When Graham Alexander joined us in March, you could have been forgiven for wondering why on earth we had signed up a manager recently sacked by Fleetwood after a run of just two wins in 10 games.
However, as the United boss prepares for his return to Highbury this Saturday it is beginning to look like their loss is our gain and their decision to sack him after a small blip in an otherwise impressive reign was extremely short-sighted.
Having led Fleetwood to promotion to the third tier for the first time in 2014 in his first managerial job, and then finished 10th the following season, the club’s highest position in their history, last summer Alexander was ordered by the club’s hierarchy to cull his winning squad in an effort to save money and make the club more self-sustaining. Shorn of his more experienced players and left with a young, rookie squad at the start of last season, he struggled for results and after a month of the season was dismissed.
Trying to make your club more self-sufficient financially is a laudable aim, but problems are only a fine line away. For Fleetwood the consequences have been destabilising. Not only did they lose a good manager in Alexander, but they spent all of last season in a relegation battle and are now trying to rebuild a squad capable of staying in this division under their second manager since Alexander’s departure and their fourth since gaining promotion to the Football League for the first time in 2012.
That revolving door includes the shock resignation 10 days before the start of this season of manager Steven Pressley after only nine months in the job, a pattern of instability that continued when the Scotsman’s replacement, former Brentford and Leeds manager Uwe Rosler, was left with just days to get to know his new squad before last Saturday’s opening game of the season at newly promoted Northampton, from which they actually got a creditable draw.
Rosler’s title is specifically head coach as he operates in a continental system with technical director Gretar Steinsson whose role is to recruit players which Rosler coaches and moulds tactically. So the squad was already reshaping when he arrived, with new recent arrivals including full-back Amari’i Bell, midfielders Jimmy Ryan and Eggert Johansson, as well as the old Iron Bobby Grant. The club’s grand plan is also to use Premier League loan players plus develop their own youngsters through their recently opened £8m hi-tech training centre.
As for the strategy on the pitch, Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley, the man behind a lot of these changes at Fleetwood, said on signing Rosler: “His attacking style of football is something which excites me and I’m sure excites the fans of Fleetwood Town. We are now looking forward to a new era at Highbury.”
This attacking philosophy was particularly in evidence on Wednesday night when Fleetwood played three up front in their impressive League Cup tie at home to Leeds, only losing narrowly on penalties in the end.
So, if attack is the new Fleetwood watchword then Scunny will certainly need to tighten up a defensive set-up which allowed Notts County several gilt-edged chances in our League Cup win on Tuesday. Fleetwood might not be so profligate if they get the opportunity and that would spoil Alexander’s undoubted ambition to prove a point – or three – to the Cod Army.