Well, the records just keep tumbling, don’t they? Graham Barrow has gone, a mere 64 days after his first game as manager of Wrexham. Twenty days longer than Brian Clough lasted at Leeds, I suppose.
It’s the shortest length of time anyone has lasted in the Racecourse hot seat though, and although we remain within spitting distance of the top spot, you have to ask whether the squad’s resilience is approaching breaking point. You couldn’t blame them if it was.
Barrow’s short reign is one of the oddest little episodes in our club’s long history. The early signs were very promising. Barrow’s subtle alterations to Sam Ricketts’ set-up represented a more intelligent use of the resources available to the manager, and the back-to-back victories over Salford and Solihull were a welcome improvement in our recent results against promotion contenders.
However, the cracks appeared almost immediately. Five defeats in a row, without even a goal to show for our efforts, were a real problem, of course. However, in some ways our shifting approach to those games bothered me more. The subtle alterations quickly developed into drastic tactical shifts as Barrow shuffled the pack and stability went out of the window. We test drove a back three which just didn’t suit us, fiddled with the balance of midfield, and oddly responded to a lack of goals by bringing back, out of “loyalty”, a front three at Fylde which had managed four goals between them in the last 23 games.
Meanwhile, new strikers Jason Oswell and Cole Stockton looked on, managing an accumulated 166 minutes out of a possible 540 in the league since arriving, with one start between them, and Ben Tollitt, the player whose attacking attributes seemed most obviously suited to ending our drought, dropping out of the match day squad completely. New centre back, Kieran Kennedy, is still waiting to appear on a teamsheet a month after arriving.
It made you wonder whether Barrow had approved their arrivals, or if he places such emphasis on training ground performance that he was willing to jettison his new toys so ruthlessly.
Considering the way things have deteriorated so suddenly, perhaps a change of manager isn’t the worst thing that could happen. There seemed to be a loss of clarity from the bench in recent weeks. At first Barrow came across as a coach who was relishing the opportunity to get his hands on a side which was starting to lose its way, and affect the alterations he’d not been able to convince Sam Ricketts to make. However, he swiftly changed into a man who looked to be shuffling his options wildly in search of something that worked, when those performances against Salford and Solihull showed that he’d essentially found the basis for success already, and just needed to keep making judicious tweaks.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Barrow is a decent man, a knowledgeable coach and someone whose decades of experience in the game make him a valuable person to have on board. In that respect, I lament his departure. Perhaps a role more akin to the overseeing role he had at AFC Fylde would have been a better use of his talents, and it’s certainly legitimate to ponder the circumstances of his appointment as manager, despite being given a long term contract as assistant a week earlier in a most unorthodox move.
It might be that making the change now isn’t the worst thing in the world, but there needs, when the dust has settled, to be a process of stepping back and re-establishing what our approach is in terms of the structure of the coaching staff, and how we can develop a stable structure with the right people in the right positions.