It’s a fact of life in football that very few managers are appointed because a club has been doing well.
While Csaba Laszlo’s arrival at Dundee United was sparked by predecessor Ray McKinnon being sacked after a sticky start to last season, when he took up the reins last November it’s fair to say things were not looking too bad.
Victories over Dumbarton and St Mirren under caretaker boss Laurie Ellis had put the Tangerines back to the top of the Championship and for a while under Csaba it looked as if they might stay there. The early form under the former Hearts boss was encouraging.
An Irn-Bru Cup defeat at the hands of Northern Irish part-timers Crusaders in his first game in charge could be written off on the grounds United fielded an under-strength side and had no real interest in defending the trophy.
Csaba’s first real test would come in a home league clash against Falkirk in the middle of the month and it was passed with flying colours, his team playing some sparkling possession football in a 3-0 victory.
And if a draw at lowly Brechin in a game they dominated was disappointing, wins over Dunfermline, Morton and Livingston in the following three kept the feel-good factor alive.
Indeed, but for a game at Queen of the South being called off at half-time, United would have reached Christmas still top of the table.
They went to the top of the table clash at St Mirren in the final game of the year knowing victory would put them back there but a 2-0 Friday night defeat was the first real blow under Laszlo, one from which he arguably never recovered.
That Christmas period also saw huge losses in the shape of a season-ending injury for midfield anchor man Fraser Fyvie and another broken metatarsal for creative spark Scott Fraser that ruled him out for three months.
Without those two – the team’s two best players – results bombed.
Although January started with a comfortable home victory over Brechin, there followed a disastrous six-game streak without a win and that run also included the humiliation of a 6-1 defeat to a Falkirk side that had been battling to avoid relegation.
While results picked up a bit, United were no longer contenders for automatic promotion and, by the end of the regular season, were battling to secure a play-off spot.
They did manage to finish third in the table but that still meant promotion would only be won by battling through six play-off ties – something that had been beyond what looked a better-equipped side a year earlier.
This time round the task was to be beyond them as well and although Dunfermline were, somewhat fortunately, beaten in the quarter-final, Livingston proved too strong in the semis.
By then there were calls from some fans for Csaba to become the fourth United boss to be axed in less than three years.
New chairman Mike Martin, however, decided to stick by his man and over the summer provided funding for extensive squad rebuilding.
By the time the league campaign kicked off against Dunfermline, 12 new players had been added and another 12 had departed.
Despite that turnaround in personnel, there were worrying signs.
A Betfred Cup campaign that produced one single win, against lowly Elgin City, was disastrous and when that defeat to the Pars that was more one-sided than the 3-2 score suggested, more than ever Csaba looked to be living on borrowed time.
He rallied for a time but Saturday’s 5-1 home humiliation at the hands of promotion rivals Ross County had to mark the end – and so it proved.