without a full-time manager after appointing Peter Shirtliff as caretaker at the start of the season, but with the team rooted to the bottom of the table, the club have confirmed Peter is out of the running for the job.

Speaking to people at Gigg Lane, I get the impression the board were keen for Peter to do well so that they could offer him a full-time contract but he hasn't got the results and they move on. In his defence, the Shakers have had a daunting fixture list so far but he didn't do enough to convince them.

Interestingly, it looks as if Peter will stay on to work with whoever does get the manager's job and I think it's a situation we'll see more and more of as clubs look to reduce costs. It's cheaper to retain coaching staff than it is to pay them off and we'll see more managers coming in and working alongside people who they have effectively leapfrogged in the job stakes.

Tranmere Rovers' thumping 5-2 win a Crawley Town at the weekend saw Rovers consolidate top spot and I notice they'll be live on Sky Sports next month for the game against MK Dons. It's been three years since Rovers were last on the box live and I hope the team enjoys the experience.

Playing in front of the cameras can affect teams in different ways. I've known managers talk about nothing else but the cameras in the pre-match team talk and others not mention them at all in the dressing room. Some players relish the limelight while others can get nervous knowing there's a much wider audience watching.

Personally I loved playing in live games. The arrogance in me relished the opportunity to perform in front of a big audience and I wanted people to be talking about me the next morning. Things didn't always go exactly according to plan but I certainly enjoyed the sense of occasion.

On a more serious note, I was saddened to hear reports of alleged racist abuse aimed at Shrewsbury Town's Jermaine Grandison and Marvin Morgan from parts of the crowd at Hartlepool United on Saturday. I admire the two boys for having the courage to report what they heard and hopefully the police can identify anyone responsible and a life ban from football, let alone Victoria Park, will follow.

It's disturbing to be talking about incidents like this in 2012. Like many people, I thought football had taken great strides in eliminating racism and it sickens everyone when we hear stories like this.

I've no idea why incidents of alleged racism have reared their ugly head again but I do know it's hugely important to acknowledge them, talk about them openly and throw the book at any offenders. The game must not stick its head in the sand.

Finally and on a happier note from the weekend congratulations to Graham Turner, who celebrated his 100th league game in charge at Shrewsbury. It's a notable milestone for any manager in the modern game and I wish him all the very best for the next 100.

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