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I don’t know if you saw the statement Southend Utd issued telling us of Paul Sturrock’s dismissal. It was…odd. I thought it was best to try and analyse it in a little more depth to see what it was actually saying, so I’ve had a go at that below. The statement is taken from the official Southend website (click here to read) – Southend’s words are in bold, my suggestions for improvement are in italics.

Some decisions in Business Life are:
• Relatively easy judgements
others are
• difficult to make
rarely in business should decisions
• be influenced by emotion

Three straightforward bullet-points taking the place of a functional sentence to make it look as if it were being presented as a Powerpoint presentation.

“Some decisions in business are easy, some are hard, but they should rarely be influenced by emotion”.

The decision I have had to make today was a very hard call but one I instinctively know is correct and in the best interests of Southend United Football Club.
Most people associated with the Club are currently thinking of “the day out” at Wembley. The 7th April will be a Special Day, a day in the Club’s history….a day for the Town of Southend.

No problem with the first sentence, that can stay – the ‘Southend United Football Club’ is an interesting touch; using the word ‘club’ suggests more than just the playing staff, as if the decision has been made on behalf of the whole entity from groundsman to ticket staff. Following that, the speech marks in the second sentence aren’t entirely necessary. Putting ‘the day out’ (especially including the ‘the’ in there) seems to title it as an actual event. The point might be that ‘most people‘ are currently thinking of ‘the day out’ as opposed to the match that will take place, which is what the playing staff are thinking about. I don’t like the capitalisation in the next sentence; all the words except Southend could do with losing it.

The decision I have had to make today was a very hard call but one I instinctively know is correct and in the best interests of Southend United. Most people are associated with the club are currently thinking of the ‘day out’ at Wembley. The 7th April will be a special day, a day in the club’s history…a day for the town of Southend.

I too will look forward to “our day out” but as Chairman my responsibility and focus must also be on the wider interests of “Southend United”. The primary objective last season and again this season was Promotion. The Manager and Players have understood that from the outset.

Strange to further the concept of the day out – seems even the chairman is seeing the JPT Final as a free game. There is something a little sinister about putting Southend United in speech marks, too, as if they’re representing something else on this instance – a veil over the thing his focus is truly on. More bizarre capitalisation follows, though the sentences are fine.

I, too, will look forward to our day out but as Chairman my responsibility and focus must also be on the wider interests of Southend United. The primary objective last season and again this season was promotion. The manager and players have understood that from the outset.

We came up short last season in the Play Offs and the recent results against relatively low League teams such as:
o Accrington
o Barnet
o Wimbledon
o Plymouth
and
o Torquay
have not been good enough…..2 points out of 15 by any standard is poor.

The ‘we’ here does not tally with the “Southend United” in the previous paragraph. I’m tickled by the idea of bullet-pointing the five teams here (though you don’t need an ‘and’ in this situation, unless you’re presenting them as if they were top prizes on a gameshow – “aaaaaaannnnddd….Torquay!”) but its more in-keeping with the corporate presentation than the serious statement. The ellipsis before the points tally almost makes it feel as if it had to be checked, and each dot represents a delay in that process. Also, using ‘such as’ and then being completely specific about a detail of the teams (the result) makes the exemplary nature of the ‘such as’ redundant.

We came up short last season in the Playoffs and the recent results against relatively lowly league teams; Accrington, Barnet, Wimbledon, Plymouth and Torquay, have not been good enough. 2 points out of 15 is poor by any standard.

ALL these Teams’ playing budgets are considerably less than Southend United’s and 4 out of the 5 teams are around half of what Southend United invest in “its” Squad.

This troubles me. Not just the repetition of, effectively, the same point. I find the second part a little invasive; telling us the budgets are considerably more is enough. Again, the speech marks around ‘its’ indicate something deeper afoot – if anything, given the assumption that the chairman is the one who puts money into Southend United, he could put the ‘Southend United’ in speech marks, to cover the fact that it is his money, but I can’t tell why the ‘its’ deserves it – are the players transient?

All these teams’ playing budgets are considerably less than Southend United’s.

The amount of investment in players must be one of the fundamental criteria for success – otherwise I could argue that by cutting the Clubs budget in half we should still expect promotion.

This is utterly true, and is the best part of the statement so far.

The amount of investment in players must be one of the fundamental criteria for success – otherwise I could argue that by cutting the club’s budget in half we should still expect promotion.

Our investment has enabled the Manager to build a squad both last year and this year of having more, quality, players at his disposal than most Teams in the League. Therefore in the event of injury or suspension other players were readily available to “step up to the plate” and prove themselves.

Again, this is fine – the grammar goes a bit off in the middle, and the ‘step up to the plate’ really should have been replaced with something that didn’t require those speech marks again (how about just ‘step in’?) but it backs up the previous points well, elaborating a little on Southend’s budget. We seem to be progressing to the ‘board’ being the ‘we’ now, too. Oh, and the ‘quality’ being a clause of its own makes it look like an afterthought, as if on re-reading, there might be doubt that the players they’ve paid for are any good.

Our investment has enabled the manager to build a squad both last year and this year having more quality players at his disposal than most teams in the league. Therefore, in the event of injury or suspension other players were readily available to step in and prove themselves.

All Teams in football have injuries and when that has happened at Southend we have supported the Manager still further on every occasion. The Board has recently sanctioned an additional six players (5 loanees) to help maintain the challenge at the top end of the Table. However the form, just as it did last season, has dropped off when it should have been pushing for automatic promotion.

This seems to directly contradict the previous point. If they players were ‘readily available’, then the manager would not have needed further support on ‘every’ occasion, he wouldn’t need it on ‘any’. To then sanction another six players seems entirely counter-intuitive to having these players. The ‘we’ and ‘The Board’ feels a little clunky being that way round, too. Further on, ‘It’ should be we, unless the club suddenly becomes an unheralded third-person in the sentence – the form itself cannot challenge for promotion, it has to be the form OF the team.

All Teams in football have injuries and, when that has happened at Southend, the board have supported the manager still further on every occasion. We have recently sanctioned an additional six players (5 loanees) to help maintain the challenge at the top end of the table. However the form, just as it did last season, has dropped off when we should have been pushing for automatic promotion.

Let’s be clear, promotion should always be a realistic prospect for Southend United in League 2. We are not a League 2 Club and my ambition as Chairman is to ensure we compete and fulfil our potential whilst at Roots Hall and continue that trend in the new Stadium.

Nice positive language here. The ‘always’ is nice and forceful. I could be nit-picky and point out that they ARE a League Two club, but he’s obviously trying to point out the potential is that of a club higher up the football food chain. I’m not entirely sure ‘ambition’ is the right word to use in that situation, either. ‘Aim’ would probably work better there.

Let’s be clear, promotion should always be a realistic prospect for Southend United in League 2. We are not a League 2 Club and my aim as Chairman is to ensure we compete and fulfil our potential whilst at Roots Hall and continue that trend in the new stadium.

Promotion has always been the first priority and the Manager has always known that.

Yup, fair enough.

Promotion has always been the first priority and the manager has always known that.

We could reasonably have expected to win all the above games and that would have seen us currently 2nd in the League Table…even 12 points would have seen us in the Automatics. However with just 2 points out of 15 when judged against the further support and investment in new players is unacceptable.

It seems a bit of a stretch to suggest that any club should win five games out of five, even against lowly teams – ‘scrapping for their very lives’ – at this time of the season, so that’s not reasonable. The wistful ‘even 12 points’ has the air of a man trying to catch smoke with his bare hands. There’s superfluous words in the next sentence, but the gist of it is fine.

We could reasonably have expected to earn more points from the above games. Even nine more points would have seen us comfortably in the playoffs. However, just 2 points out of 15, when judged against the further support and investment in new players, is
unacceptable.

Paul Sturrock’s three year contract comes to an end this season and The Club will not be renewing Paul’s contract.

Don’t mention the contract twice – that’s what pronouns are for.

Paul Sturrock’s three year contract comes to an end this season and The Club will not be renewing it.

Paul’s first year was difficult but the last two seasons he has had a free hand to achieve the clear objective of getting the Club out of this League. No matter how much I personally wrestle with the positive arguments (Paul is experienced, a nice man, honest and likeable) my responsibility is to bring success and growth to your Club

The first sentence is fine and agrees with what came before. I’m not sure why the arguments are ‘positive’ in the next sentence, though the points he makes are. Flipping, then, into ‘my responsibility’ and ‘your club’ serve to suggest the decision he has taken wasn’t his, so much as one that he took on behalf of the supporters.

Paul’s first year was difficult but the last two seasons he has had a free hand to achieve the clear objective of getting the club out of this League. No matter how much I personally wrestle with the arguments (Paul is experienced, a nice man, honest and likeable) my responsibility is to bring success and growth to the club

If the Club were to appoint a different Manager during the Close Season the new man would have no opportunity to assess the ability of the current squad of players in, and crucially, a competitive environment. That would mean that we would start next season with uncertainty, inevitable changes and a loss of continuity as he got to grips with each players ability (strengths/weaknesses), the individual characteristics and how those temperaments mould within the squad as a whole.

Again, the reasoning here is sound, but its manifestation is weak. Firstly, ‘the club’ (aside from being different to ‘your club’) would suggest the decision is not in his hands. Then the explanation of what ‘ability’ entails is utterly extraneous. It does indicate, though, that Southend will be looking to get an acceptable manager hired quickly rather than waiting for, perhaps, a better candidate. Managers will become available at the end of the season as their contracts expire, and Southend, if their investment is as comparatively large as indicated, would be quite an attractive proposition. It might be, then, that this decision was made with another manager in mind.

If the club were to appoint a different manager during the close season the new man would have no opportunity to assess the ability of the current squad of players in a competitive environment, which is crucial. That would mean that we would start next season with uncertainty, inevitable changes, and a loss of continuity as he got to grips with each players ability, his individual characteristics and how those temperaments would mould within the squad as a whole.

This all takes time and the Club needs to hit the ground running from day 1 with absolute focus on the task in hand. Not “spluttering” whilst the new Manager is still on a steep learning curve as to each players suitability etc.

There’s an intrinsic problem with the scenario being painted in the second sentence here. If the players are ‘quality’ as mentioned previously, the new manager should be able to work with them. The chairman seem to be absolving himself of any of the responsibility for the players he has sanctioned the acquisition of, as if the money they paid was a guarantee of ability and any and all problems lie with the manager’s ability to use them.

This all takes time and the club needs to hit the ground running from day 1 with absolute focus on the task in hand. Not “spluttering” whilst the new Manager is still on a steep learning curve as to each player’s suitability.

The next 7-8 games (at least) is an opportunity for the players to prove their ability. I have not lost faith in this Squad, they are good people, with talent and many capable of playing at a higher level. I would like to keep much of the Squad together but it is now up to each and every player to prove beyond any doubt that my faith, and in the opinion of the new Manager, is not misplaced.

The ‘at least’ is a nice, positive touch – the playoffs aren’t out of reach – but the ‘7-8’ is odd. Southend have 7 games left. The maths isn’t that hard. I’m not convinced that describing a squad as ‘good people’ is of any import to anything. Again, the decision to bring in the players is backed, but this time with an element of doubt. The clause around ‘the opinion’ reads utterly nonsensically.

The next 7 games (at least) is an opportunity for the players to prove their ability. I have not lost faith in this squad, they are talented and many are capable of playing at a higher level. I would like to keep much of the squad together but it is now up to each and every player to prove beyond any doubt that my faith is not misplaced, and that it is matched in the opinion of the new manager.

The Club as I say above will not be renewing Paul’s contract at the end of this season and will appoint a new Manager tomorrow to ensure the Club’s interests are protected and advanced both now and from the first day of next Season.

Ah, there we go – quick to bring in a replacement. The idea that the best possible manager will be available to take a job with a single day’s notice – the aim is noble, but the method seems lacking.

The club, as I say above, will not be renewing Paul’s contract at the end of this season and will appoint a new manager tomorrow to ensure the their interests are protected and advanced both now and from the first day of next Season.

They say
“there is no sentiment in football”
I do not agree, we are all human and have to understand the emotions influenced by our decisions.

Who says that? From allowing player’s who have scored twice to take penalties to applauding old heroes when they visit to draw the half-time lottery, there’s plenty of sentiment in football. In fact, a lot of times, it’s the reason people still attend. This passage is, effectively, saying ‘I’m a man not a monster, despite sacking my manager’.

I am told there is no sentiment in football. I do not agree. We are all human and have to understand the emotions influenced by our decisions

The decisions here are, as I say at the beginning of this Statement, driven by the wider interests of Southend United…..its success and growth whilst remaining conscious of what is fair and just. These may not be sentiments common to Football but it is the way I want this Club to be run.

So, then. This is the defence. The decision is ‘fair and just’ (given the budget v. performance argument, I think he makes an acceptable point, whether you agree with it or not) and certainly, that is a sentence designed to invoke sympathy, designed to make people feel sorry for the people who took the decision to extricate a man from a position in which he has led his club to a Wembley final. The ‘decisions’ is plural, too, which is an increase from the beginning of the statement. Was his mind made up on another thing during the statement? Thus, getting rid of a manager is one, and bringing another one in so quickly, must be the decisions.

The decisions here are, as I say at the beginning of this statement, driven by the wider interests of Southend United and its success and growth, whilst remaining conscious of what is fair and just. These may not be sentiments common to football but it is the way I want this club to be run.

For all these reasons I have suggested to Paul he leads the Team out and manages them at Wembley. He has earned that privilege and agreed.

This is peculiar in the extreme. After stating that Paul Sturrock is not the man to maintain Southend’s ‘success and growth’, he is granted the opportunity to oversee the one chance the club have to taste success this season. This might go some of the way to explaining the ‘Day Out’ from earlier. The chairman, hamstrung by his belief in remaining fair and just, agreed that Paul Sturrock should manage the club in the final he earned the right to play in, but his lack of belief in Sturrock’s ability to do so successfully means he is seeing it as a ‘day out’ rather than an opportunity for success. That all in spite of the fact that a number of the players in the squad are good enough to play at a higher level and the opponents (Leyton Orient) are from such a place.

For all these reasons I suggested to Paul he leads the team out and manages them at Wembley. He has earned that privilege and agreed to do so.

After all of this, I want to say the following. I think Paul Sturrock is a decent manager. I accept that Southend might have a large budget, and their underperforming must be frustrating – to the extent I could even understand if the club made an announcement saying they were looking for a new manager for next season, but to do things this way is bizarre. To, then, mention ‘continuity’ as something that is important to the club when players could be managed by Sturrock-New Man-Sturrock-New Man over four games is questionable indeed. What influence will each be able to exert on the team? Able or not, I think my money for that game is going on Leyton Orient.

It will be interesting to see who Southend hire as new manager, and equally interesting to see the men who move in and out of jobs in League Two over the summer. I also want to point out that I don’t dislike Southend Utd in any way. Roots Hall has long since been on my ‘want to visit’ list, and the sketches I saw of the new ground looked wonderful – very exciting. I just found the statement yesterday baffling, and wanted to work my way through it. I hope the decision doesn’t end up reflecting as badly on the club in the long term as it does in the short.

Addendum; since I published this morning, Southend have hired Phil Brown

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