You Can't Take Carlisle From the Boy

John Gorman

In the build up to the World Cup, the on-going soap opera that is Wayne Rooney's foot and the manoeuvres of a few big money transfers one news story was cruelly shunted into small paragraphs here and there. I'm sure it caught the attention of a few on this site, but others will have missed it.

Wycombe Wanderers have – reluctantly – parted company with John Gorman as their manager. Having seen them through a record start to the last season, and – frankly – left us trailing in their wake until the New Year, he watched as his team crashed out of the promotion race in the first round of the play-offs. By this point, of course, there were other concerns. Wycombe never looked the same after Mark Philo decided to drive a car after a drinking session and got involved in an accident that killed him, and the driver of another car. But it's debatable whether this or the death of Myra Gorman, John's wife, dealt a bigger blow to their promotion hopes.

For the last few months – taking in Myra's death – Gorman has been in and out of Wycombe, his employers struggling to do the right thing and John, seemingly, struggling to know what was the right thing for him. For those of us who watched him play out some great years for Carlisle United there's been an echo of the man we knew. The hard-working, honest, player who'd face up to any challenge. Gorman was always a grafter, hard in a tackle, solid and unfussy in getting rid of the ball and generally capable of coping whether the game was a full-on battle in the rain or a cup tie with Carlisle punching well above their weight. He was there for most of the First Division season, generally giving a good account of himself and he can take a large amount of the credit for the fact we sat on top of the league after that first week. Remember, it was the goal difference that mattered and seven days into the season we'd managed 270 minutes with a clean sheet. Some of it down to Gorman's well timed tackles. When Spurs signed him in 1976 the real mystery was why someone so good hadn't found his way to one of the top teams earlier.

At first glance you can see his management record as mixed. Once Hoddle had departed the sinking Swindon leaving Gorman to struggle unsuccessfully for Premiership survival the ‘John Gormless' jibes from their support suggested he didn't have what it took. Then again Steve McMahon couldn't stop them being relegated the following season having taken over mid-way through the campaign. Even Gorman's critics admitted he could motivate players and get good performances from average pros. That's certainly what he's done at Wycombe and Gillingham in the last few years. Those of us sat in the sun at Wycombe last August as we got our first sight of Ziggy Aranalde and Anthony Williams could see from the off that Wycombe had a brand of ambition and self-belief that suggested they thought themselves promotion candidates. This – after all – is a team stuck down a dead end road on an industrial estate in an area offering the casual fan a fairly quick journey to London and Premiership games. The only way a team in such a situation can build a fan base and financial strength is to graft their way to consistent good performances. Gorman had the ideas and strength as a manager to give them two good finishes in a row, the second in the face of his own heartache.

It's a mark of the man that he tried to stick it out, determined not to just walk away at the first sign of trouble. There's an honesty and sense of duty about John Gorman that's seen him graft away throughout his career and it was never more strongly evident than in his attempts to stay involved with his team when his own life was falling apart.

Gorman was never a quitter, in the face of an injury that would have persuaded others to stop playing he fought his way back to the best fitness he could manage and played out the final years of his career in the USA. He was a fan favourite in Tampa Bay as well, more so than some of his team-mates who'd seen international honours the UK. I doubt he'll quit now. I hope he takes the time he needs before fielding a call from some chairman with ambitions and the kind of budget that'll provide a focussed manager with a job of work he can feel good about.

Go well John.

Neil Nixon