I’VE always believed that luck plays a massive part in sport.
Of course, God given ability goes a long way, but even the best need slices of fortune along the way.
There’s a saying in football: “Give me a lucky manager rather than a good one” and even Sir Alex Ferguson would vouch for the element of truth that exists within it.
A single goal saved his managerial skin over 20 years ago, then there was that amazing Champions League finale against Bayern Munich in Barcelona, and John Terry’s catastrophic penalty miss against Manchester United in Moscow.
For all his undoubted genius Ferguson’s Gods have smiled on him more than once when he needed them.
I was reminded of the importance of fortune at the weekend.
Dean Saunders has made a brilliant start to his new job as manager of Doncaster Rovers. Seven points from three games equals their tally from the previous 18 and he has undoubtedly put a smile back on the face of a club that had forgotten how to win.
Yet Peterborough had a goal disallowed, twice hit the post and missed scores of chances that would probably have been taken against Doncaster under the previous manager. This is said in no way to belittle Saunders influence, a change of manager was needed and the Welshman is a breath of fresh air with his infectious approach to the job.
It is merely pointed out to accentuate the fact that Sean O’Driscoll had run out of luck, as well as time.
Jack Charlton once told me that a manager can only be effective with a group of players for about four years (Ferguson, Wenger, Moyes and Gradi being notable exceptions) and Saunders post-match press conference served to validate the comment.
“The previous manager did a brilliant job which will never be forgotten at this club, but sometimes with footballers they need a new voice in their ears. It starts to go in one ear and out the other after a while.
“Yes we rode our luck, but the players will tell you that they’ve been on the wrong end of bad luck many a time recently, so we’ll take it and move on.”
Wise words from a man who is enjoying a new challenge – unlike Steve McClaren.
Just three months after returning to the English game with Nottingham Forest, the former national coach is out of work again.
His bad luck was in taking over Wolfsburg, a year after they had been German champions, having to sell his top striker Edin Dzeko to Manchester City, then moving to a club with a notorious aversion to signing players.
Those triumphs with Middlesbrough and Twente Enschede were relatively recent yet his CV has been blotted by two failures in under 12 months.
I told you fortune was fickle.