As a dedicated follower of my local football team, I have decided to write an article about Stafford Rangers FC, focusing on their decision to employ a high profile manager to attract bigger names to the club. After the departure of his highly successful predecessor (Phil Robinson), the Stafford Rangers board decided to offer the job of manager to Wolverhampton Wanderers favourite, Steve Bull M.B.E. The initial benefits of this move were demonstrated with the combination of publicity that was generated upon the news of his signing and the bumper crowd that his first match in charge propagated. However, 3 months on from his first game, what can we say about Bull as a manager? Steve Bull failed to overcome the odds and inspire the club to survival for another season in the Blue Square Premier. It would be Harsh to say that Bull was culpable for the teams relegation as he took over with most of the season behind him and the team had been in the relegation zone since September, but the team showed no noticeable improvement under him. In fact, the teams performances under Bull were actually failing to live up to the very poor standard that they had already been producing. But that’s being a bit too critical and as Bull was all to keen to point out, this wasn’t even his team and the current crop of players simply weren’t good enough. One does begin to wonder what a former Championship division/international level striker actually knows of the non-league form of the game given that his managerial experience was at absolute zero.
His tactics employed on the field were becoming a concern for the Marston Road crowd, especially the failure to realise the importance of hanging on to a lead (Bull would insist on 3 players on the half-way line when defending corners to enable a potential counter-attack). Someone needed to tell him that at this level, when your at the wrong end of the table and you’re in front, you put every man and his dog behind the ball and hammer it as far up the pitch as humanly possible. And so the team slumped to the bottom of the table and were resigned to resume trade in the good old Conference North. A sigh of relief perhaps for Bull. A chance to re-examine his squad, have a break, make some signings and maybe even win a few games. My only concern is that his stead-fast belief in himself using ‘contacts’ from Wolves and West Brom scouts, to pick up sensational players for very little money might be rooted in fantasy rather than reality. The reality is that the club failed to take into account the cost of performing in the top flight of non-league football, and it is no secret to those involved in the club that the reason for the previous managers departure was due to an extreme cutting of funds to pay players the same wages as there contemporaries in lower divisions. How many of these plethora of free-transfers will choose to play for a club without being paid as much as they can earn elsewhere? It is worrying that Bull has retained no-more than 10 of last seasons squad and his replacement signings so far have been as far from high profile as possible. He has signed Nick Wellecombe from Newcastle Town, who was playing for Sunday pub team Woolpack A not two years ago, and also a player from midlands league team Stone Dominoes. Now don’t get me wrong, I am hoping for Bull to prove me wrong and pull out a few big signings before next season begins, but I must say I am more pessimistic than the manager seems to be. Perhaps the club should now be thinking about the decision to spend £50,000 per annum on a high-profile manager, when they are struggling to afford new signings. They have taken a step in the right direction in appointing ex-Stafford Rangers player and experienced non-league campaigner Chris Brindley as Bull’s number 2, and also should receive another bumper crowd for the pre-season friendly against Wolves (whch was agreed in Bulls contract when he was appointed). Only time will tell what the future holds for Steve Bull’s managerial career. A great player he may have been, but does that make you a great manager? He should be able to do it, after all he is a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Steve Bull Stafford Rangers FC