Football is a results business… but it's never that clear cut for Clark and Clough
18:02 GMT, 15 November 2012
Results define a manager's success. Pretty obvious, that.
But perhaps following on from last week's theme regarding Martin O'Neill, it might be worth bearing that in mind when the relative merits of two of the region's other managers are discussed.
I'm referring to Birmingham City's Lee Clark and Derby County's Nigel Clough.
Up against it: Birmingham manager Lee Clark has not made the best of starts at St Andrew's
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We'll take a look at Clark first. Now, I'll be the first to admit that the Geordie's reign hasn't started well.
It's difficult to erase that performance against Barnsley from the memory, even now, two months later.
But it always struck me as odd why a manager who had a couple of years to size up players in League One wouldn't go there to breathe some excitement into a club in the Championship.
It would seem logical that Clark would pluck a couple of hungry youngsters from the third tier and give them a chance at a higher level.
Supporters of any club love to see players get a chance to prove themselves and here was an obvious opportunity to blood a couple.
Cash is too tight to mention at St Andrew's – a point I'll come onto in a minute – but the likes of Hayden Mullins, Darren Ambrose and Peter Lovenkrands aren't playing for nothing.
Hello, these are ex-Premier League players. And Ambrose cost a transfer fee, too.
It would have made sense for Clark therefore to have given a couple more, such as Swindon Town's Paul Caddis, the chance to earn themselves a reasonable increase in pay and the opportunity to advance their careers at a higher level.
Not so. Not so because the powers-that-be deemed that Clark should only sign players they had actually heard of.
Therefore, those with a Premier League profile were always going to find a way to St Andrew's, irrespective of whether they were, in fact, the type of players that the Geordie wanted in the first place.
Now, they might well have been. But
surely a manager has to have a say over who he brings into the club
After all, it's his neck on the chopping block.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that
the reason Clark was not able to re-sign Barry Ferguson was because
Fleetwood Town put together a more attractive package than the Blues for
the Carling Cup winner's services.
Hands tied: Derby manager Nigel Clough is also in a difficult position at times
I know. Incredible, isn't it But that's the state of the club finances at the moment. Critical.
Which is why, in the absence of a credible buyer, (my hopes of substantial investment from overseas have diminished as the party concerned appears to have cooled any interest) the boost of new owners would at least bring an air of positivity to the place.
Over at Pride Park, Clough will not be in the least bit surprised that he once more finds his hands tied in the transfer market.
Despite the denials from the manager, my understanding is that the club has to make seven-figure cost savings in the New Year.
That means one of his youngsters – in all likelihood Will Hughes – will be sacrificed.
It is difficult for supporters to understand and appreciate the goings-on behind the scenes at any football club as the finances aren't always taken into consideration when the any boss, Clough in particular, has had a difficult job to do.
Only a horrible season in 2010-11 – one in which the Rams were beset by an horrendous injury-list – has he failed to improve the club's league position.
Supporters may think that four years is sufficient to make a mark. They might have a point. But the manager has had to operate against a backdrop of financial difficulty.
No return: Boss Lee Clark was unable to get Barry Ferguson back in a Birmingham shirt
For instance, where is the logic in selling Jason Shackell, if Clough did not have to
Shaun Barker had a long-term injury. Before Shackell's knock it appeared that the Rams finally had a capable Championship pairing at centre-half.
But Shackell disappears to Burnley and, for the same money, Connor Sammon is recruited from Wigan.
Something doesn't quite add up. But – and here is the rub – if managers speak out about those problems they are immediately hauled in front of their superiors and told to keep their mouths shut – or they can be found in breach of their contract for talking about confidential business in public.
It's why neither Clark nor Clough will break ranks. Even if he the latter has to find 1.8m, he will remain tight-lipped and refuse to moan about his lot.
Price to pay: Youngster Will Hughes (left) could be sacrificed at Derby
The alternative for both is to speak out, thereby jeopardising their position and give their own bosses the window of opportunity to sack them.
It is, after all, far easier to remove one manager than it is to dump and entire team of players.
In some ways, it's a classic middle-management problem, taking flak from all sides, yet you are still expected to achieve results.
So, even though any manager has to stand by his results on a Saturday afternoon, they may not paint an accurate picture.
In the oh-so-murky world of football, it's left to the rest of us to join the dots as best we can.