Weir off as Blades wield the axe
When David Weir was appointed back in June, fans were broadly very optimistic – unusually so given disagreement on previous appointments. After a number of candidates had distanced themselves in what felt like the longest managerial search in the club’s history, it appeared like the club had come across a diamond in the rough.
On paper, we had a man that was keen to make his mark in football, had worked for the likes of David Moyes and Walter Smith, and who had been preparing for several years for the right time to enter management. He had apparently narrowly lost out to Roberto Martinez for the Everton job, and was all of a sudden unveiled in a fresh-looking managerial team – alongside assistants Lee Carsley (‘technical’) and Adam Owen (‘performance’).
A flurry of early signings followed. Some reliable performers in the league (Watford’s Stephen McGinn and Walsall’s Febian Brandy), while others were gambles that seemed like they might payoff, like 24-goal Lyle Taylor from Falkirk. Few came in that were experienced – this was to be a team that was younger, fresher, more attacking.
The performance on the opening evening of the season was one of the most positive I’ve seen from a new manager in years. Attack-minded full-backs that were so absent from Danny Wilson’s side last season; a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation; pace on the break that quickly disposed of memories of Barry Robson struggling to move last year. And the chances we created were intelligently created, albeit still in need of finishing. But keep playing like that and we were looking at a cracking season.
Then Kevin McDonald was sold to Wolves – the focal point to Weir’s new style. Whether it was naivety to model a team around a player with a fairly low sell-out clause, or just plain stupidity, Weir was simply unable to recapture the level of performance thereafter. And as the chances dried up, the defence that had looked so solid last year seemed incapable of a clean sheet – bizarre given Weir & Carsley’s defensive qualities as players.
As the slide started, the fans’ expectations were at the same time raised by the emergence of Prince Abdullah as a new co-owner of the football club. Further signings were made – good signings. Jose Baxter, Florent Cuvelier, Marlon King – all players that should be more than capable at League 1. And yet, the performances, save 45 minutes at Wolves, continued to be woeful.
The loss on Tuesday to League 2 Hartlepool marked his 7th defeat in all competitions – his only wins being on the first day, and a 0-0 draw that was won on penalties in the JPT against League 2 Scunthorpe. The interview he gave was just horrible to watch – a broken man. This wasn’t what he had spent years preparing for. Fan anger turned to fan pity – but in the end the general feeling had shifted to wanting him out.
You never like to see a change of this speed. But we’ve seen managers through Bramall Lane before that have inherited a good team, been able to bring in decent players, and yet hurtle down the table at alarming pace. The diabolical Bryan Robson era lasted until February – another man that had ‘learnt from the best’, who wanted to play a more passing style, and whose reign can be summed up by the fact he had ambitions of converting Nick Montgomery into ‘an attacking midfielder’. The difference then was that the fans knew Robson was doomed to fail – Weir’s inadequacies have come as a huge shock to the system.
The club is in trouble. The players’ confidence appears shot, their attitude appears to have been one of the key factors. Weir tried to impose a style on players that were either unwilling or unable to work in his system – with Weir himself refusing to budge on his approach mid-game, between games, or in the face of evidence week-on-week that it wasn’t working. Would it have improved in time? There was very little evidence to suggest this. What was a managerial career with promise 4 months ago appears in tatters. I wanted it to work, the fans wanted it to work, all signs were that it would work. It has been a disaster.
And in what is probably the most important decision of the club in my lifetime, the owners need to avert a further one.
Written by @josephclift