Calderwood and Dowie sit in hottest managerial seats

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The Independent Football

Here is a festive poser which may lend some cheer, although fans of Crystal Palace and Northampton Town may find it as funny as a joke from a Christmas cracker. What do the Eagles and the Cobblers have in common over the past 12 months?

Precious little on the face of it. Except, however, they are linked by one embarrassing fact: they have both seen three managers come and go since last Boxing Day.

Spare a thought today for Iain Dowie, as he takes his bow in his first match in charge of Palace, in the south London derby against Millwall. Meanwhile Colin Calderwood, now the manager of Northampton, takes his struggling side to Bristol Rovers. Spare a thought for them both, because the chances are not good that either will be in charge in a year's time.

Since Boxing Day last year, 50 per cent of clubs in Division Three, where Northampton languish, have changed managers, something which presumably gives Calderwood, the former Tottenham and Scotland defender, more than the odd sleepless night.

As our table shows, Northampton have been the worst performing club over the last year, which either explains why there have been so many different faces in the dugout, or else is a good argument for some stability.

Up in Division One, where the dismissals figure is around 30 per cent, Palace are a law unto themselves. In the last year, under the chairmanship of Simon Jordan, the manager has changed every four months.

But Dowie and Calderwood, like any aspiring managers, must be looking upwards, ultimately to the Premiership. That truly is the promised land. Not only are the financial rewards greater but so is the job stability. A mere four clubs have waved goodbye to their manager in the past year.

First it was Leeds with Terry Venables last spring, then Fulham, Aston Villa, followed by Tottenham. The debt-ridden Yorkshire side are the only recidivists, as they then sacked Peter Reid this autumn.

But what our tables also show is how big the gulf is in performance across the divisions, and that while most Premiership clubs stick with their managers, it means little in the way of substantial improvement.

The two exceptions are Fulham, who swapped Jean Tigana for Chris Coleman in April, and are reaping the rewards. Bolton, under Sam Allardyce, have also climbed nine places.

In terms of year-on-year performance, clubs from the Conference to Division Two have been able to jump more than 20 places. Not so for those who left Division One, as serious upward mobility in the Premiership is a pipe dream for almost all concerned. It proves the ever increasing disparity across the four professional divisions.

But this Christmas time bodes well for those at the summit of the Football League's three divisions, as those on top of their pile this time last year went on to win promotion.

For Calderwood and Dowie that will not be their goal this season - and putting their own survival ahead of the club might be just as hard to achieve.