Hull City: Such a harsh end for Nick Barmby, whose only sin was naivety
Hull City reporter Philip Buckingham on the sacking of manager Nick Barmby.
FOR all he has seen and done during two decades in football, Nick Barmby could never have envisaged the repercussions of his fateful comments last month.
What was intended as an attempt to gently lean upon the Hull City board for financial support has instead been construed as an attack on the "honesty and integrity" of his employers.
And, after his eight-day suspension ended with his sacking yesterday, Barmby's vocal call for arms has now ultimately cost him his dream job.
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One man's ambition has become another's insubordination and when a stinging statement from the Allam family confirmed the inevitable yesterday, the saddening unrest at the top of the KC left one side standing.
The strongly-worded comments of vice chairman Ehab Allam have left no room for interpretation.
Barmby's "wholly misleading" comments are said to have "undermined the trust and confidence" needed to survive and, in a stroke, made his position as boss untenable.
Yet for all the straight talking of the City board when detailing their manager's controversial dismissal, supporters are still numb to the reality of it all.
Seeing a football manager sacked for demanding financial support is akin to firing a secretary for pinching from the stationary cupboard.
Despite his peerless popularity in and around the KC, Barmby becomes the unlucky employee singled out for punishment and nothing can ever put things right.
Whether right or wrong – and fans almost unanimously perceive it to be the latter – Barmby has paid the heaviest price imaginable for his discord.
The Allams have chosen to make an example of the hometown hero and, without blinking, shunned any notion of sentiment. The clinical nature of it all is about the only thing admirable after a season that saw City narrowly miss out on the play-offs.
Comments prodding at the club's long-term strategy cannot have been easy to digest for a board that has invested £51m over the last 17 months and, once the line has been crossed, wherever it was, there would be no way back. Just ask head of football operations Adam Pearson after his unexpected split last Monday.
Barmby may not be entirely blameless in all of this, but his greatest sin was the naivety of a managerial novice. Only pick your fights against opponents you can beat.
A premeditated stance wanted to sound the right tune for the summer transfer market, only the Allams were not for dancing. The suspension imposed last Monday was only ever the prelude to an unpopular sacking.
The Allams have been here before during their roller-coaster reign at the KC, blurring the age-old lines between football and business.
Nine months ago they were applauded for their ruthless disposal of Jimmy Bullard, where a serious breach of club discipline was seized upon as grounds for the termination of the Tigers' biggest-ever contract.
Figures within the game doubted the wisdom of such extreme measures but the sound business and legal practices eventually saved the club £2.5m.
To see the Allam's outlook, untainted by football's accepted practices, felt refreshing where Bullard was concerned. To see that ruthless streak extend to Barmby's recent comments has turned the tide of opinion.
An ignorance to the nuances of football on this occasion is surely to their detriment.
As endings go, it is a horribly inglorious one for Barmby.
Behind accusations effectively questioning his motives and agenda, almost eight years of service for his hometown club was only given brief thanks.
The statement highlights how they gave Barmby his "first opportunity in football management" but gave no acknowledgement as to how he had sacrificed his playing career to dig the club out of a ominous hole after Nigel Pearson's exit in November.
Barmby was only ever a reluctant heir to the throne and, above all else, it was a sense of obligation that pushed him into the hot-seat.
Rejected by primary target Warren Joyce, Barmby's club were in a pickle and he could not stand idly by.
Turning down the easy option of life as a player, he put his popular legacy on the line for the good of others. It is a decision he must surely regret now.
So where now for Barmby?
Hull City has been the centre of his universe ever since he first dropped down from the Premier League riches of Leeds United to join Peter Taylor's newly-promoted League One club in the summer of 2004.
That insular existence was an odd one for a decorated England regular to choose but one that has supplied unrivalled memories. Nothing else outside of East Yorkshire mattered and that was his enduring charm.
"This is not a stepping stone," Barmby would often preach and, taking him at his word, managing any other club than City was a wholly unpalatable prospect.
Do not expect to see Barmby join the rank and file of the management world, applying for vacancies as if on auto-pilot. Everything else, you suspect, will struggle to re-ignite the same passions.
A short statement released through the League Managers' Association last night gave a snapshot of his dismay but with legal actions looming, a full insight into Barmby's anger may be a long time in coming.
Time with his family should bring the very first stages of rehabilitation in the coming weeks, but the experiences of the last month may just have left Barmby with a stunted appetite for the only way of life he's known.
And that would be a desperately sad finale to one of Hull's most cherished fairytales.