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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 32

27 March 2013

If I were Paul Sturrock I wouldn't even contemplate the notion of leading Southend United out at Wembley Stadium just a couple of weeks after being sacked by the club. The idea would have been thrown out the second it was suggested.

If you haven't heard, the club has offered Paul the opportunity to lead out (or manage) his former team in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final next weekend - even though Phil Brown is the club's new boss.

Now, I know Paul very well and I can't believe this situation won't sit well with him. Even though he's apparently indicated that he'd be prepared to be involved against Crewe Alexandra, I still don't know if he's capable of going through with it. I can't truly understand how he could.

Yes, being part of a big final at Wembley is special. Yes, he might not ever have the chance to experience it again. But it's not his team anymore, and everybody will know it.

The players will no doubt feel he deserves the honour (and they would be right) but won't it then have them subconsciously feeling like the day was all about saying bye to their old manager?

Don't we have a match to win?

It's all very, very unusual.

Losing your job hurts and Paul Sturrock must be reeling from the decision Southend United made to replace him with Phil Brown. The prospect of putting all that to one side for the day is something I know I could not do.

I see the reasoning behind the olive branch. Considering the fine job Paul's done in turning around the club's fortunes - and for guiding them to a major final - the board probably felt it would appease him to say that they'd be happy for him to be involved at Wembley. Suffering from Parkinson's disease there's a real possibility it might also be his final job in management.

The offer was to all intents and purposes, a last thank you from the Essex club.

In professional football however, there is very little room for sentiment and all parties involved know it. I'd feel insanely awkward knowing that it was no longer my team. It would upset me that I wasn't manager, and being there would only serve to magnify it, not make up for it.

If I put myself in Phil Brown's shoes I'd feel wholly uncomfortable, too. Why would he be okay handing over his players to their old boss for the day?

Every person and every manager is different. We all look at situations in our own unique ways, but I just don't see how anybody except Phil Brown can be in charge of Southend United on April 7th.

If you're sacked that's it. You go.

It's horrible, and very harsh on a man that I regard very highly, but if I were in Paul Sturrock's shoes I'd avoid Wembley altogether.

On a lighter note, wasn't it great to hear that Gillingham had forked out to pay for food for Accrington Stanley's visiting 28 fans at the Priestfield Stadium. It was only a few pies, but that's not the point. It was fantastic that the club gave the hardy travelling fans some recognition for the efforts they'd made to get to Kent.

In npower League 2 we occasionally hear about these lovely tales and gestures, and it never ceases to put a smile on my face. I say fair play to the Gills for being so considerate and understanding.

You have to say Martin Allen's men look a good bet to go up as champions now. They've had a wobble, but it appears to be behind them as the run-in approaches.

In the Conference one year I was 19 points clear at the top with Macclesfield Town, and we almost blew it when Woking and Kidderminster Harriers chased down the lead to just five points, but we had enough of a gap to get over the line.

Looking at the table I believe Gillingham's 10-point advantage over Northampton Town in fourth place will be enough to see them gain automatic promotion. Then, it will all be about the title, and knowing Martin, he will want that badly.

If at this stage of the season if you have the points in the bag it's such a fillip. With the pressure matches to come, having that little bit of wriggle room is a real luxury.

To me, Gillingham is too big a club for this division anyway. They had over 10,000 inside the stadium for the visit of Stanley and that shows just how much support they have in the area.

They're an npower League 1 club in waiting, and I have to say that on the basis of their efforts all season they thoroughly deserve it.

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