Sacking could see Brewster call time on brief managerial career

CRAIG Brewster's time as the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager came to a conclusion yesterday, and his sacking by the SPL's bottom club could spell the end of the line for his career as a football manager.

Caley Thistle, meanwhile, know that if they make a mistake when choosing a replacement for Brewster, their status as a top-flight club could also be at an end.

Yesterday was the first time in their brief history that the Inverness club have sacked a manager, but they had little alternative after a losing streak of seven league games which has seen them slump to the foot of the table. It is the second time in five years that Brewster's fledgling managerial career has come crashing to a halt, and his lack of sustained success is likely to deter any other leading club from offering a chance to rekindle his managerial ambitions.

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During his first, far happier spell in charge of Caley Thistle, which began when he succeeded John Robertson in late 2004, the Dundonian consolidated the club's position in the SPL. But he did so with a squad which had largely been assembled by Robertson and his predecessor, Steve Paterson, so there remained a doubt over Brewster's ability to build up a squad of his own.

When he moved to Dundee United at the start of 2006, he was unable to replicate even the modest success he had enjoyed in his previous post. After a ten-month spell in which fans of the Tannadice club were able to count victories on the fingers of one hand, Brewster and his assistant Malcolm Thomson departed "by mutual agreement".

After a brief reversion to playing, Brewster was back at Inverness in August 2007, and for the rest of the year he enjoyed his best spell in management. At the start of 2008, however, the club went through a rocky spell similar to the one which led to the dismissal of Brewster and Thomson yesterday.

As has been the case over the past few weeks, the rumours grew of dissent within the dressing room at the manager's strict standards. Eventually the form on the field returned and Caley Thistle finished ninth, but no such turnaround has been evident this time.

Brewster has often come across as an intelligent, thoughtful coach who demands high standards of himself but, if suggestions from within Caley Thistle are to be believed, he found it difficult when others were unable to match those standards. He is not the first successful former player to have trouble dealing with the less gifted once he has graduated to management, and if he is to return to football in a senior capacity he may have to become more mellow, more willing to understand, if not tolerate, mediocrity.

After news of Brewster's sacking broke yesterday, it was certainly instructive to hear Ross Tokely, the club's longest-serving player, insist that there was no division within the squad. Although too polite to say so himself, Tokely left bags of room for the inference that any dispute within the dressing-room had only been between coaching staff and players, and that a new manager would therefore find the players united in their bid to avoid relegation.

"Whatever else has happened, the mood in the camp among the players is really good," Tokely said. "There's no disharmony between the players.

"We're still upbeat and ready for the fight to stay up. The fans know we will give everything and the new man will come in and find a group of boys willing to work and get ourselves out of this predicament.

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"I'm not sure it's the most attractive time to become manager of this club, but I'm sure somebody out there can take the job and do well. I'd certainly like somebody in as quickly as possible. All I can say to any prospective candidate is that the players are upbeat and there's no problem within the dressing room.

"It's up to the players now. At the end of the day, managers get the sack for results but it lies with the players. If we don't pull the finger out, then we'll all be playing First Division football. It's a whole different ball game down there and it's a hell of a hard league to get out of.

"We've got 16 games to salvage it by getting some wins on the board, albeit the next three (Hearts, Celtic and Dundee United] are really difficult. You are never too good to go down and it's up to us now."

Asked his reaction to the news that many fans wanted John Robertson to return, Tokely added that, while receptive to such a move, he did not believe it his place to second-guess the board. "It's not really for me to say who should be manager," he said. "The board have done well in appointments before, so I'll leave it up to them.

"John Robertson has been a good manager for us in the past and if they think he is the man, then fair enough. I enjoyed working with him before and he does know the players, but I'm sure they have their own ideas as a board."