THE NEXT crucial phase of the Strachanovite Revolution got into full swing with a ruthless purge of the old guard: Boro have axed Colin Cooper, Stephen Pears and Martin Scott as the gaffer tightens his steely grip on the mentality of the club.
At the start of what is poised to be a ruthless summer of upheaval and radical change the Southgate loyalist old guard have been swept away and the “continuity” watchword consigned to the dustbin of history. Things are about to step up a gear.
In a terse short official communique from the Politburo, Keith Lamb said: “Manager Gordon Strachan is planning for the future following the end of the season. The manager wishes to make changes as we plan for a sustained promotion campaign next season and, as a consequence, the difficult decision to terminate the contracts of Colin, Stephen and Martin has been made. We thank all three for their services to the club and wish them all the very best in the future.”
Coops has looked an increasingly isolated and peripheral figure and since being demoted from his highly visible shorts wearing pointing and shouting role in the technical area has looked a redundant figure on matchdays so the move has not been a surprise – but perhaps the speed of it, barely 24 hours after the season ended, is.
Strachan has made repeated criticisms of the tactical, technical and mental weaknesses of the squad he inherited from Southgate and has also been disappointed with fitness levels. Each and every public pronouncement has been an implicit condemnation of the coaching staff who have helped shape the squad, its style, stamina attitudes and who ultimately have paid the price for its institutional fatal flaws.
He has made it quite clear that he wants – needs – to recruit “men,” players with an inner core of mental steel and fired by desire, hunger and a burning will to win and that also is an indictment of the old order and its recruitment policy that centred on technical abilities and pace at the expense of heart and graft.
And after a soft centred season that has been alarming in so many ways Strachan has already begun his work for next year. The squad – “the fittest ever” again, remember – have been doing gruelling pre-season style stamina work for the past fortnight and the gaffer has an unprecedented mid-summer training camp planned as he tests his squad to destruction. If such intensive work is to start so soon he will need coaching staff in that he knows and trusts and who share his philosophy to implement. He needs a backroom team that accord completely with his own thinking, methods and standards.
There have long been questions raised about the effectiveness of the coaching regime. Despite one of most qualified and badged up back-room staffs in the country the team have at times looked tactically and technically inept. We have been out-thought, out-fought and muscled out by better organised, fitter and mentally tougher sides and have repeatedly chaotically conceded from set-pieces that are predictable and avoidable and when preventative measures should be drilled into them.
Those are issues that stem directly from the training ground. If we are to be promoted those flaws must be eliminated immediately and the staff that have allowed the fatal weaknesses to go unchecked have paid the price.
It is possible that more heads could role in fitness, conditioning and scouting as Strachan uses the close season to implement the radical root-and-branch reform needed if his culture of excellence is to be imposed completely on every area of the club. This is a bloke totally dedicated to success and with little room for sentiment.
Of course, most fans will wish the departed well, especially Coops and Pearsy who were popular figures at a crucial stage in the club’s history and who played important roles in the escape from the brink of extinction. That should never be forgotten.
And Coops, who returned as a player at the height of the Riverside Revolution and did well, is an organic link between the old and the new clubs. He played in the old third division and the Premier League, in the ZDS Cup final and the UEFA Cup. And he is a nice bloke too. It is a shame that it ends with his blood on the dug-out floor.
But it is another crucial moment in our history. If we don’t get promoted next season the club will lose the advantage of the parachute payment, lose momentum and be forced into more cost cutting and faces stagnation at this level for years to come. There are going to be casualties as we take the tough decisions needed to make a club still flabby in places from the years of Premier league plenty a more efficient fighting machine.
Viva la revolution!