Darrell Clarke is staying at Bristol Rovers because his is a rare case in football today – he’s a manager who is allowed to manage. Appearing to rule himself out of the running for the Carrow Road hot seat, which was still vacant at the time of writing, DC this week affirmed his loyalty to the club, its fans and the Jordanian owners.
His decision, while saying a lot about a man who grew up on a council estate and still holds dear traditional values, bucks the trend amid the modern game’s managerial merry-go-round. I’m sure it was actually an easy call to make if things even got that far, because at Rovers, Clarke is the top dog. Yes, he is driven by a desire to right the wrongs of previous managers and regimes that failed to bring success to what is a special club. But being King of the Hill at the Mem helps. It’s his baby and he runs it the way he wants to. He calls the shots, when he yells ‘Jump!’ those around him ask ‘How high?!’ I’ve been around the club when Darrell is there. The respect afforded to him by all the staff and I mean everyone from the directors to the girls in the club shop, is palpable and that’s what makes his position unique.
He is the boss, the gaffer, whatever you want to call it. He sees everything. DC has an aura about him, as if he could be your best mate – but could cut you in half, metaphorically speaking, if you ended up on the wrong side of him. He has earned that respect, of course he has but managers also need time to generate success and time is a rare commodity in the game we love, the average manager now lasts just 423 days.
Those who are given time – and have drive and talent – can embed themselves into the fabric of a club and bring first stability, then success. Taking a group of players, creating a positive mentality and fashioning them into a battalion of warriors, if you like, who will go onto the battlefield on a Saturday afternoon willing to die for the cause is no mean feat. But it can happen if the man at the top is given time and is able to prove he is not only the right man for the job in the short-term but the medium and longer-term too. A certain angry, red-nosed gentleman once of Manchester United is a prime example.
United was Fergie’s club. He watched every one of the club’s youth and development teams and knew the names of all the players, even down to the triallists and the tea lady. He kept an eye on everything from top to bottom, even once turning up to call time on a party hosted by Lee Sharpe to drag young players including a teenage Ryan Giggs out and take them home.
Now I’m not saying DC is the new Fergie, not yet, but would I put it past him to turn up at a nightclub if he heard one of the players was out too late on a school night? Absolutely not! Admittedly the club seem to have ejected the type of players who would have required DC to embark on a late-night drive to the Harbourside, but you can see what I’m getting at.
If Darrell had left for Leeds, Norwich or another outfit with designs on one of the brightest young managerial prospects in the English game, he would have effectively been a ‘marked man’ from day one. As 90 minutes ticked by on Saturday afternoons, a trigger-happy chairman or chairwoman would have had DC’s forehead firmly in the crosshairs in case results did not go as expected. Why would Darrell swap the Mem for that type of pressure at the moment when as he confesses, he is still learning the management game?
The situation at Rovers is different – because most of the pressure the boss feels comes from within his self, like Ferguson. He is always the first to hold up his hands and take a bullet if he feels he’s got the team selection or tactical decisions wrong, unlike Ferguson. But would he have to be wary of adopting such an honest approach if and when he decides to move onwards and upwards, where it could be perceived as a sign of weakness? Perhaps. Ferguson never showed signs of weakness, it wasn’t in his nature, but ruling with an iron fist, taking on the role of father figure or court jester when it was required, was. DC looks happy to slip into any of those personas when the time is right, which could help him achieve his most immediate aim of getting Rovers into the Championship.
Regardless of what he decides to do eventually, for the moment, he is still in the dug-out at the Mem on match days and that’s all that matters. One day he will break our hearts. Unless of course, he is aiming to emulate Fergie’s 26 years at Old Trafford … We can dream, can’t we?
Feature Image Credit: Chris Clements at English Wikipedia