I had a phone call on Thursday morning.
“It’s Chris here. Have you heard?”
“Heard what?” I replied.
“They’ve sacked Danny Wilson!”
I couldn’t believe it!
That was possibly because I had worked so closely with Danny when he could no wrong in that spectacular season when he inspired the Reds to reach the top flight of English football.
I reported on those memorable matches; I had illuminating chats with him in his office every Monday morning; I wrote his programme notes!
I had aired my reservations when he returned last season in a vain bid to stave off relegation from the Championship for yet another campaign. Never go back, is the old adage. And in his case Danny was on a hiding to nothing. How could he possibly top what he had achieved before?
But then I started to run through other possible contenders for the job and came to the conclusion that there was no-one available with Wilson’s experience.
So, as the League One campaign opened in August I looked forward to a season of rebuilding; a season in which the Reds would first of all consolidate their situation, making sure that there would be no further decline, then a gradual progression when there would be signs of better days to come – a time of transition.
I would be content with a mid-table position, providing there was genuine hope of a successful promotion push in 2015-16.
But right from day one – an opening day defeat at the hands of Crawley Town, a team who five years ago were playing in the Conference – there has been a growing unease about the way Wilson has gone about his task.
There has been far too much chopping and changing; too many players brought in on loan; too many cast aside too quickly, some of them to disappear almost without trace.
Of the starting 11 in that first game against Crawley only three – Martin Cranie, Lewin Nyatange and Conor Hourihane – survived to face Fleetwood on Tuesday night in what was to prove Wilson’s last game in charge.
Already this season he has used a total of 44 players. In the season which ended with promotion to the Premier League he used a total of only 21. That stark statistic speaks volumes.
There has been an alarming lack of consistency in so many areas.
One minute the Barnsley boss was waxing lyrical about the Academy youngsters he was introducing to the first team – especially in defence – the next he was remarking, after one particular game, that victory had been secured because of an experienced back line. Had the youngsters played, he suggested, they would probably have lost.
Yet that same ‘experienced’ back four was so much at fault in that crushing home defeat by Fleetwood on Tuesday.
He stressed the importance of bringing youngsters through the ranks, yet still sought to bring in young players on loan, Ben Pearson and George Waring being the latest examples.
For a long time Wilson favoured the diamond formation, and even when it was obvious that it was not working he still reverted to it at the slightest opportunity.
And it was quite bewildering to see four different formations being used at various parts of the Fleetwood game – 4-4-2, diamond, 4-3-3 and 4-2-4.
It was almost as if Danny had completely lost the plot.
Yet even so, I was taken aback by his abrupt dismissal. I honestly thought that he would be given to the end of the season to try to turn things round.
Perhaps it was the total ineptitude of the performance against Fleetwood which persuaded chief executive Ben Mansford that now was the time to act. Or maybe it was the rant of that West Stand season ticket holder just behind the directors’ box on Tuesday – ‘The supporters have had enough, Mansford!’
Mansford, of course, also has his eyes on the financial situation. He pointed out in the aftermath of Wilson’s dismissal that the Oakwell Club has the fourth or fifth highest wage bill in League One; the third or fourth highest injection of cash from an owner into any League One side this season; and the fifth highest number of season ticket holders.
Clearly he believes that with that kind of infrastructure in place, the club should be doing far better.
And Wilson has paid the price.
Now I am sad that he returned. It would have been better had he not come back.
There are those who will feel that his reputation has been tarnished. Not a bit of it. Strangely, in some ways it has been enhanced, It is a measure of the man that he was brave enough to take up the challenge, and, as usual, he faced up to that challenge cheerfully and honestly.
Yes, he made mistakes. Too many in too short a period. It was more like ‘Walking in a Wilson Blunderland’ this time.
But Daniel Joseph Wilson is one football’s truly good men. I hope he finds another job quickly. And I hope he finds success in it.
You’re still my managerial hero, Danny Boy! You’re the one who took my home-town team, my precious Reds, soaring to heights never previously seen – heights probably never to be seen again, at least in my lifetime.
So thank you again. Farewell. And good luck.
– Keith Lodge