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Early Dismissals

By Jeff Brazier

Sacking season has started long before Christmas this year! 7 games of the new campaign is all it took before both Harry Kewell, who had 4 months in total at Barnet, and Danny Searle at Aldershot within hours of one another, were sensationally relieved of their duties with immediate effect.

Having faced 10 early defeats between them you can understand why it would have been a consideration for both clubs, but the Barnet dismissal follows an impressive list of SIX managers (Including Dean Brennan this weekend) who have graced the dug out in 2021 alone, so the recent change of direction seemingly fits in with club policy. However, for reasons I’d like to explore, the Danny Searle sacking sits slightly less comfortably.

Aldershot had one of the better budgets in the National League under Gary Waddock, who took them to the play-offs in 2017, but it’s been cut every season since. I read recently that the Shots Chairman Shahid Azeem stated the budget (below half a million) was effectively a National League South budget and that it was lower than they would have spent if they hadn’t earned the reprieve two seasons ago. There’s therefore no doubt their quest for sustainability was going to require Danny Searle, who had only signed a new two-year deal in May, to move mountains.

Aldershot Win

Did he do that last season? Other than giving a record 8 academy players their first team debuts and being the only Aldershot manager to ever beat Notts County twice in a season, towards the back end they almost put a run together that saw them threatening the play-off positions until a string of defeats ended those hopes. As much as they eventually faltered, I’d still say that it was a huge achievement to have put that run together, in a season with no fans, no relegation and no motivation to perform once those aspirations looked out of reach. Others with higher expectations would have inevitably found fault.

So what about his start to this season? In those first 5 defeats, apart from the 2-0 opening day loss to Chesterfield, they’d only ever lost by a single goal margin. I know there’s no prizes for this, but you couldn’t really say they weren't always in the game.

Fine margins indeed, especially when you consider the calibre of their opponents who subjected them to those 5 narrow defeats: Chesterfield, Boreham Wood, Yeovil, Notts County and Solihull? No slouches in there. What about the 4 points in 2 games before he was dismissed? The win v Southend which Danny himself deemed as a turning point in his post-match interview and subsequent draw v Wealdstone which left them a win away from as high as 13th.

Rob Worrall, Aldershot fan, club media team and game-day broadcaster, gave an alternative perspective. Apparently a combination of the 5 in 7 defeats in last season’s run in and the 5 defeats straight out the traps this season saw a large section of the fanbase losing faith. This was undeniably reflected in the reduction in attendance at their first 3 home games from 2700 v Chesterfield (600 away support) to 2000 v Yeovil down to 1300 v Solihull.

Rob couldn’t deny they weren’t far off under Searle with Corie Andrews providing the much needed firepower but is impressed by the club’s first act of decisiveness in the 40 years he’s followed them. He of course refers less to the outgoing gaffer and more to the swift appointment of Mark Molesley, who was excellent for Weymouth achieving back-to-back promotions. He is someone Rob expects will reunite the fans as an ex-player alongside his trusted assistant Tom Prodomo and ex-Shots Manager Terry Brown.

Whether we think Searle was prematurely removed, harshly treated or justifiably discharged, Rob predicts a crowd of 2000 at the EBB for the visit of 6th place Halifax Town under the new management team this weekend and no doubt a sense of optimism will renew itself (although Pete Wild won’t be in the mood for romantic reunions!)

When it comes to parting with managers in football, fairness doesn’t always enter the equation. If we look back, was it fair Jim Gannon was disposed of by Stockport in 4th last year? You never really know if these decisions were right until the objective is achieved or not. Molesley will be judged by his ability to keep Aldershot in the National League and if he replicates the kind of football he had Weymouth playing there’s a promising season ahead.

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