Paul Buckle & Dietmar Hamann: The what might have beens…
When Paul Hart left Swindon Town in April, a whole host of names were linked with the County Ground hot seat. Andrew Steele-Davis looks back at the two of the prime candidates and their fortunes since failing to beat Paolo Di Canio for the Swindon job.
Paul Buckle was a name that excited many Town fans during the search for a new manager. Having been chosen as one of the final three candidates, he was viewed as a strong favourite by many Town fans to get the job.
Still relatively young by managerial standards at the age of 41, Buckle had forged an exciting, young Torquay United team that had reached the League Two Playoff final that season, only losing narrowly 1-0 to Stevenage.
Buckle originally joined Torquay in June 2007 following a successful spell as assistant manager under Paul Tisdale at Exeter City. Having just been relegated from the Football League, Torquay were in desperate need of a boost and Buckle certainly provided that, leading the Devon based club to the Conference Premier play offs. However they succumbed to a 5-3 aggregate defeat to his old club Exeter in the semi-finals.
However, he did lead Torquay back to the Football League at the second attempt, goals from Chris Hargreaves and Tim Sills giving them a deserved 2-0 victory over Cambridge United in the Playoff final at Wembley.
Having led the Gulls to the League Two Play-off Final in May 2011, Buckle was a man in demand, but having failed to get the Swindon job, he soon took over at the Memorial Stadium to become the new manager of Bristol Rovers.
Buckle oversaw a complete turnover of players at Rovers, bringing in nineteen players in a bid to gain promotion back to League One at the first attempt, including Chris Zebroski and Scott Bevan from his old club, Torquay.
While things looked good on paper and Rovers were one of the early bookies favourites for the League Two title, Buckle found it impossible to rebuild Rovers and at the same time meet expectations.
Despite an opening day victory over AFC Wimbledon, Buckle’s preferred style of attacking football did not work out and a poor run of form and performances resulted in him being given the chop on the 3rd of January 2011 after defeat by Barnet. He also had a public falling out with fan favourite Stuart Campbell which only served to increase the hate campaign against him from Gashead fans.
The other candidate widely tipped for the Town job was Liverpool legend Dietmar Hamann.
Having joined MK Dons in a joint player/coach capacity, he left to take up a role as First Team Coach at Leicester. After earning rave reviews for his coaching abilities at Leicester by manager Sven Goran Eriksson, it was clear that the former ball-winning midfielder would become a manager in the not too distant future.
After throwing his hat into the ring, Hamann was a widespread favourite to become the next Town manager. But with Di Canio chosen by the Swindon board as their man to take Town forward, Hamann proceeded to take the reins at perennial crisis club Stockport County – now of the Conference Premier.
Despite the club being in the Conference hopes were high the last player to score an international goal at the old Wembley could guide County back to the Football League at the first attempt.
Stockport started life in non-league with a 1-1 draw at Forest Green, but in Hamann’s 41 day spell in charge, his 19 league games saw 3 victories, 9 draws and 7 defeats; leaving County two points above the relegation zone.
Hamann had said he took charge after promises from proposed owner Tony Evans who was looking to takeover the club. With Evans’ consortium lead takeover hitting the buffers, Hamann resigned on 7th November, citing broken promises from Evans. Clearly hamstrung by a lack of promised resources and County’s league form flagging, Hamann realised he couldn’t deliver anything on a shoestring.
So we ended up with this fiery Italian. Despite Paolo Di Canio initially not being widely seen as the right man to take Swindon to a new level and questions over his attitude, the Swindon board have been proved correct with Di Canio so far.
After all he’s outlived the two other main contenders he was competing with for the Swindon job. Add to that our improving League Two position, getting the best out of Matt Ritchie, Paul Caddis, Aden Flint, Simon Ferry and Alan McCormack, the famous wins over the likes of Wigan and his touchline eccentrics, Di Canio is well on the way to winning the hearts of every Town fan; a year on from beating Paul Buckle and Dietmar Hamann for the job.
What is telling about Buckle is how like Paolo he sought to rebuild a squad but without a core of existing players. As a result he went a step too far and results suffered.
As for Hamann, he wanted a budget and resources to back his ambitions. Stockport were unable to provide this, yet we know Swindon could’ve comfortably backed Dietmar in League Two, so he may have been able to show his true ability at the Town.
In the end…I wouldn’t change Paolo for either….