The fall guys: lifting the lid on the Championship’s unofficial sacking season

The fall guys: lifting the lid on the Championship’s unofficial sacking season

The mornings are colder, the nights are drawing in and the managerial merry-go-round is in full swing. There are no surer signs that summer is over and autumn is upon us.

Eight of the 24 Championship managers/head coaches at the start of the season have already left their posts. A further six clubs in Leagues One and Two have already experienced managerial upheaval in 2022/23.

Of course, not all of the ‘gaffers’ in question have been sacked (or should we say ‘relieved of their duties’). The likes of Alex Neil, Paul Warne and Matt Taylor have chosen to leave their positions to take up jobs elsewhere. Nevertheless, there’s no disputing the fact that their departures have been a direct result of sackings at other clubs.

But what is it about this time of year that makes an owner’s trigger finger even itchier than usual? The honest answer is that it’s often a perfect storm of early season frustrations, a sense of opportunity and a feeling that significant change can be achieved.

For the vast majority of clubs, the summer and pre-season is a time for optimism. Last season’s shortcomings are a distant memory, the slate has been wiped clean and a few good performances on sunny afternoons in early July, coupled with a handful of exciting new signings, will have many dreaming of promotion – no matter how unrealistic that might be. However, fast forward a few months and reality can set in. Poor performances, disappointing defeats, an unpleasant look to the league table… All of a sudden, that summer optimism feels like a distant memory. A poor start, potentially paired with a disappointing conclusion to the last campaign, is too much for some to take.

Given the frantic nature of a Championship season, there isn’t an ideal time between July and May to part company with one management team and bring in another, but the most convenient time has to be during an International break. Two weeks without a fixture gives clubs time to make their moves, as well as potentially allowing the new man a few days to get his feet under the table before the Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday starts all over again. The first International break of the season usually falls at the end of September/start of October, which is often somewhere around ten league games into the season. It’s not the biggest sample size but, for some owners (and some fanbases), it’s big enough.

It’s also worth acknowledging that, by pulling the trigger relatively early, clubs are giving their new man more than enough time to ‘save their season’. As Steve Cooper and Nottingham Forest proved last season, a team can be bottom of the league in early autumn and promoted in late spring. There’s no doubt that, this season of all seasons, some decision-makers at Championship clubs may be tempted to make a change during the break for the World Cup. After all, it’s a significant break in the season and it comes before the all-important January transfer window. However, all being well, most Championship teams will have already played 20 league games by then. While history has shown us that it is possible, the odds are stacked against a team going from a relegation battle at Christmas to fighting for promotion in May.

Only six of the current Championship managers/head coaches have been in position for longer than a year. Mark Robins has been in charge of Coventry City for more than five years, while Gary Rowett and Nathan Jones have held the reins at Millwall and Luton for over two years. While we would all like to see the men in the dugout be given more time, the reality is that the lifespan of a Football League manager/head coach gets shorter by the season.

(Photo Creds – Charlie David)