The trouble with rumours, especially those linked to sporting institutions, is that they have a habit of escalating at tremendous pace, regardless of the fact that most of the time, there hasn’t been a shred of credible information to give credence to the claims being made.
Perhaps chief amongst the scenarios which provoke the most rapid pace of gossip spreading in sporting circles is that of the search for a new manager, with the secretive nature of all negotiations lending itself perfectly to the sense of drama and intrigue so adored by the perpetually maniacal media scrum that now operates in Britain.
With Ian Holloway’s decision to walk away last Wednesday, we as a club were plunged into the centre of the madhouse, with questions arising as soon as the news of Bristolian’s departure was made public, of who we would approaching to fill his shoes. Endless speculation has followed, with countless names being debated and discussed by all manner of talking heads. Many haven’t got the slightest clue about the club, its owners or its fans; not that any desire for logical conclusions has ever stopped the likes of Paul Merson or Robbie Savage from pontificating on anything they get shoved in front of them. It’s certainly been a draining few days for those of us with a vested interest.
As it stands, there looks to be three serious candidates for the job. Current Wales manager Chris Coleman, baseball hat enthusiast and long-ball devotee Tony Pulis and the much maligned Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew.
It would be fair to say that the trio generate a wide range of opinion amongst our fan-base, stretching from apathetic dismissal in the case of Coleman to grudging but understanding grunts in the direction of Pulis and a mood of hope in relation to Pardew’s situation at Newcastle. Whilst none of the three were seen as the obvious fans favourite upon the opening of the betting markets, it’s plain to see that Pardew would have the most unifying effect upon our supporters, regardless of the desperation of Newcastle fans to see him leave.
As of yet, the link between us and Pardew is nothing more than hopeful speculation on the part of our supporters and theirs, with nothing in the way of official quotes or statements to suggest it’s even possible. Strangely, that seems to be all it takes to propel the story to another level, with Newcastle feeling compelled to dismiss the rumour as “ludicrous” thus adding fuel to a fire which would likely have burned out soon after without the comment being made.
Yesterday afternoon, the South London Press published quotes from Steve Parish, which stated that the club would like to make an appointment by Monday or Tuesday, whilst also admitting that should the right candidate not be available at that point, he would have no qualms about delaying the decision until the international break. Once more, despite no direct reference to Pardew or Newcastle, those who choose to believe that a deal is in the pipeline receive another piece to add to their dysfunctional puzzle.
The fact that we are facing West Brom tomorrow afternoon seems to have been forgotten by some, with the focus almost entirely on the mystery identity of our new boss. Sometimes it feels as though many forget the reason we’re all here in the first place, with the football itself taking a backseat in the minds of many to the soap opera style shenanigans away from the pitch.
Stuck in the middle of the circus is Keith Millen, who will take charge of the team for the second time at The Hawthorns. Amongst all the drama and intrigue, Keith has a calming influence, saying all of the right things whilst also bringing a feel of tactical pragmatism to our play against Arsenal, as he looks to steady the ship through incredibly choppy waters.
With many focussing their sight elsewhere, a victory tomorrow would certainly bring an element of optimism to the club once more, regardless of who arrives after. Let’s hope Millen and his players can rise to the challenge.