COMMENT: Time was right for Kettering Town to sack struggling Andy Leese
It wasn’t ever going to be perfect, but no one expected Andy Leese’s tenure at Poppies boss to be as bad as it was.
Kettering Town have began the hunt for a new manager after relieving Leese of his duties on Saturday night.
The news came shortly after another disappointing 3-1 defeat at Coalville Town, where a number of Poppies fans chose to aim their frustrations directly at the now former boss.
James Le Masurier and coach Ben Watts will take over in the interim period, but the club have made it clear that the search was already underway for a permanent replacement.
Leese arrived at Latimer Park in June with a universal fanfare of approval following the departure of Lee Glover in the wake of the club’s relegation from Vanarama National League North.
The 60-year-old appeared to fit the bill as a manager who knew Step 3 of the non-league pyramid inside out, and had a history of remaining at his former clubs for extended periods - rebuilding both Chesham United and Enfield Town to give them moderate success in league and cups.
But, the honeymoon period for the Kettering job is obscenely short - made worse by a shortened pre-season period to build a squad from scratch.
But from the outset there were some questionable decisions made by Leese that didn’t help his cause.
Several shotgun contract signings were made just to give the appearance of calmness at the club.
This would only go on to hamstring the club later in the summer when better players appeared on the scene but couldn’t remain, with the modest player budget already used up.
The use of the loan system was also very questionable with Leese’s lack of contacts in the midlands area plain to see.
Kettering have relied heavily in previous season on vital loanee signings from Football League clubs - there is still much agreement that the injury to Sheffield United’s Frankie McGuire was a key factor in the Poppies' relegation last season.
After gaining just two points from the opening six games with performances best described as 'challenge to watch'.
This, coupled with the surprise move to loan out exciting midfielder Luca Miller to Harborough Town at a time when creativity was most needed, meant some parts of the Kettering fanbase had already made up their mind on the boss and his extended band of assistants and analysers before the FA Cup had started.
And it was the greatest cup competition in the world that arguably prolonged Andy Leese’s stay in the hot seat.
But even then, unconvincing single goal victories over Hullbridge Sports, Sporting Khalsa and Hitchin Town barely papered over the cracks.
Chesterfield then rarely had to get out of first gear during Kettering’s 'big day' at the SMH Group stadium, and yet Leese refused to apologise to the travelling hordes for the meek performance.
He instead cited that it was an impossible task from the outset and the 'messaging' wasn’t being listened to by the players.
Three wins from four did little to convince fans that a corner had been turned with Kettering still yet to put in a complete performance.
The final nail was two dire defeats on the road to Leamington and Coalville - both contests were effectively over before the half time oranges had been taken out of the fruit bowl.
With more than a third of the season played, and with the Poppies sitting a lowly 16th in the Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central table, just two points above the relegation zone, the Kettering directors could not afford to wait any longer.
By stark contrast, the off-field activities have never been stronger with a reinvigorated approach to marketing and communication.
But it’s simple, a winning team is the easiest way to bring money to a club and an Andy Leese team was not going to fill the coffers at Latimer Park.
Mitch Austin at Harborough Town is an early favourite to take over as is the Kettering 'Angel' Brett Solkhon.
Both would very popular, but Austin is enjoying his time building a formidable Harborough side whilst Solkhon would probably rather rejoin the Poppies when there isn’t a crisis.
Calls to forgive and forget the way Paul Cox left the club are also loud, but more water may need to pass under the bridge before that can happen.
Whoever takes on the role will need to tick the following boxes.
A little black book of contacts is essential - the Kettering squad is threadbare with only four substitutes being named for the recent Royston and Coalville games.
The new manager will also have to be ruthless in deciding which of the current crop of players are good enough to wear the red shirt.
Leese is the man that the buck stopped with, but the situation wasn’t helped by his playing staff who on occasions have looked totally disinterested or unable to adapt to the situations put in front of them.
Finally, the new boss needs to bring the feel good back to Latimer Park almost from game one.
This won’t necessarily have to result in victories, but the style and effort needs to improve ten-fold to keep the turnstiles turning and the keyboard warriors quiet.
This is almost the total opposite of what Leese was given - effectively a nine month pre-season to keep Kettering above the dotted line and build a squad that can excite, entertain and match the club’s ambitions off the pitch.