Football League Expert & Columnist
Speed and time
Peter Beagrie says Gary Speed's departure is perfect - both for him and for Sheffield United.
Last Updated: 17/12/10 10:18am
Gary Speed's appointment as Wales manager could prove to be a move that suits all parties.
He's only been in charge at Sheffield United for four months, but when you look at the position they are in - 20th on 22 points - there's not exactly been an upturn in their fortunes.
He was a fantastic player, who has given the club great service, but he hasn't set the world alight since being promoted to the managerial position. He hasn't really changed the formula and despite trying to play a better brand of football, he has not enjoyed much success.
Like many former Sheffield United managers, he has suffered injuries to key players - Jamie Ward being an obvious example - and he hasn't been able to field his best side. However, there is a lack of pace and creativity in the squad and their goalscoring record has been abysmal.
I envisaged a season of struggle for them, down among the relegation places, so I don't think the Sheffield United board will be to upset by this. In many ways, the timing is perfect; there's time to appoint a new manager before the January transfer window opens and the next man will have half a season to work with the team.
And it's a good move for Speed was well. He's a very proud Welshman and he can move into international management without any damage to his reputation and with his credibility intact.
It's a good move for Gary, a good move for Wales and a good one for Sheffield United.
So where do the Blades go from here? I would like to see some fresh impetus. Gary was part of the managerial set-up when Kevin Blackwell was in charge and as much as we like to see continuity at football clubs, sometimes you need to make a clean break.
The usual names on the "managerial merry-ground", like Phil Brown and Alan Curbishley have been talked about, as has Sean O'Driscoll, which is inevitable because his Doncaster team plays such wonderful football.
There's one Sheffield United old boy that springs immediately to my mind - Chris Wilder, who has done a tremendous job with Oxford. He's Sheffield United through and through - down to the tattoo on his ankle - and he would be able to work with limited resources. He has a sound knowledge of League Two and the non league, so might be able to find a couple of rough diamonds.
Another highly-regarded coach who has just become available is Neil McDonald. He did an excellent job at Carlisle and after assisting Sam Allardyce at Blackburn he is now looking for work again.
Personally, I would like the board to be innovative and forward looking over this appointment. There is a temptation to go for a quick fix and go with an experienced name. But sometimes "tried and tested" means "tried and failed" - and that's why some of these guys are out of work.
They need to think outside the box, plan for the future and make the appointment with the club's long-term progress in mind.
There is a very good mood on the other side of Sheffield right now - what a difference a week makes!
The future is looking increasingly bright for Sheffield Wednesday under Milan Mandaric and the fans are happy after the team hit Bristol Rovers for six - with six different names on the scoresheet. It's nice to see them making headlines for the right reasons.
They're back in the hunt in League One, which is incredibly tight this year. There's only 10 points separating the teams in first and 14th.
That's not good news for Brighton, who had won four straight games, scoring 12 and conceding none, but have now failed to win in their last four.
It's all set up for a very exciting Christmas period in that division.
Peter's Picks of the Week
CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYER OF THE WEEK - Jonny Howson (Leeds United)
Leeds have gone eight games without defeat and moved up into fourth after a fantastic comeback win over Burnley. Captain Jonny Howson led by example and crowned a great performance by scoring the winner, his sixth goal of an outstanding season so far. It's fantastic to see a local lad leading their push for the Premier League.
See Leeds highlights here
CHAMPIONSHIP GOAL OF THE WEEK - Billy Sharp (Doncaster)
This was a tremendous acrobatic volley from James Coppinger's cross. Unfortunately, Rovers had the audacity to go 1-0 up before being hit for five by the ever-improving Leicester, but at least it was a good goal!
Click here to view
LEAGUE ONE PLAYER OF THE WEEK - Bradley Wright-Phillips (Plymouth Argyle)
Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored 12 league goals and is the top scorer in League One, playing with consistency each week. Plymouth will be desperate to hold onto him and with their financial problems I'm sure the supporters are hoping this is one player they don't need to cash in on.
See Plymouth highlights here
LEAGUE ONE GOAL OF THE WEEK - Thomas Ince (Notts County)
This was a close call. I nearly went for James Brown's right-foot curler for Hartlepool in their 1-0 win against Bournemouth, but I decided to go for Thomas Ince's effort against MK Dons. He was thrown on by his old man to earn three points for Notts County (maybe he threatened to not let him have any dinner) and he hit a tremendous, sweet left-footed volley that hardly left the ground as it fizzed into the bottom right-hand corner. There'll be an extra present in his Christmas stocking from dad after that!
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LEAGUE TWO PLAYER OF THE WEEK - Izale McLeod (Barnet)
A lot was expected of him this season. He's not a physical striker, but he is fleet of foot and looks to be enjoying himself at Barnet. Perhaps he will go on to fulfil his early potential at last.
See Barnet highlights here
LEAGUE TWO GOAL OF THE WEEK - Aaron Webster (Burton Albion)
This was a cracking left footer from outside the box from 22 yards, which curled into the top corner. The ball was just behind him and a fantastic first touch brought it back into his path and then he looked up and picked his spot. It helped his side to a good 3-1 win.
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Finally, I'd like to say a few words in praise of referees. The officials in our game are much maligned, but I spotted a couple of great advantages this week. In the Preston game, the referee played a vital advantage in the build-up to Iain Hume's goal and in Rotherham's game the referee waved play on and a few moments later Adam le Fondre scored. Both officials deserve a pat on the back for those incidents.