Southend United have been rocked by the news that a move for former Celtic and Manchester United man Henrik Larsson has collapsed at the 11th hour.
As the Echo News explains, everything had been agreed with Larsson to become manager with Johan Mjallby as his assistant and Tommy Johnson as head of recruitment.
Johnson pulled out at the last minute and that’s led to the club breaking off negotiations with the other two. They’re back to square one in their management hunt and as the season draws on, they’re looking increasingly likely to be in a long relegation battle.
We think that today’s development is a blessing in disguise for Southend. How, with no management experience in the lower divisions, was Larsson going to be a success? What is it about a player who has top flight experience everywhere else that is attractive to a team like Southend?
Outside of profile, nothing at all in our opinion.
Lower league football is littered with top-flight managers who went on to fail as lower league managers. Chris Sutton set the seeds of relegation for Lincoln City, condemning them to a six-year stint in the National League. Didi Hamann took over at Stockport County whilst they were a National League team and lasted 19 games, leaving them 17th in the table.
Steve Nicol, Jan Molby, Ian Rush and Mark Lawrenson won every competition going as Liverpool players, but not one of them could make a decent career out of managing in the lower leagues. Across history, few big-name players have succeeded.
Why? Perhaps because they’re used to working with a better quality of player, bringing ideas to the table that few of their squad can instigate. Managers such as Chris Sutton wanted to implement a slick passing game with lots of movement and integration, but you can’t do that successfully in League Two unless your squad is spot on.
You need to be resilient, have a certain strength and spirit that perhaps you don’t find amongst the managers we’ve listed. Harry Kewell didn’t do terribly at Crawley, he did at least come from a coaching background having been at Watford, but when the chips were down at Notts County he failed miserably.
Southend now turn their attentions elsewhere and we think they’ve got to go for someone who understands the club and the situation they’re in. The best candidate will either be working in the English league right now, or will have coaching experience that runs alongside a playing career in the bottom two divisions.
He’ll need to understand the club and its situation. Southend will not play their way out of this mess, they’ll have to fight their way out. They conceded three first half goals against Wimbledon at the weekend and have conceded more than everyone in the division, including the so-called whipping boys Bolton.
They need to go back to basics, and they need to do it quick. The standout candidate for us is Adam Barrett; he’s currently caretaker manager at Millwall but has experience of coaching and played 250 matches for the club across three divisions.
They could do worse than add Steve Tilson to his staff as a director of football, giving Barrett time to focus on coaching and tactics. That pair, both of whom understand Southend and the lower leagues, might be their only hope of getting out of the bottom three.
They’ve had a lucky escape with Larsson; they must now make the right choice.