In 2012-13 we’ve seen a mass extinction of managers not seen since that asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. The boardroom bloodlust has shown no signs of abating. And managers themselves are muddying the waters by taking the decision themselves. With the George Boyd deadline day eye-test debacle leaving Alex McLeish considering that a life of blissful unemployment was a more attractive option, where will the winds of change sweep next. Here’s five to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
1. Paolo Di Canio
Swindon’s result on Tuesday night moved them into 3rd place in League 1, two points behind the top two. But while prospects for promotion are looking favourable for a Robins side going for its second promotion in two years, things are not all rosy at the County Ground. Swindon have started to show signs of serious financial trouble this season. Alarm bells should have sounded with fans at the start of the season when it emerged that they spent half a million in agents fees the previous season, dwarfing the money spent by clubs in both Leagues 1 and 2. At a time when clubs in the Football League are starting to adjust to the financial fair play requirements, Swindon immediately appears as a club living well outside its means. Owner Andrew Black, presiding over club debts thought to total £13m and the threat of administration, is attempting to sell.
For Di Canio, matters are starting to interfere with his ability to run the team. Winger Matt Ritchie was sold behind his back to promotion rivals Bournemouth. Much needed deadline day replacements such as Bradley Wright-Phillips were agreed and subsequently blocked by the League, who refused to ratify the club’s takeover the previous day. Describing his own position as ‘untenable’, the writing is perhaps already on the wall. Last night Di Canio could only field 4 of his possible 7 subs. This morning, one paper reports they may get rid because he’s too expensive. With potential Championship clubs willing to take a punt, Di Canio must wonder if it’s really worth continuing to stick it out.
2. Paul Lambert
It’s been coming from the minute Lambert came in, after a poorly-handled departure from Norwich. Whether under direction from Randy Lerner, or through his own slightly misguided approach, Lambert added inexperience to an already young squad and assembled together a collection of players dangerously low on Premiership quality. Dumped out of one cup by Millwall, another by Bradford, and around the relegation zone much of the season – it’s somewhat surprising he’s still in post.
The January transfer window should have been an opportunity to right the wrongs of the preseason recruitment and add some established Premiership experience to the squad, and perhaps give the excellent Benteke some support up front. Lambert instead made two signings – 22 year old defensive midfielder Yacouba Sylla arriving from Ligue 2, and loosely-associated-with-Spurs loanee Simon Dawkins, who despite being 25 and making his professional debut in 2008 is yet to play in the Premiership with his parent club. On signing Dawkins, Lambert said “Simon can play anywhere” – no doubt it’s the limitless possibilities presented to Redknapp and AVB in the past 5 seasons that left both feeling it was far simpler to just not play him, ever.
3. Danny Wilson
If you’ve not being paying attention to League 1 over the past month, you may have neglected to notice Sheffield United’s rapid decline down the table. Since a win on Boxing Day that left them top with one of the last remaining unbeaten home records, they’ve collected just 2 out of a possible 15 points. Of those 2 precious points, one was scraped at the death at 10-man Doncaster, the other taken off Notts County – who had 10 men for over an hour. Three consecutive home defeats to lowly Hartlepool, Yeovil and Coventry have destroyed a solid home record and the team’s confidence, leaving the club clinging onto 6th from a chasing pack.
Add to that a season-ending injury to in-form striker Shaun Miller during their last win before the rot, and the strange decision to sell top-scorer Nick Blackman to Reading (having only signed him in the summer) and you have to wonder what Wilson has done to suffer such ill-fortune. Unfortunately for him, League 1 is not known of late for keeping faith in managers going through a rough patch. Last year’s ‘month of the long knives’ saw Lee Clark and Gary Megson dumped by promotion-chasing clubs with ultimately positive outcomes – another loss for Wilson in the next week could be the last straw.
4. Lee Clark
It was somewhat of a surprise that after his sudden departure from Huddersfield a year ago after a series of unsuccessful promotion attempts, his next job would come at a club a bigger club in a league above, desperate for promotion. While Birmingham have been eking out points since August, in recent weeks they can’t have failed to notice a worrying upturn in form in the clubs below them.
The owners at Birmingham, while no doubt disappointed by the absence of a promotion fight, had presumably been banking on three of Peterborough, Bristol City, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley to provide a safety net below them. With all those teams on the ascent, three of whom having changed they managers in recent months, and with Wolves and Bolton likely to improve, that gap will narrow further. Clark’s uninspiring performances, mixed with the general disappointment of his spell to date, could see a safer pair of hands needed.
5. Michael Appleton
It’s been nearly 4 weeks now at Blackburn. Surely he’s getting itchy feet?
Written by @josephclift