Football: OLSEN A VICTIM OF PLAYER POWER?

Article excerpt

WIMBLEDON boss Egil Olsen paid the price for losing the respect of his players and failing to halt the club's dramatic dive into the Premiership relegation zone as he was sacked with just two games of the season left.

Assistant boss Terry Burton, who was only promoted from being academy director towards the end of last month, will replace him for those last two matches of the campaign in a desperate bid to avoid the drop.

The club's Norwegian owners insisted the move was not fuelled by panic and indeed was not due to the constant and almost unprecedented criticism of maverick compatriot Olsen, who only took charge last summer, and his tactics by his players.

However, it is clear that a crisis was descending on Wimbledon when they not only lost 3-0 away to relegation rivals Bradford to fall into the drop zone but then striker John Hartson called for a change of manager this summer.

Hartson was certainly not the first Dons player to speak out this season, with Carl Cort and Northern Ireland's Michael Hughes - among others - already having made their frustrations abundantly clear.

And given that Burton, former boss Joe Kinnear's number two, was apparently promoted after appeals from the squad, it is hard to resist the conclusion that player power simply became irresistible.

After all, Wimbledon only have those two games left - at home to Aston Villa and away to Southampton - in which to rescue themselves from a run of eight consecutive defeats and a crisis in confidence.

Otherwise the Dons' 14-year fairytale stay in the top flight, which has encompassed a memorable 1988 FA Cup triumph against Liverpool - just 11 years after being elected from non-League football into Division Four - will come to an end and, despite the multi-million pound backing of their owners, the prospects for a team without a home of their own, with a small following and with the prospect of losing a host of star names this summer if they go down, hardly bear thinking about. …