Tenuous link alert: one thing Waterford and Liverpool have in common over the years has been giving their managers ‘time’. It has become an article of faith that a manager should be given sufficient time to make his stamp on the county panel / club. And another thing they have common is that eventually, in my lifetime at least, it almost always ended in tears. Only Bob Paisley got to leave in the manner of his choosing. None of the managers of Waterford or Liverpool of recent vintage (NB Waterford’s recent history began in 1997) can be said to have been failures, with the obvious exception of Roy Hodgson. All soared to heights far greater than where they had started out, and there were trophies galore. But when they failed to reach the ultimate height, that of winning the All-Ireland / Premier League, subsequent attempts to reach that height took on an increasing air of desperation. A point of no return was reached and because of the mythology of giving the manager ‘time’ it became doubly painful to let go.
Doubling down on the tenuous link , Waterford United find themselves in a similar position. Having gone through managers with the same regularity that most people change their underwear, the new regime under John O’Sullivan were clearly of the opinion that any new manager need to be given ‘time’. Any suggestion that the manager should be dispensed with would be greeted with references to Alex Ferguson – if he hadn’t been given ‘time’ . . . and if you’re going to stick with this philosophy then Stephen Henderson certainly won’t be leaving the club, despite rumours to that effect at the time of writing. Henderson might well feel aggrieved should he be sacked. His appointment made perfect sense given the miracle he wrought in getting Cobh Ramblers into the Premier Division in 2007 and he’s kept the Blues near the top of the First Division in his two years at the helm, reaching a cup final as well. He could reasonably argue that the current form is the exception and not the rule and that he has to given ‘time’ to stamp his vision on the club
But I can’t shake the feeling that Stephen Henderson is experiencing that sense of panic that engulfs a manager when he reaches the tipping point in his career. This feeling was particularly acute when Justin McCarthy’s time as Waterford manager came to such a shuddering halt. Having been hit by the hammer blow of losing to Limerick, the Waterford team must have felt a sense of ‘oh no not that aul thing’ when they went through their training routines in the spring of 2008. Even the most imaginative of managers will have only so many tricks up his sleeve, and when the tricks begin repeating themselves with no discernible change in output you know the time has come to move on. I didn’t see it with Justin until it was too late. I’m seeing the same scenario unfolding with Stephen Henderson. Time to go before things get really poisonous.