This past weekend’s Championship action saw the end of the line for three managers at clubs with varying expectations.
Barnsley were humiliated at home by fellow strugglers Birmingham City on Saturday leaving the Yorkshire club six points adrift from safety and rooted to the bottom of the table this early in the season. Gary Flitcroft, whose appointment in January helped rally the club out of the relegation zone and to safety late last season, was sacked immediately after the match.
The Oakwell based club has the worst defensive record in the Championship and has flirted with relegation each of the past three seasons. Expectations for Flitcroft were to steer clear of the drop this season, something he may have still managed to do had he been afforded more time. One thing that could help, whomever the new Tykes manager would be, is to get a player or two on loan perhaps including John Stones, the former Barnsley right sided player now sitting on the bench for Everton.
Down the M1 about 20 miles at Sheffield Wednesday, Dave Jones was finally sacked following a terrible start to the season. Wednesday has won just once in sixteen league matches and is stuck in the relegation zone. Owner Milan Mandaric has been seeking investors to buy the club and as I reported earlier, the American owner is now willing to listen to potential investors who could take a minority share in the club. Wednesday is in a slight cash crunch, and investment could help create the potential for badly needed moves in January.
Turning our attention to Lancashire, Wigan Athletic – unlike the Yorkshire clubs – has no cash worries and are currently competing in Europe. However, Owen Coyle has failed miserably with a side that is sitting closer to the drop zone than automatic promotion. A midweek result in Europe, which made Wigan’s chances of progressing to the knock-out stages unlikely, was probably the last straw for Chairman Dave Whelan. Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Derby at the DW Stadium just made the decision easier and Coyle was sacked.
Coyle has rotated his squad between Europe and the league, and while the extra fixtures have created issues, the squad on paper is as strong if not stronger than any other in the division. Coyle’s record in the Championship the past two seasons have seen him sacked from freshly relegated clubs before Christmas despite have an advantage in terms of resources at his disposal. Coyle’s failure with neighboring Bolton hurt his professional reputation but his struggles with Wigan could destroy it. Tipped for a return to the Premier League by many experts, the Latics have won just seven of twenty three matches this season in all competitions.
The past few years have been difficult times for football in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Those difficulties have intensified this season and these three sackings are indicative of the type of season it has already been in that part of the country.