As the winter months approach, managers across the Premiership are starting to feel the chill. A quarter of the way through the new season, the fog is clearing and owners are reviewing where their pieces are placed. For the Glaziers and Roman Abramovich, things are looking rosy as their two teams, Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, fight for the top spot. Bill Kenwright’s Everton are performing above expectations, sitting in 4th place, making manager David Moyes position safe. However other managers are not so fortunate. The race is now on to see who will be the first manager casualty of this season and who will kick off this years managerial merry-go-round.
In the Championship, the league below the Premiership, the ride is now in full flow with several managerial changes already. As expected, Owen Coyle has departed from the Bolton hot seat to be replaced by Crystal Palace’s Scottish manager, Dougie Freedman. The Selhurst Park team wasted no time in bringing in Blackpool’s Ian Holloway as Freedman’s replacement. Holloway had spent three successful years at Blackpool, during which time he engineered promotion to the Premiership which obviously impressed the Palace board. Blackpool, however now search for a new boss with caretaker boss Steve Thompson throwing his name into the ring for a shot at the top job.
Down the road, Blackburn finally dismissed Steve Kean to the delight of their fans. After an extensive search which included failed approaches to Tim Sherwood, Billy McKinlay and an ambitious initial discussion with Harry Redknapp, they finally chose former defender Henning Berg as the man to take them forward. Berg was delighted to take the job despite coming out publicly some 4 weeks ago to say that anyone who took the job would have to be mad. I guess he had a change of heart. One candidate who was mentioned in connection with the Blackburn job was Alan Curbishley who also held ambitions to take over at Ipswich following Paul Jewell’s dismissal but he lost out yet again to former Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy. McCarthy, out of work since his sacking from Wolves last season, was delighted to get back into football after a spell on the sidelines and ironically has brought in his replacement at Wolves, Terry Connor as one of his coaching staff, who was also sacked by Wolves recently.
One manager who left his job of his own accord was Eddie Howe. The young manager made a dramatic return to former club Bournemouth in early October citing personal reasons. His replacement, surprisingly, was Sean Dyche. The former Watford boss, sacked in July before the new season had even begun, is seen by the Turf Moor club’s board as the man to help them back into the Premiership but with little managerial success to date, it’s a risky appointment. One manager who is actively seeking promotion this season is Gianfranco Zola at Watford. The former Chelsea boss was appointed as Dyche replacement by new Italian owner, Giampaolo Pozzo who has masterminded the transformation of Italian club Udinese and Spanish club Granada in recent years. He hopes that, along with Zola and some significant investment, that he can lead the troubled London club back into the Premiership at the first time of asking.
Back in the Premiership, there have been no casualties so far but its only a matter of time. There are a few potential candidates and a few who might not see the axe coming. Mark Hughes at QPR has not experienced the best start picking up only 4 points in the first 10 games and yet to register a win despite the arrival of several players this summer. New boys Southampton have found the transition tough as well, leading to vultures circling over the head of Nigel Atkins. Former Southampton striker Alan Shearer waits anxiously in the MOTD studio for that call from the Saints. Meanwhile new Villa manager Paul Lambert has not had an easy time in his new role, struggling to make the changes necessary to his squad to get the results needed. Sitting in 17th place, 4 points above the drop zone, his card may be marked by owner Randy Lerner but a win at the weekend against a disappointing Sunderland may have loosened the noose round his neck.
His opposite number in last Saturday’s game, Martin O’Neill may be a surprise dismissal at Sunderland. Having been in the job just over a year, the results have not been fantastic and American owner, Ellis Short may decide to take the club in yet another direction. O’Neill will argue that last season’s impressive finish can be replicated but the start to this season has been less than impressive and sees the Black Cats sitting in 16th place, just above O’Neill’s former club Aston Villa on goal difference.
Regardless of who is first to go, the Premiership merry-go-round will start soon and see a host of changes before the end of this season. Managers across the league are desperately scrambling to grab on to their horses before the ride begins and secure themselves tightly to make sure they don’t become one of those casualties.