John D Rockefeller once said that “good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people”. By contrast if you were to take a superior person and turn them into an average person then that would surely be bad management.
If you were to alienate a superior person rather than inspire them then that would go beyond bad management. Quite why Phil Parkinson referred to Aiden McGeady as the best player at the club and days later sent him to train with the reserves remains a mystery, but we’ll come to that soon.
The initial reaction to the SAFC Unfiltered Podcast with Aiden McGeady seems to have been a bit of shock. Perhaps I’m misreading that. Perhaps it’s more “told you so” from those of us who have, for a long time, called Phil Parkinson a crap manager. Some might say that McGeady’s honesty was refreshing, others might say it’s unprofessional. Personally, I found it vindicating.
With an opening focused on the effects of the Covid outbreak and how the squad were reacting to it we got a glimpse inside the goldfish bowl. Players can’t go out running because someone will take a photo and put it on social media and it would be controversial. Quite right, self-isolation means self-isolation; however, the revelation does two things. Firstly, it reveals the spotlight players are under with fans, secondly it demonstrates how the situation is a danger not just to physical health but to mental health too. “We’re pretty much housebound”, laments Aiden. That got me thinking about the infamous photo of McGeady and Maguire tucking into a McDonalds that did the rounds on social media and perhaps we sometimes forget that those people on the pitch are just normal people. We then move on to how they are keeping fit and we hear about group chats and Lee Johnson posting fitness workouts. McGeady sounds almost surprised by all of this, which makes you wonder what Phil Parkinson was organising during lockdown 1. Parkinson’s ineptitude however is a common theme in the Podcast.
There’s a little bit of me that says we should just leave that all in the past. We could be setting ourselves up for a bit of soul searching in the future, “If only we’d sacked Parkinson earlier…”. The nature of McGeady’s comments though make it an absolutely bizarre situation that we are now kind of scratching our heads about. If we take all that at face value, how on earth did those in charge at the club appoint him in the first place but then why did they wait so long to get rid of him? “I could tell after ten days that he wasn’t going to last”.
Going back to that mental health situation, say you have a decent working relationship with your manager, he comes to you for advice which you willingly give him, after all you’re not shy in sharing your opinions and you are pretty good at your job. Your manager values your input and experience. He then tells you he’s going to appoint you in a pivotal role in a project, only to then change his mind. Not only that but he says you can no longer attend team meetings and you’ve got to move desks and go and sit with the trainees. When you ask why, you’re told you’re too negative without any evidence or examples being offered. If that happened at my workplace, I would imagine an employment tribunal would follow suit and the manager would be disciplined for bullying. Bizarre as that comparison sounds, that is pretty much what Aiden McGeady says Phil Parkinson did to him.
Contrast that with his introduction to Lee Johnson who picked up the phone to Aiden before he even had the job to find out what his fitness levels were like. “It was a big statement”. McGeady talked of being binned off but not letting it bother him because he thought he would outlast Parkinson anyway. There was no argument, no falling out, no dressing room bust up. Parkinson just sent his “best player” away to the shadows. McGeady even talks of the players being surprised, disbelief at the fact that McGeady had walked in and told them he was done. He was told he was too negative for the group and he comes back with “We’ve just won 2 in 15”. He has a point. After Parkinson had heard McGeady’s arguments he stuck to his guns, told him he had made his decision and that was that. McGeady walked away “raging” but thought it didn’t matter because Parkinson would get sacked soon. Unfortunately for him the team went on a half decent run after that and McGeady was left feeling scapegoated. “He (Parkinson) almost came away smelling of roses”. In all that time rumours started circulating, people saying things about McGeady’s attitude but from his perspective nothing had happened. In a similar situation I would probably throw my toys out the pram. Aiden McGeady swallowed it and actually apologised twice. Apologies that were met with “I’ll think about it” and not followed up with any contact for a week or so.
Later on the narrative changed and it was all because Parkinson wanted to bring the young players through, a theory that was never really evidenced. McGeady is under no illusions as to what the purpose behind it all was. “He was trying to make my life as difficult as possible”. It’s a well trodden path where a player is cast aside until they demand to leave. McGeady refused to give in to that. McGeady talks of the players being gutted when Jack Ross was sacked and contrasts this with the reaction to Parkinson leaving which was met with a muted response. “That tells its own story”.
The Podcast moves into positivity when McGeady discusses Johnson and that is encouraging given that he had previously said he could tell after 10 days that Parkinson would never last. He talks of a different style of play and uses the word refreshing a lot. There is bitterness there about the past but it comes from a freedom to be able to talk about some tough times. “Everyone was saying we need pace and power and a creative spark. Parkinson went the other way and paid the price.” Things seem different under Johnson and when we return to playing McGeady is certain that we will see a change. I’m certain too, and despite this being a difficult podcast to listen to, insofar as it’s blatantly clear where things were going wrong, it left me feeling positive about the rest of the season. As McGeady himself said, what happened before is largely irrelevant, be that under Jack Ross or Phil Parkinson. This is the squad, and they are more than capable of going up. The fact it took so long to see the problems is exactly why somebody like Speakman needs to be in post. Jack Ross wasn’t supported and, from what McGeady has said, Parkinson had autonomy even if that was to the detriment of his “best player”.