Despite growing murmurs of discontent throughout the fanbase in recent weeks, the board of Plymouth Argyle has maintained their position of confidence in manager Derek Adams. This was in the face of a second disastrous start to the season in as many years. Whether the board’s decision on this matter will pay dividends remains to be seen, though Adams’ position has been strengthened thanks to recent victories over Gillingham and Scunthorpe United.
Had the board decided to pull the trigger though, the experience of a sacking would be nothing new to Adams. After a prolonged period of success, including two promotions and a 40-game unbeaten league run, things eventually unraveled and he was eventually given his marching orders in August 2014.
Adams and the chairman
On the face of it, the circumstances at County and Argyle appear to be very similar: a once successful manager adored by supporters for the progress he made on the field eventually losing the faith of the same supporters after a swift turnaround in fortunes. So why was it that the Dingwall club opted to part company with their most successful manager, whereas the hierarchy at Home Park have been much more reluctant?
The first place to look for this is in the boardroom itself. County chairman Roy MacGregor described Adams’ sacking as “the most difficult decision [he has] ever had to make in football.” However, scratch beneath the surface and it appears this comment was more nostalgic than anything else. By all accounts, it appears the decision to sack Adams was taken following a breakdown in relations between him, his father George, and the County chairman. It appears that County’s poor start to the season was all the excuse MacGregor needed to sack his club’s manager.
The fact that MacGregor took decisive action, sacking Adams just four league games into the season, implies a rift between the boardroom and the management team. This is because it’s clear that Adams managed Ross County at their highest ebb. He achieved their highest ever finish in 2012-13, and in all reality, County are a club whose natural level is far below that of the Scottish top tier. For a club to sack the manager who made all of that possible is highly suspicious and gives off the impression that the decision was not made due to purely footballing reasons.
It’s highly unlikely this is the case in Argyle’s boardroom, particularly in the wake of the club statement regarding ‘abuse of employees’ recently. From experience, we also know that outgoing chairman James Brent is a pragmatic character, unlikely to take significant business risks, as demonstrated by his staunch defence of Adams following the disappointing start to last season. Indeed, Adams’ frugality in the transfer window makes him an asset of value above and beyond the performances he achieves on the pitch.
Discontent with Adams
In addition to this, it’s also worth considering the rumblings of discontent surrounding Ross County in the weeks and months prior to Adams’ dismissal, and how they compare to the current situation at Argyle. Here, much of the vitriol exchanged appears to have been between the manager and the supporters, whereas in Scotland it was much more apparent that it was the players, rather than just the fans, who had a problem with Adams. Stuart Kettlewell, a part of the the club for five years, found out Adams was letting him go through newspaper reports rather than the manager himself. And, perhaps most infamously, four of County’s Dutch players claimed Adams bawled at them and treated them like servants.
Adams has never shied away from a fight, however, aside from reports in Dutch media that Robbert Te Loeke didn’t feel safe during his injury rehabilitation at Argyle last season, we have seldom heard such negative impressions from Argyle players over the last three years. This perhaps suggests that Adams took his time away from the game to learn more about man management, which would certainly be coherent with newspaper reports outlining how he took advice from David Moyes and Alex Ferguson amongst others during his managerial hiatus. With no public player revolt to speak of, the board at Argyle have much less reason to part ways with Adams when compared to the circumstances at Ross County.
Maybe these claims will come should Adams leave the club in the near future, but of course, this is very much a moot point whilst he remains at the club. Many supporters, myself included, were in favour of sacking Adams following a run of one win in 14 league games to start the season, and whilst some are still in favour of a change, the circumstances at Argyle are very different from those in Dingwall.