Of the 24 teams that kicked off the Championship just under a year ago, eleven now have new managers. In the majority of cases, the manager was removed due to perceived failings. Being a Championship manager is like being a duck at a shooting gallery. It’s a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’, no matter how dumb the man holding the gun might be.
It’s a truism, but it all comes down to expectations. Two teams can be promoted automatically, another four can reach the play-offs. Yet by my reckoning seven clubs will expect to finish first or second and nine others will believe they can make the play-offs.
With kick-off still a few weeks away, two-thirds of the managers in this league are now giving optimistic interviews about challenging for the top six. Disappointment for most of them is therefore inevitable. And disappointment leads to jobless managers.
Here’s my top five managers most at risk as teams start their pre-season preparations:
1. Jim Magilton, QPR: The Rangers owners can dress it up any way they like, but the turnover of managers (or head coaches) at the club since Flavio Briatore arrived has been startling even by the bizarre standards football sets itself. QPR have now turned to Jim Magilton, deemed not good enough for Ipswich only a few weeks before his appointment at Loftus Road.
A spat with the Chairman or a poor start to the season could easily see Magilton disappear from his post within a matter of months. He has to be the favourite to go first.
2. Malky Mackay, Watford: Another new manager who could potentially be at risk early in the season. Watford seem destined to lose talisman Tommy Smith to Sheffield United, and even though the surprisingly high £1.8m fee will be welcome, his departure will be a real blow.
Watford are now a far cry from Boothroyd’s big, dangerous side of a a few years back and if they start badly the club may decide to cut their losses and, against recent practice, opt for a more experienced hand.
3. Gareth Southgate, Middlesbrough: If Southgate had been in charge of any other established Premier League club and turned in the results he did last season, he would be out of a job. Famously, he belittled Sven Goran Eriksson after England’s 2-1 World Cup defeat to Brazil in 2002, claiming that the team needed Winston Churchill at half time, not Iain Duncan Smith.
I wonder if he recalled those words when his team lost 3-0 to rock bottom West Brom, 4-1 to Bolton or 5-0 at home to Chelsea. The management game, he must now realise, is more than spouting a bit of loud rhetoric at half time.
Steve Gibson always backs his managers but if Boro fall towards mid-table (or worse, as Sunderland did a couple of years back), Gibson may have no other option than to advise Southgate to go back to the pizza commercials.
4. Roberto di Matteo, West Brom: This was truly an appointment out of the left-field. It was as if the West Brom board were so flush from receiving £2m from Celtic for a manager that had just relegated their club, that, like a gambler who believes he’s on a roll, they decided to bet high on a pair of deuces. I mean, the Albion job is a big job these days.
Di Matteo did well at MK Dons, but in truth he was managing a team already built by Paul Ince and one that had a significant financial advantage over most clubs in League One.
It’s a brave decision, but West Brom fans are used to yo-yoing. They’ve had their spin down and now they will be expecting the corresponding spin up. Di Matteo is under significant pressure.
5. Chris Coleman, Coventry: As with the Premier League, there will always be one surprise who’ll go early. I’ll plump for Coleman. He has had time to consolidate at Cov and the board will be expecting something much greater than last season’s finish of 17th.
Only four teams won less home games than Coventry last season and Cookie must somehow find a way to turn that cavernous stadium into an intimidating place to visit.
Now it’s over to you. Who do you think will be first to go? Maybe Shearer won’t be able to take the heat? Or perhaps Gary Johnson will be poached by the Premier League. Let us know below.