David Prutton exclusive: What's it like for a squad when a new manager comes in?

Former professional footballer turned Sky Sports presenter David Prutton has revealed the extent of just how chaotic managerial changes can be for a first team squad.

Prutton played for eight different clubs during a career that spanned across 16 years, featuring at all levels of the English football pyramid.

During that time, he witnessed numerous managers come and go; a process that often left the players in the dark regarding the latest developments.

"We'd have a little chat between us (the players)," Prutton exclusively told the Sporting Life Championship Podcast.

"The good thing is, if you had experience of a particular manager or if someone did, that was the chat in the dressing room.

"It was like a 'anyone play for him?' and someone would say 'yeah, he's decent' and someone else sat in the corner shaking their head saying 'you do not want that guy in here'.

"It was good because it was great for a bit of conjecture because it was always very, not cloak-and-dagger, but it's quite obviously kept under wraps until something concrete actually comes out."

The procedure in appointing a manager often fails to be straightforward.

Stoke had identified Preston boss Alex Neil as their number one target to replace Nathan Jones, who was sacked on Friday, and reports circulated the following day that Neil was set to make the switch.

However, Preston hit back at the news stating they would not only deny permission to their Championship rivals, but they had also reported the club to the EFL for an illegal approach.

David Prutton (right) in action for Leeds
David Prutton (right) in action for Leeds

The former midfielder outlined how players often only find out who their new manager is at the end of the process - with a change at Leeds sticking out in memory.

"I've had it before where you've seen someone coming in a long way off and it's been a bit protracted but you get there in the end," Prutton said.

"I've also seen it where you get called into meetings and suddenly somebody walks in and 'there's your new manager'.

"I remember Simon Grayson coming to Leeds. Gary McAllister had gone and then suddenly, walking around the periphery of the training pitch, in the intervening few days where whoever is caretaker or someone from the academy keeps you ticking over, but he was next to the pitch.

"He might have been with the chairman (Ken Bates) at the time, and kind of wandered over, watched a bit of training and then we had a meeting.

"At that moment in time, Simon wasn't the most recognisable person either - he wasn't the man who had got four promotions under his belt.

"We're kind of stood there going 'oh, that's the new manager is it?' and not being underwhelmed but thinking he's a very understated guy, he's not turning up in a big manager's coat.

"I've experienced it that way before. It normally is where you'll see the chairman or a chief executive or maybe the club secretary a bit more around the ground and you think 'something is bubbling here and coming out'.

"The players weren't necessarily the last to know but it was almost like it was getting everything in place before this person comes through the door.

"The thing is, the lads always said, tongue-in-cheek, 'it'd be good to get a bit of a heads-up on this and speak to whoever and get something sorted from a monetary points of view!' but it was never the case.

"Unless someone categorically knew someone from a coaching point of view who was coming in, until that person rocked up, in his car, and if the media was there, you didn't know."

David Prutton recalls an incident involving Dennis Wise leaving the club
David Prutton recalls an incident involving Dennis Wise leaving the club

Prior to Grayson was McAllister, who replaced Dennis Wise when he took up a position at Newcastle in January 2008.

While Grayson's introduction was memorable, Prutton cites how Wise's departure in the midst of two away games left the squad in a disoriented state.

"The most memorable for me was, again, at Leeds," he stated.

"The season I came, Dennis Wise was there with Gus (Poyet). Gus left to go to Spurs in the Autumn and Wisey left to go to Newcastle shortly after.

"Then, over the course of a weekend when we were down south playing, maybe Luton and Southend, maybe those two but enough that we were down there from the Saturday to Tuesday for the Tuesday game.

"In those few days, Wisey had gone. His number two (Poyet) had left. Dave Bassett took part of a training session - he then say goodbye at the end of that training session!

"So, we'd gone to training and then we'd come back with literally the goalkeeping coach (Andrew Beasley) and the lads on the bus going back to the hotel.

"Then Gwyn Williams rocked up, who was something like the Director of Football, he rocked up to take us for a game like 'hey lads' and we're saying 'what on Earth are you doing here?'

"He says 'I'll be honest there's nobody else to take you for this game' so we're down at Southend, he picks the team, and I think by the next day which was Wednesday or the Thursday, Gary Mac was there.

"He was straight into training. Steve Staunton was his assistant and that was just the way it kind of was."

That disruption proved to be costly. Leeds could only manage a 1-1 draw at Luton before being beaten 1-0 at Southend days later.

David Prutton celebrates a goal for Southampton against Charlton
David Prutton also saw memorable managerial switches at Southampton and Nottingham Forest

It wasn't just Leeds where a change in the dugout left Prutton surprised.

Having started his career at Nottingham Forest, before moving onto Southampton for a £2.5m fee in 2003, he recalls situations at both clubs where a manager departed without prior notice.

"I remember Gordon Strachan leaving Southampton," he continued.

"He took us all out for a drink and said 'right that's it lads I've had enough and I promised my wife I'd spend a bit more time with her, this seems like the time to do it - I'm off'.

"You're saying 'what? I signed for you, that's one of the main reason why I came' - unless he saw me and thought 'wow I need to get myself out of here!'

"Then there was Nottingham Forest. Dave Bassett coming in, I was in the youth team at the time, but getting the whole playing staff together in the first team dressing room and his actual words were 'right lads, that's me done, I've had the tin tack, good luck with the rest of the season, it's been fun, see you later, bye'.

"Big Ron (Atkinson) comes in in the next few days and you can't help but think 'what's going on here?'"

David Prutton was speaking to the Sporting Life Championship Podcast. A new episode is available on Soundcloud, iTunes and Spotify every fortnight.


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