Before the start of every new season, a group of friends and I all make predictions about what we think will happen over the next nine months or so in the world of English football. It’s just for fun, and we all try and predict the Premier League top four, who will be relegated and promoted from all the leagues, winners of the various cups on offer etc.
Another outcome we try to predict is the first Premier League manager to be sacked. This year when I was considering who I would choose, I ruled out Ian Holloway, Chris Hughton and Roberto de Matteo on the grounds that they were managing newly-promoted sides and would therefore be given a fair run, probably at least until after Christmas.
In theory, this meant that a more established Premiership manager would probably get the boot before any of them.
This logic of mine is probably the primary reason I was shocked on Sunday when I heard that Notts County had parted company with Craig Short, and assistant manager Dave Kevan, following a board meeting.
Okay, so the table doesn’t lie and the Magpies are sitting in 16th place, having failed to win back-to-back games this season, but to sack the manager only 13 games into a three-year contract seems a little panic-driven.
County are only four points off the play-off places, and of the seven league games they have lost, it can be argued that those against Bristol Rovers, Carlisle United, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday were undeserved.
The County players were also stunned by the sackings. Magpies' joint-leading scorer Ben Davies said: "I'm shocked and disappointed, and I'm sure the rest of the lads are too.
"I thought he (Short) had been appointed for the long haul, and would be given time. It always takes time when a new manager comes in and signs new players.”
Commenting on the loss of Kevan he added: "Losing Dave makes it a double blow. I have known him since I was a teenager at Stoke City and he's a very good coach, and man.”
QPR manager and former Notts boss Neil Warnock echoed Davies’ comments, saying: "I am very disappointed. I think he (Short) has done well. To sack him after 13 league games is an absolute disgrace, but nothing surprises me now. Managers are being sacked after two or three games nowadays.”
However, he also had words of encouragement for his close friend: "I still believe he [Short] has got a bright future. Not all clubs are like that and I'm disappointed it's one of my old clubs. I expected better from them."
Of course discussion has been rife amongst the fans since the departure of Short and Kevan and the rumour mill has been in full grist. Were the sackings down to chairman Ray Trew because he would not be happy with a mid table finish this season? Was it the unanimous decision of the entire board? Was player power to blame?
These are some of the questions the fans have been asking themselves, and each other, since the news broke on Sunday.
‘Ridiculous, unbelievable and crazy’ is how many County fans, and fans of other teams, have described the dismissals. One non-County fan described it as ‘the worst possible sacking’ they had ever come across, and even a Forest fan admitted feeling sorry for Notts supporters, calling it ‘probably the most shocking thing to happen to the club in two and a half years.”
Personally, I think that Short and Kevan have been sacrificed on the altar of the club’s burning desire to win promotion to the Championship at their first attempt. In my opinion, this is too ambitious and mid-table consolidation is a more realistic aim.
To me, a position of 16th after 13 games represents a good, solid start for a newly-promoted team. My thoughts, and those of many others, were summed up nicely by one fan: “I think we all (those of us who can think rationally) wish Craig Short had been given longer. Mid-table would be a great achievement for a rookie manager's first season.”
There has also of course been much talk around who will be County’s next manager; the club’s sixth in a year. Several men are being touted as Short’s successor, including former Hull boss Phil Brown and ex-Forest and Bolton manager, Gary Megson. However, Paul Ince, short-listed for the job before the appointment of Craig Short, and Paul Hart, latterly of Portsmouth, QPR and Crystal Palace, seem to be the current front-runners.
The first name that sprang to mind for me though was Alan Pardew, who was harshly (in my opinion) dismissed by fellow League One side Southampton early in the current season. I think he has the potential to do very well at County, given the chance. Remember, you heard it here first! Or maybe not.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.