Stevenage Sack Dino Maamria: Five reasons why EFL clubs should be interested in the Tunisian

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 09 September 2019, 16:30

Stevenage parted company with manager Dino Maamria on Monday morning, after Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Cheltenham left them 23rd in League Two.

Boro are on the hunt for a new manager - Mark Sampson has been placed in caretaker charge - but what about Maamria himself?

Here’s five reasons why, being out of contract, we think he should attract interest within the EFL.

Force of personality

A lot of football managers use clichés and platitudes – they have been trained to handle situations, with their own players and with the media, in a very diplomatic way.

Maamria may be able to gain advantages over some of those types of managers, because he wears his heart on his sleeve.

When the Tunisian is proud of his players, he will shout it loud and proud: “They got away with one today”, he said of Lincoln City after February’s 2-2 draw at Sincil Bank.

Equally, when Maamria is unhappy with his players, he is not shy to let them know about it.

Maamria will rock the boat, he will rub some people up the wrong way, he will shout at referees, get into confrontations with other managers, praise his players, berate his players and everything in between.

When an EFL club is in danger of stagnation, Maamria can single-handedly drag it forward with the sheer force of his personality.

He ingrains a battling spirit

When Maamria came in, he toughened Boro up so that, when the football did not flow, they were still able to protect their defensive third well, show battling qualities and grind out results.

The introduction of seasoned centre-back Scott Cuthbert, then battle-hardened ball-winner Michael Timlin, meant the team acquired a more brittle dimension to their performances.

Luther Wildin, meanwhile, has gone from being a young right-back rejected by Notts County, forced to ply his trade in non-league to one that will, or should, attract interest from higher up English football’s pyramid.

That is hugely thanks to the work of Maamria, who can and will develop more players like that in the same vein – having the right mentality is key to maximizing a player’s ability and Maamria has the characteristics to drill that into his players.

Unique background

In the modern football fandom, there is a frequent clamour for excitement and change.

Whereas before, managers had spent long periods at their clubs, now supporters often want a new voice, something different.

In some ways, Maamria has been a victim of that at Stevenage – he had lost a job in which he had delivered 14 months’ work of continual progress, over effectively four bad results including the 1-0 loss to Bradford, where they peppered the opposition.

Equally though, Maamria can be a beneficiary of that culture too – with a unique background, he represents something different to the norm.

He was brought up in the Saharan desert in south Tunisia which shows, if nothing else, that this is somebody who has not got into football via the route everyone else has – and that means his relationship with the etiquette of the English game is different to that of other managers.

There is something very raw and unpolished about him which stands out and a lot of fans take to that.

Because supporters are the only ones who stick by their club while owners, managers and players come and go, there can be a tendency for some to question whether the manager feels the emotion in the same way that they do.

Because Maamria is so emotionally engaged in the teams he takes charge of, fans can see how much he cares, and they therefore identify with him more – which can help create valuable momentum.

Track record

When Maamria took over at Nuneaton in October 2017, they were languishing one place above the relegation zone.

Identifying the need to re-organize his side, Maamria soon led the club to a ten-game unbeaten run, during which time Nuneaton conceded only six goals so, when he left in March 2018, they were within five points of the Play-Off places.

He took over Stevenage when they were 16th in League Two – 17 points off the top seven – and led them to a 10th-placed finish in 2018-19, just one point shy of Newport, who missed out on promotion by losing a very even Play-Off Final to Tranmere in extra-time.

Essentially, this is a manager who has a history of converting teams in the bottom half, possibly looking over their shoulders, into ones that are competing for the Play-Offs – and without necessarily needing huge budgets in the process.

Tactical awareness improving

Boro were seven points off the Play-Offs after concluding March with a 3-0 home defeat to would-be relegated Notts County yet impressively, they still made a late charge.

Part of that was down to Maamria’s incredible force of personality, which we have discussed above, as well as the form of QPR loanee Ilias Chair.

However, another big factor was the change of formation to 3-4-3, with Alex Revell dropping out then Manny Sonupe and Chair flanking Kurtis Guthrie, who scored seven goals in the final six games of the campaign.

Dino has admitted himself that he would not consider himself to be the greatest tactician in the world – and yes, there are question marks about his side’s use of the ball in the first seven games of the current season.

However, if the 48-year-old were to take some time out of the game to reflect on his time at Stevenage, think about what he needs to learn and give himself a break, his next suitors could really benefit.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
16th February
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