As my train from work pulled into Brighton railway station, the weather felt unseasonably warm. It was the hot air produced in the local press over the last forty-eight hours regarding the replacement of Mickey Adams as the manager of Brighton & Hove Albion. The timing of Adams’ departure was somewhat surprising in that it seemed to come at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning on the day of a match. The assistants took charge for the day, and they had one of their best results of the season so far – a 1-0 win away to promotion-chasing Millwall – although the effects of this were somewhat diluted by the fact that their position wasn’t proved any because of wins for both of their rivals, Leyton Orient and Swindon Town, won as well.
By this morning, the local paper, the Argus, seemed to have decided that it was a done deal. Paul Ince, most latterly of a pretty disastrous spell in charge in the Premier League at Blackburn Rovers, was this morning loudly proclaimed as the favourite job. Over the course of the day, however, more and more candidates have been being put forward over the course of the day. Jim Gannon, who has worked little short of a miracle in taking Stockport County up from League Two and into the race for a League One play-off place. In addition to this, veteran striker Nicky Forster this afternoon expressed his interest in the position and then tonight, on the local news magazine show, BBC South Today, it was reported that Brighton chairman had been off to a meeting today with Glenn Hoddle, of all people.
Ince may seem to be a natural choice for the position. He is clearly a young, ambitious manager, and the move to a club that will be moving to a new stadium in a couple of years time may well appeal. However, he will be expensive at a time that Brighton cannot afford to spend much in the way of wages. Moreover, he will be entering a club that the slid down the League One table alarmingly over the course of the season. They are locked into a tense relegation battle, and he may find himself back in League Two – where he started his managerial career – by the summer. He also has form for jumping ship as soon as a better offer comes along, from Macclesfield to take the Franchise dollar, and then from there to Blackburn. If he was to take the position, there is no guarantee that he would be still in charge by the time that Brighton actually move to Falmer.
The other candidates are a mixed bag. Jim Gannon is an appealing choice and has proved himself on a shoestring budget at Stockport. Will he, however, see a move to Brighton as a forward step in his career? He is potentially four months away from a second successive promotion at Stockport, and moving to Brighton could just as easily see him in League Two by the start of next season. Glenn Hoddle has been a triumph of hype of substance for much of his managerial career. After a reasonable start at Swindon Town and Chelsea, he failed dismally in the England job at the 1998 World Cup and engaged in behaviour that bordered on the bizarre (his infatuation with Eileen Drury’s methods) and certainly crossed the line in terms of confidentiality with the publication of his diary, an action which led to his dismissal. He kept Southampton in the Premier League but, at Tottenham Hotspur, he flattered to deceive, leaving them in the Premier League relegation zone. At Wolves, there was more of the same. His team scored just fifty goals during the 2005-06 season and they drew thirty-four of his seventy-six games in charge.
Brighton & Hove Albion require delicate management at the moment. They remain in the bottom four places in League One with a critical home league match against Northampton Town to play tomorrow night. If they are maintain their place in League One, they require a clean sweep, but things could yet go either way for them. With two automatic relegation places between League Two and the Blue Square Premier, the living nightmare suddenly becomes a possibility. Dick Knight, the Brighton chairman, has a very difficult decision to make if Brighton & Hove Albion are to start life at their new stadium in the healthiest possible condition.