More managerial casualties this week: Aidy Boothroyd left Coventry City eight months after taking charge of the Sky Blues and Ian Baraclough was shown the door at Scunthorpe after six months in charge at Glanford Park following a catastrophic 3-0 home defeat by Preston on Tuesday night.
Revisiting the theme of managerial stability, fourteen clubs have now changed their manager at least once since March 2010, so with the end of the season rapidly approaching it’s worth taking a look at which appointments have had the most impact – positive or negative.
Neil Warnock’s appointment at QPR in March 2010 is beginning to look like the best decision Queens Park Rangers’ management have made since they took over the club. It’s stating the obvious, but QPR are clearly the most improved team in the division, having finished 13th in 2009/10. However, Brendan Rogers’ work at Swansea since last July deserves an honourable mention: the Swans missed out on the playoffs by one point last season but have been in the top six since October.
At the other end of the scale, both Sheffield United and Scunthorpe have had three managers this season: managerial instability plus poor home performance is a recipe for disaster at any level and this is probably why the Blades and the Iron look certainties for relegation. Although the Championship is about as good as it gets for Scunthorpe, Sheffield United fans would have been thinking in terms of the playoffs back in August. All of the clubs in the current bottom six have made managerial changes since March 2010, with the biggest wake up call coming at Middlesbrough – although Boro seem to be out of immediate danger this season, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Coventry, Crystal Palace and Ipswich have all made managerial changes in the last year without any apparent affect, although to be fair to Palace if they’d replicated their form at Selhurst Park on their travels they’d be challenging for the playoffs. If Ipswich don’t improve dramatically they could be the next ‘big’ team looking at relegation to League One next season.
This Saturday’s games start with an early kickoff between Sheffield United and Leeds. The last time the visitors won at Bramall Lane in the league was the season that they won the old First Division, but with both sides looking for points for different reasons in what’s bound to be a typical Yorkshire derby, anything could happen.
Without any doubt the game of the week is Swansea v Nottingham Forest. With Forest having played all their games in hand, they remain three points behind the Swans and still have to travel to Leeds and Norwich before the end of the season. Perhaps surprisingly, Forest don’t have a bad record at the Liberty Stadium, having only lost one of their five visits since Swansea moved from Vetch Field and with neither side scoring lots of goals at the moment this contest has all the hallmarks of a playoff game, especially as the visitors have yet to lose an away game against the current top six.
The other game worth keeping an eye on is at Deepdale, where the temporary management team of Steve Harrison and Andy Thorn have the weight of history against them – Coventry have never won at Preston in the league, even though the fourteen game series goes back to 1949/50. It may also be the wrong time for the Sky Blues to be playing the bottom team in the Championship: although mathematically the Lillywhites could still escape relegation, their midweek win at Scunthorpe – the first since Phil Brown took over as manager – could be the start of a confidence building run that might pay dividends next season.