Who would you choose in a fight, the grizzled Luton manager and toughy John Still or the Shrewsbury Town upstart Andy Morrell? Still has the bulk and whiles of a seasoned campaigner, while Morrell has the youthful enthusiasm to cause a potential upset. Looking at the records it’s Still all the way. Morrell has lost his most recent fight, Still is at the top of his game and looks unbeatable. I’d choose Morrell, John Still’s record is entirely misleading and I shall dismantle it in the style of Herol Graham, skilfully picking off an entirely overrated favourite.
I went to see Paul Buckle’s last game as Luton manager at Macclesfield, although he didn’t turn up as they got rid of him just before the game started. The two Luton players who stood out were Andre Gray and Stewart Fleetwood (best player on the pitch) both pacy, skilled forwards. I mention them, as their futures under John Still are rather revealing. John Still took over the week after, and Luton are now running away with the Conference. It has very little to do with Still, in fact he tried pretty hard to derail the freight train that is Luton Town.
Still wrote off the Luton season and decided to experiment, a bizarre decision considering they were in better shape than Wrexham are now. His decisions successfully steered Luton away from any late playoff challenge, to the relief of the lesser teams higher up. His early recruitment decisions had a theme and the theme was ‘get rid of people I can’t manage (Janos Kovacs, Stuart Fleetwood, with Andre Gray banished to the reserves) and sign people capable of playing in the conference, and no higher (Shaun Whalley, Steve McNulty and Alex Wall)’ It looked like Still was settling down to a good wage and mid-table obscurity.
Still’s plan initially worked to perfection, after an abysmal end to the season, and a rotten start to this season (a sequence of results that would have seen Morrell shoot himself, not tender his resignation) his team met the target of mid-table. To reach this lofty position Still had to repeatedly call on one of his rejects, Andre Gray to dig them out from the bench. His plan went sadly awry for two big reasons; firstly the fans got fed up with the clearly ludicrous decision to bench Gray, and secondly the return from long term injury of Alex Lawless, a league quality wide player, to shift Shaun Whalley.
Alex Wall, a great white hope of Still’s was shifted out on loan, as was Whalley. The big pockets of Luton were able to tempt Paul Benson to move from Swindon, and the rest is history. John Still is on his way to hero status, after being forced to return to the side his predecessor was using, with the exception of Benson and McNulty (a straight swop for Kovacs).
The parallels with Morrell’s tenure are interesting in that Morrell was unable to replace his ‘big-un’ at the back, and we didn’t have the league’s best player to call from the bench and score us goals. Hey-ho.