WATCHING the Sunderland-Stoke game last week reminded me of an ex-manager of mine, who managed both clubs, Alan Durban.
I think the fans who watched Sunderland during his reign might be divided in their opinion of him, but overall I thought he was a good manager who was sacked before he had time to finish the job.
Saying that, he certainly had his faults and I probably had more run-ins and arguments with him than any other manager I played under.
Alan Durban was a man who loved to set his team up as organised as possible and difficult to beat.
And being an attacking player in his team was never an easy job.
He liked nothing better than a clean sheet and I am convinced he would rather win 1-0 than 5-3.
Public relations wasn’t his greatest strength either and he famously came out with the phrase: “If you want entertainment, go to the circus.”
And I remember reading that and thinking ‘this isn’t going to go down well with the fans’. It didn’t. Saying that, though, I felt he was putting a decent team together. He brought in good players like a young Paul Bracewell, Ian Atkins and Jimmy Nichol, brought through Nick Pickering and Barry Venison from the youth team and added much needed experience in Frank Worthington and Leighton James to the squad.
Added to players like Chris Turner, Shaun Elliott, Stan Cummins and myself, who were already there, I felt the future looked promising. His biggest signing was Ally McCoist and although it didn’t quite work out for Ally at Sunderland, I think Durban’s judgement was vindicated when he went to Glasgow Rangers and scored so many goals.
Alan Durban only ever managed Sunderland in the top division and although his results were mixed, he got his teams good wins against the top teams at the time, though we did slip up against the strugglers – that sound familiar?
I remember being shocked when I heard the news of his sacking.
It wasn’t expected and took the dressing room by surprise. Statements from the club were along the lines that he had taken the club as far as he could and Sunderland needed to move on to another level.
Well, that did happen, but unfortunately it was to a level below as Sunderland were relegated in the first full season after Durban’s departure and two years later, were unbelievably in the third flight of English football.
I’m convinced there’s no way that would have happened under his management.