Morrell’s Tough Calls Start Here

No one could doubt that Andy Morrell enjoyed a terrific, if unexpected, managerial debut. It gets harder from here though.

Even since Saturday the circumstances are different: Brian Carey has now gone as well, and the Irishman was very animated on the side of the pitch at Grimsby. Now Morrell and Michael Oakes will be a little isolated on the bench: watch out for Glen Little spending more time on his feet than just when he’s warming up.

Morrell will have tough decisions to make before the match too. Clearly the team want to play for him; Jay Harris’ pitch-long charge to high five his manager after hescored showed that. He’s earned that popularity by being such a thoroughly sound bloke, but whereas he only had to pick the side Dean Saunders had set up on Saturday, against Mansfield he faces a different situation. Logic demands that he changes a winning team, but that might just lead to some disgruntled players.

The easiest decision is surely the one he has to make at right back. Chris Westwood didn’t look comfortable in that position as Serge Makofo ran at him, particularly after he picked up an early yellow card. He also wasn’t as effective going forward as Curtis Obeng, and a lot of midfield passes went astray as players who are used to Obeng bombing down the flank forgot themselves and put the ball where they are used to him turning up.

Whereas Obeng must surely return, whether Danny Wright comes back from his suspension is a trickier call. I think common sense suggests that he should; we’ve found it harder to occupy the centre backs and make the ball stick up front in the three games he’s missed. However, you’ve got to feel some sympathy for Mathias Pogba, who certainly worked his socks off in those matches, and as a striker Morrell might just try to look at it from his perspective. if he’d been given a chance, run his heart out and scored a goal, he’d probably be very disappointed if he wasn’t allowed to stay in the team.

It’s richly ironic, after previously griping playfully about Dean Saunders’ plans to rest his legs to nurse him through the season, that the first decision of Morrell the manager was to drop himself!

His third big call is perhaps the most interesting of all: will he play himself. There were spells on Saturday, particularly in the first half, when we missed him. He has played very well this season, not just with his goals but by dropping into the hole and linking the midfield with the strikers. However, what his handling of Adrian Cieslewicz, both before and after the match, might just be the most important thing he did last weekend.

His treatment of the young Pole was markedly different to how Saunders dealt with him. As recently as last Tuesday Saunders, in virtually his last comment in a press conference. criticised Cieslewicz for not following instructions, and it was far from the first time he singled him out. Morrell, by contrast, showed faith in him by giving him his first start of the season, and richly praised his talent after the match, saying he needs an arm round the shoulder and to be reminded of how good a player he is.

It might just be that Morrell’s paternal approach might just unlock Cieslewicz’s potential more effectively than Saunders’ more tough approach. It’s richly ironic that Morrell, having playfully complained at the thought of Saunders resting him earlier in the season, now looks like he’ll confine himself to the bench, not only out of choice but by working hard to get the best out of the main competitor for his place. But then Morrell’s nothing if not selfless, and that’s why it’s so easy to admire him.

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