Levein's attempt 'to reinvent' Leicester has a long way to go

Click to follow

Like a thousand chairmen before him Mike McGinnity, Coventry City's, will have hoped that the appointment of a new manager would prompt a change in fortunes at the weekend. Instead, Micky Adams' return to Highfield Road was marked by a home defeat.

Like a thousand chairmen before him Mike McGinnity, Coventry City's, will have hoped that the appointment of a new manager would prompt a change in fortunes at the weekend. Instead, Micky Adams' return to Highfield Road was marked by a home defeat.

At the other end of the M69 they know it is not that simple. In November, after Adams decided that he had given all he could to Leicester City, the club hired Craig Levein. The Scot arrived from Hearts with a big reputation: Tim Davies, Leicester's chief executive, described him as having "the intelligence of Arsène Wenger and the passion of Sir Alex Ferguson". Leicester were 13th when he arrived. Nearly three months later they are 14th.

Saturday's relatively comfortable victory over Gillingham was only their fifth in 13 League matches under Levein's command and, prior to it, the spectre of Jim Jefferies, his predecessor at Hearts, had begun to loom. Jefferies came south with a big reputation in 2000, but was sacked by Bradford after 13 months.

The comparison is unfair. Bradford were a relegation-bound basket case. Post-administration, Leicester are a well-run club, secure in mid-table, albeit unhappy at being there. While Jefferies was hired to fire-fight, Levein's brief is broader. "I am trying to reinvent this club," he said after Saturday's victory. "I want to bring in a different type of player and build some momentum: I want younger, hungrier players on the way up."

This suggests the club's hierarchy have already written off this season, even if Leicester are now only seven points off the play-offs and in similar shape to Crystal Palace this time last year. It might also explain the club's inconsistent form. Ten players are out of contract in the summer including many of the senior pros.

Levein's comment: "Things will change in the summer. Obviously, there will be [player] movement", is hardly a call to arms. Except some experience will be necessary. And as Keith Gillespie, 30 next month and one of those who will be out of contract, said: "I am playing for my future. It is an important time for a lot of us."

Gillingham also have a new manager. While Leicester invested in Levein's potential, Gillingham, in their more parlous position, opted for the experience of Stan Ternent. The veteran has made an instant impact, Gillingham going into this fixture with eight points from 12, a return that has given them hope of escaping relegation. According to his union, however, the recovery is unlikely to be sustained.

The League Managers' Association believes clubs change managers far too frequently and a couple of seasons ago published extensive research to support that view. It showed that though some clubs enjoy an initial improvement in results, in the long term most fared no better under a new manager than they did under the old one. A textbook example has unfolded at Nottingham Forest. Joe Kinnear came in and kept them up last year. Expectations rose but the underlying problems remained and they are back in the relegation zone this season. Kinnear has now been replaced by Gary Megson.

In fairness to the boards of Leicester and Gillingham, both their managers left voluntarily, in Gillingham's case Andy Hessenthaler's commitment to the club extending to his continuing as a player. He was on the bench on Saturday and must have been as frustrated as Ternent at the Gills' abysmal first half. Gillingham managed one wayward shot, and that after Leicester had scored twice. David Connolly tapped in after Danny Tiatto's shot was deflected off Nyron Nosworthy. The hapless Nosworthy, who was tormented by Jordan Stewart, then headed Gillespie's free-kick into his own net.

Ternent evidently blistered the walls at the break, for Gillingham were much improved and, had Andrew Crofts' shot gone in rather than hit the post after 73 minutes, would have worried an increasingly nervous Leicester. Instead, Ternent was left to state confidently his team would collect the "seven or eight" wins required for safety while a relieved Levein spoke of his team "looking a bit better", adding "we need to improve".

Such is the turnover of managers in the Football League that only five pre-date the millennium - and one, Peterborough's Barry Fry, part-owns his club while Scunthorpe's Brian Laws, was sacked then reinstated last year. That leaves Dario Gradi (Crewe), Neil Warnock (Sheffield United) and Ronnie Moore, whose Rotherham are the only Championship club below Coventry, Gillingham and Forest. But then, managing is all about meeting expectations and Moore has performed miracles at Rotherham since taking over in 1997.

To that end, staying up will be enough for Ternent to be a hero at Gillingham but Levein knows he needs to take Leicester back up next season. "This club has spent a lot of money and spent a lot of time in the Premiership," he said. "Supporters expect us to be at the top of the table."

They said the same at Coventry not so long ago. Now, as Adams settles in as their sixth manager in four seasons, they will be happy to avoid relegation.

Goals: Connolly (19) 1-0; Nosworthy og (29) 2-0.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Taylor; Maybury, Dabizas, Heath, Stewart; Gillespie, Nalis, Gudjonsson, Tiatto; Connolly (Dublin, 88), Scowcroft (De Vries, 69). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Makin, Gemmill.

Gillingham (4-4-2): Banks; Nosworthy, Hope, Cox, Rose; Southall, Smith, Pouton (Bodkin, 74), Crofts (Hessenthaler, 90); Byfield (Roberts, 75), Henderson. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Ashby.

Referee: D Drysdale (Lincolnshire).

Man of the match: Stewart.

Attendance: 23,457.