Martin Allen's fate is in the hands of his Chesterfield players '“ at least one of whom he can trust
If you were Martin Allen, sending a team of 11 men onto a field with your fate in their hands, wouldn't you be glad to see Jonathan Smith among them?
Without having had the chance to ask Dave Allen about his current thinking or his intentions, one would have to assume a managerial change is at least one of the options he’s considering this week.
An FA Cup game against Grimsby was never likely to threaten Martin Allen’s position, unless the Mariners had come to the Proact and run riot.
They didn’t, in fact for large parts of that game they were second best.
And so the lack of ‘club statement’ on Sunday evening was not a surprise.
Should Salford City swan into town and handily help themselves to three points, few eyebrows in North Derbyshire would be raised if an announcement followed shortly thereafter.
Martin Allen, more than anyone, knows what is at stake.
This is not his first rodeo.
He cannot say he hasn’t been backed, the owner has shown patience that can only be described as rare in today’s game, allowed the budget to be exceeded and made further funds available.
Dave Allen might have, this week, insisted that some players leave to make room for new ones, but few of those being made available have pulled up any trees.
And there are others who weren’t on the clear out list, who should be letting out a huge sigh of relief .
So when Martin Allen looks around the dressing room before kick-off on Saturday afternoon, the sight of Smith will surely hearten him.
In recent weeks the midfielder has looked every inch the kind of man you can trust in the middle of the park.
He is a good signing, for a club who have brought in far too many poor ones.
Martin Allen holds his hands up to his own recruitment failings and having to put some of his own signings on the transfer list this week can’t have felt good.
Players he put his faith in have let him down.
The poor performances have not just come from summer arrivals, however.
There are players in the club who let down two of his predecessors and haven’t done much to change public opinion while playing for the current manager.
Where some have been inconsistent or seemingly deteriorated in confidence and even ability, Smith has got better and better.
He’s takes responsibility in his own half and in the final third, and he’s got that streak of nastiness that Chesterfield have been crying out for in recent seasons.
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He’s not infallible, he may have been partly to blame for Saturday’s opening goal.
But at the very least, Salford’s players will come off at 5pm knowing they’ve played against Smith.
It’d help the manager out if others ensured the same could be said for them.
It’s not only the manager’s future they’re playing for.
Should Allen remove Allen from Chesterfield FC, how likely is a new manager to put his trust in players who failed the last three men to occupy the dugout?
And if you’re not wanted by a team struggling in the National League, your career is going to take some rebuilding.
A good agent might get you another move, but there are big, big question marks over your name in the minds of managers everywhere.
All season long you hear the same thing from players: “The gaffer’s been great since he came in.”
That statement soon becomes: “We players need to take responsibility, the gaffer’s the one who got the bullet but we didn’t perform.”
Tactics, formation, officiating and the quality of the opposition all come into it, of course.
It’s Martin Allen who picks the team, puts them in a formation, tells them how to play and decides which changes need to be made and when.
It’s Martin Allen who will take responsibility for the result, as he has done all season.
And it’s Martin Allen who may suffer consequences should that result not be a positive one.
Dave Allen and Ashley Carson will have no influence between 3pm and 5pm on Saturday.
The people with the most influence, those who can really decide whether or not the managerial merry-go-round returns to Sheffield Road, are those paid to play football for Chesterfield.
If the Chesterfield players can go back into the dressing room on Saturday evening, look their manager in the eye and say that they won their tackles, headers and got the better of their direct opponent, they’ll have done their jobs.
That is all anyone can ask
If they can’t, it will say more about them as men than it will about the man who has refused to hang them out to dry in public all season – even when he’s had both cause and opportunity to do so.