Blackwell raises emotional stakes
Kevin Blackwell launched an extraordinary public tirade in the direction of his new Bury team after defeat at the weekend, but Mike Holden explains that such emotional outbursts are not an irregular occurrence for the 53-year-old manager and could bring immediate rewards...
Kevin Blackwell hasn't waited long to stamp his authority at Bury. The former Leeds and Sheffield United boss has only been in charge for two games and already he has read the riot act to his new players, referring to some of them as "garbage".
Speaking after Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Swindon, he said: "I've told the players to go home and have a good look at themselves tonight, because I'm not going to accept it. I've told the board we need to change players. Some of the players that have been signed here are garbage and not up to it."
When asked about the challenge that now faces him, he continued: "I'm well aware of what's wrong here. It's not good enough and it will change. This is going to be a real test of my coaching and managerial skills. We've got to be more professional both on and off the pitch. The jury is out on the players here. And this judge makes decisions very quickly."
Indeed, you might say that Blackwell does most things quickly, and sometimes the margins between speed and haste become blurred. It's an astonishing tirade, especially when you consider how he spoke of the need to build confidence after the Shakers earned a creditable point in his first game at Stevenage.
Yet we shouldn't be too surprised. Blackwell has previous for this kind of thing. He's an emotional man, probably one of the most overtly emotional managers on the Football League circuit. He wears his heart on his sleeve and expects his players to do likewise, which is a characteristic accompanied by its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
From a punting perspective, what we can assume is that Blackwell will shake things up in the coming weeks. Not necessarily in terms of personnel but more in terms of the heart and desire with which the team performs. Whether they like it or not, those players are going to be in for a roller-coaster ride for as long as they remain at Gigg Lane with Blackwell at the helm.
The manager's words might be focusing on the players' ability, but the deed is targeting something else. Blackwell knew exactly what he was walking into when he was appointed and he knew that getting the best out of players with limited ability was all part of the remit when he passed his opening remark about fans wanting the team to play like Barcelona with players from Bognor Regis.
Instead, it's their character he's examining. The whole idea is to see who now delivers the reaction he wants and who doesn't. Blackwell is the archetypal carrot-and-stick manager, there's nothing particularly subtle about his style, and this call, so soon into his reign, is all about finding out which players are compatible with that style. The more players who respond, the less work he will have to do in the transfer market.
Of course, it's a tactic that might also reap immediate benefits. As punters, we all understand the effects that such fierce criticism from a manager can have on the next performance and time is already pressing in Bury's fight for survival. The Lancashire club currently sit bottom of League One with just four points from 11 matches and six points adrift of safety.
However, we shouldn't doubt that Blackwell is capable of lifting the Shakers away from danger. It's a challenge that's well within his comfort zone, exactly the kind of firefighting mission upon which his reputation has been built. It's later when the problems tend to arise, once his thirst for emotional extremes tends to wear thin on everyone else.
Read Mike Holden's thoughts on football's bosses every Tuesday in his weekly manager profile column.
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