At most clubs McNiven would have gone before last Christmas - that's just the way the game is. As people so often say, football is a results business and Hyde's results were truly dire. If Dougie Freedman could be forced out of Bolton Wanderers after only one win in ten matches, how did McNiven stay in post after only one league victory in an entire season?
Why wasn't he sacked? Why didn't he resign? That's what the supporters wanted to know but the answer was never forthcoming. All they got was a weekly promise from the manager that better times were just around the corner. But the corner was never turned and the claims of better things to come grew hollow many months ago.
Even when his side lost 5-4 at home to Evo-stik NPL side Marine in the FA Cup, McNiven stayed resolute. As weeks passed crowds fell, spectators began to turn their backs on play or watch in silence, and the manager was subjected to abuse that was beyond the pale. It must have been hurtful and humiliating in the extreme but nothing happened.
After the 7-1 New Year’s Day drubbing at Bower Fold McNiven was still determined to stay, describing his 18 months of hell as a test of character. This time, however, even Hyde owner Jon Manship had had enough.
In many ways it was reminiscent of a friend of mine who captained a cricket side. He refused to give up the bowling even though he was being hit to all parts of the field. He clearly thought another over would do it. He ended up with figures of 1-186.
In his first campaign, McNiven achieved the near-impossible by keeping Hyde in the Conference national division. In the end it was a pretty close-run thing but there were some glorious highs along the way as the Tigers beat clubs like Luton and Wrexham and even got dangerously close to the play-off places at one point.
Everyone knew the Tigers were living a dream. Conference Premier, effectively an extension of the Football League, was packed with full-time clubs. Week after week the Hyde found themselves up against big, powerful sides who, despite the manager's protestations, were clearly much fitter and better prepared than his own squad.
The Tigers were out of their depth on and off the field and reality would have to kick in sooner or later. Supporters knew Hyde were relegation favourites but even the most cynical realists among them couldn't have predicted how brutal that kick would be when it was eventually delivered.
Hyde went through the whole of last season with only one league win, and that was at Kent club Welling on a Tuesday night in January. It proved impossible to beat Trafford of the Evo-stik furst division north in the Manchester Premier Cup final. Relegation came and went but even in Vanarama North the Tigers were still anchored at the bottom of the table, even with a solitary home win to their credit.
Whatever anyone may say about Scott McNiven – and it’s hard to think of anything that hasn’t been said – he did do his best. More than once when taking part post-match interviews he looked ashen and exhausted. He freely admitted the defeat at Bower Fold was the worst experience of his long career in football.
The constant criticism and defeats must have taken some sort of toll on his health. Bad manager or not, McNiven is a decent man. Maybe now he can take a rest and get a new start at the start of a new year.
He summed up his time at Ewen Fields in just two sentences: “It’s been a tough old time. Good luck to Gary and Martyn.”