When Cheltenham Town manager Mark Yates saw his team bow out of last season’s League 2 play offs at the semi final stage,he was 13th on the list of 92 Premiership and Football League managers in terms of length of service in their current job. Although some teams have already reported back for pre-season training, July 1 is the day this traditionally happens, and Yates now finds himself as a serious climber in that managerial chart. Despite being in post for less than four years, only five men have now been at the same club for longer than Yates has. It has been a closed season where stability has been out of fashion.
Of the seven men to move on, you could argue only one has failed, and even then, it depends how you define failure. Roberto Mancini got Manchester City back into the Champions League, but having won the Premier League the season before, anywhere other than first was a backward step.
Who knows what would have happened had City won the FA Cup final, but you suspect even that might not have saved him. His problem, of course, was that their closest geographical and historically greatest rivals just happened to be regaining the title, before, on May the 8th, came the announcement that
Sir Alex Ferguson would retire as Manchester United manager. That was the trigger for a chain reaction that saw three of the managers above Mark Yates lose their places in the pecking order.
Fergie was no longer number one. David Moyes, tucked in behind Arsene Wenger, would drop almost to the bottom by leaving Everton after 11 years to join United, where he officially starts today, with his place at Goodison going to Roberto Martinez. The Spaniard may have been relegated with Wigan but he extended their stay in the Premiership beyond what many pundits would have predicted when he took over (June 2009) AND he gave the Latics the greatest day in their history.
I must also say I don’t buy all this “they’d have rather stayed up than won the FA Cup” nonsense. Wigan has a reputation for being a well run club and they could regain their Premiership place under Martinez’s successor, Owen Coyle. For a club of their size, getting to the FA Cup final – and winning, against the odds – is far less likely to happen again. Think of it like this. If form is upheld, an outsider is going to play Andy Murray in the semi finals at Wimbledon on Friday. It could be their one chance to make a Grand Slam final, and possibly win it. That was Wigan last May.
Two of the other movers could be said to have hit a glass ceiling at their respective clubs. Tony Pulis had been at Stoke for seven years, and Kenny Jackett at Millwall for five and a half years. Both had flirted with relegation last season but in the end survived. The mute point is though, are both actually
achieving all you could expect, ie reasonable safety in the Premiership and the Championship respectively ? While Pulis has stood back (at least for now) Jackett has taken on the Wolverhampton Wanderers project that is, in estate agent terms, ripe for renovation. I still think their replacements, Mark Hughes and Steve Lomas, will do well to improve on what was done before.
The other departee, Gus Poyet, hardly failed either, despite losing in the Championship play off semi finals. Poyet achieved one promotion and season-on season improvement at Brighton, but his professional relationship with the Albion chairman had reportedly become fractured. It is that relationship which has bought time for Mark Yates and four other managers outside the Premiership.
Arsene Wenger is now over the hills and far away in terms of length of service. The Arsenal boss may frustrate fans because of his cautious approach to spending money in the transfer market, but the Gunners will have little to worry about with the financial fair play rules coming in. He’s also banked a lot of credit for his style of play too, even after a long barren spell without a trophy. Further down the leagues though, it is not so easy to keep everyone onside.
At Derby, the name Clough has gravitas. Brian, with Peter Taylor, formed a memorable managerial partnership. Son Nigel served a lengthy apprenticeship outside the Football League at Burton Albion before making the short hop to Pride Park. A top heavy wage bill has gradually been cut, and Clough has County on a more stable footing as he starts his fifth full season. In the west country, Paul Tisdale is a Wenger like figure at Exeter, where the fans have got used to a certain style of play whatever the results. City have gone up to League 1 and down again to League 2 but he remains unflinching in his approach, even if finances are tight.
It’s no different at Carlisle, where Greg Abbott has kept the Cumbrians afloat in League 1. For a team where attracting players means an acceptance of hour after hour on a coach every other Friday, that’s no mean achievement. Again, League 1 is probably United’s optimum position, and that’s where Oxford fans want Chris Wilder to take them. They have threatened more than they have delivered in the past but Wilder, like Abbott, has just signed a new contract, which is just the offer that Cheltenham chairman Paul Baker has made to Mark Yates and his assistant, Neil Howarth.
Yates, of course, is a former Cheltenham player, but overall it has to be said that certain managers seem to fit certain clubs. Their personality, their style, and their whole approach dovetails with the way the club is run. I’m sure you can think of plenty that don’t, as seen by the long list of managerial sackings during last season. Let’s give credit then to boards of Directors with a bit of patience, particularly in the lower divisions. Boom and bust may be exciting but careful what you wish for. Steadily is not necessarily the worst way of doing things.
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