well, that is that. spencer is now unemployed. last week, when contemplating the inevitable sacking, i told a regular reader of the blog i would thieve his flippant description of this event. little did we know it would be this week. but even if spencer is now for hire, i cannot bring myself to make any further references to robert urich without feeling like a hack-journo. even still, i am sure spencer can now catch up on reading proust and cooking all 524 recipes of julia child’s mastering the art of french cooking. instead of julia and julie, i think a new hit is in the making–julia and john, shut your haggis traps!
to say i am a little shocked would place me in enormous company. it is not that i did not see it coming, but that i did not see it coming so soon. i had never been a large supporter of spencer and his tactics (if what he did with the timbers personnel can be called tactics), but not once did i think he would be canned mid-season. putting aside all my biases and considering the implications of a mid-season sacking, i simply could not see anything good coming from such a disruption to an already difficult season. but it has happened and now we need to look beyond the obvious and consider what will happen in the coming weeks and months until a new coach will be hired.
the first thing that struck me about presser announcing spencer’s firing, is the merritt’s claim that ”fundamental philosophical differences” were the ice that broke the rock. while i was expecting more along the lines of “our record does not reflect the quality of players now assembled and because of that the organization needs to move in a different direction,” the ambiguous philosophical differences will have to be a sufficient explanation. only, i have now developed a deep foreboding regarding the hiring process performed by the timbers front office. it suggests the timbers hiring committee (gavin and merritt) failed to vet spencer properly. if these were issues discussed in an on-going and candid conversation throughout the season, then it is obvious to me those issues existed before the current season even began. if the previous vetting did not elicit enough information about spencer’s philosophy of fiddly bits and beating the unique qualities out of players to mould them into automatons without imagination and creativity, how can we be confident any philosophical differences may be properly exposed during the next few months of conversations with prospective managers? the implications do not give me hope that the next coach who steps up to the podium will be much of an improvement.
but merritt, who can never be accused of not caring about the timbers, did make clear that he had gathered together a large number of qualities the next coach should possess. i think the word he used was litany, which might be appropriate considering the religious intonations of the word and what will be expected of the next coach. spencer was required to get this team to the playoffs, so i expect the next coach will be required to render unto gavin the things that are gavin’s.
if there was any doubt this team and these players were gavin’s, the general manager and now interim head coach dispelled the uncertainty. in unequivocal terms, gavin issued the declaration that he was
responsible for bringing the players [to portland] and it’s up to [him] to get a little more out of them.
and i say hail, caesar! gavin did assemble them, now he must try to win with them. sure, we have seen glimpses of their qualities, but we have also observed how inconsistently they have been displayed. acknowledging those issues, gavin went on to say that:
We’re looking at maximizing the potential, the ability of the players have – getting a little bit more out of them, getting a little more consistent … just strive to make the playoffs.
he had me until he mentioned the playoffs. sure, making the playoffs in the mls is not a difficult feat when nearly every team in the league makes the playoffs, but setting it as the benchmark for a successful season only increases the likelihood that the season will be defined as a failure. frankly, i would define the season a success if the timbers could play consistently through the remaining 17 matches.
as every armchair manager might, i have some suggestions for gavin that need immediate attention and might help him achieve a consistent level of play. first, remove the armband from jewsbury and remove him from the starting eleven. describing the art of doing nothing is difficult, but too often i have found it easy to describe jack doing just that. for some reason spencer considered him the ideal captain and gave him a guaranteed position within the starting eleven. he is neither a good footballer nor is he a good captain. he is not vocal on the pitch and the only example he leads by is a bad one. frankly, all the footballing intelligence contained in brian clough’s decaying body could not unlock jack’s ability to play. so i doubt gavin will be able to work the sort of miracle necessary to unlock something one of the greatest motivators in football could not do, dead or alive.
the next suggestion i have for gavin is this: delist #facepalmer. cut him outright. no further explanation is needed.
finally, if gavin has learned anything from watching the long demise of john spencer he should know that requiring players to perform in roles where they are uncomfortable enforces their inconsistency. play to the strengths of each player rather than adhering to a system that never really worked in the first place.
i have little else to say about the sacking, because i care very little about the event. it had to happen eventually. managers come and go, but the timbers will remain. our loyalties as supporters should always and will always remain with the timbers. i never sang myself horse for spencer, or any manager, but i do every match for the timbers. in all of this, it is important to remember the players have likely experienced a greater shock than us supporters. come saturday against the la gals we need to provide them the support they deserve.
at any rate, let the healing begin. have a great day.