B.Being a Championship manager is a precarious business, just a short string of losses from the bag. Fifteen have been sacked this season and five clubs have their third manager. A cycle of constant change rarely seems to help.
Overall, there have been 19 manager changes in the division by 14 clubs, leaving 10 managers in the position they started in when the first ball was kicked in July. The Championship is a division few want to be in, for most it is a vehicle to reach the wealthy top flight, and that means clubs are willing to make bold decisions to try and get out of it.
Falling out and being two years out of the Premier League is an even bigger worry than missing out on promotion. Huddersfield and Blackpool have turned to the experienced Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy to try and get out of trouble. Bottom-placed Huddersfield finished third last season and came within 90 minutes of the top flight but lost the playoff final, further evidence of the competitive nature of the second division.
Last season there were 11 permanent changes to the Championship bench, and this season League One and Two have had 10 and 11 respectively.
“When I first went into management in the early 90s, there was an almost unwritten law that it would take a manager three years to sort out a football club,” says Tony Pulis, former Stoke manager. “The first year to assess what you had, the second year to deal with the weaknesses and turn them into strengths, and because you had the chance to turn things around, the third year would be successful, and if you weren’t, you would. he raises his hands and accepts that the change will come. If you look at it now, managers have three months and people start to question what you’re doing and what you’re not doing, which is completely unrealistic in my opinion.”
Slaven Bilic was the latest statistic on the merry-go-round, Watford’s second send-off of the campaign, after spending five and a half months on loan. He was replaced on minutes, 17 to be precise, by former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, who started the season at Middlesbrough. For players, hiring, firing, and sweating are all part of the job, though it doesn’t help much to add more of the unknown to an already tumultuous environment.
“The matches are so quick and fast that the preparation sometimes revolves around rest and recovery, so there is a big difference in terms of preparation for the Premier League, where you have more time on the training ground and to analyze the opposition”, says Pulis. “I told the players: ‘The most important thing is to show up every week’, because anyone can beat anyone in the Championship. We got promoted with Stoke City, despite having the 14th highest salary, because they had a group of players who, every game we played, would show up and give everything we had. The key factors are the unity of the group, the strength of character along with people who can do their job well, especially at the top of the pitch.”
It is difficult to generate cohesion in an unstable environment. There is desperation that the ‘new manager’s rebound’ will legitimize a change in the dugout but, as Kolo Touré’s nine game winless run at Wigan demonstrated, a new man does not always have the desired result. Watford have their 19th manager in 11 years, a process that unsurprisingly failed to bring stability. Bilic potentially caused his own downfall with six wins in his first 11 games, something his successor hopes to replicate to advance to the playoffs.
Many clubs use metrics to select their manager, drawing on data to find out who would fit the team best. When Steve Cooper was appointed at Nottingham Forest, due diligence showed how the former Swansea head coach’s style would fit and that his track record of getting the best out of young players made him an ideal replacement for Chris Hughton after a poor start. . The club jumped into promotion, showing what a smart approach to signings can do and the benefit of taking on a longer-term project.
When there’s constant turnover, players can get tired and wonder why the next man through the door should be expected to change everything when those in power have been consistently wrong. The footballers will wait for the next dismissal after a few consecutive defeats, waiting for them to be called to meet at any moment.
Those who are repeatedly responsible for poor results are managers, while higher-ranking people are left relatively unscathed. As much as soccer likes to think it’s different from other industries, an unstable work environment doesn’t help employees, whether it’s in an office or on a training ground. “I don’t see it getting better, life is like that now,” says Pulis. “People want instant success.”