Autumnal winds of change have blown through the npower Championship, as six of the division’s sides underwent a change of management.
Prompted by Owen Coyle’s sacking at Bolton at the start of October, the floodgates opened, and the managerial merry-go-round season was unexpectedly upon us, with all the usual delights it brings. The name “Alan Curbishley” rivalled George Entwistle for the amount of airtime it received, and the race for the poisoned chalice at Ewood Park made the Obama-Romney campaign fade into insignificance. For those who subscribe to the view that the second tier of English football is the most exciting league in Europe, the potential results of the changing of the guard among some of the country’s most distinguished teams will be fascinating. But which clubs emerge from the rubble of the storm are best placed to achieve success?
With all six of the league’s new managers able to use last week as their first opportunity to really impart their philosophies to their team, Mick McCarthy’s appointment at Ipswich poses the most interesting prospect. In terms of an improvement in dugout personnel, the Blues fans must be delighted with the replacement they found for the floundering Paul Jewell. On-field performances have been wildly inconsistent however, with important wins against Birmingham and Burnley undermined by thumping defeats at Crystal Palace and Leicester. The calamitous defensive display in Saturday’s 6-0 loss will have certainly given the Tractor Boys a dose of realism that McCarthy will not be able to work immediate miracles, despite his well-lauded CV which includes promotion with both Sunderland and Wolves. Nevertheless, the Portman Road owner Marcus Evans must be over the moon with the managerial transition in East Anglia.
A similar sentiment will be felt by fans of Crystal Palace. Dougie Freedman expertly guided the Eagles to safety last season, before setting them on course to a superb start to the new campaign, topping the table after 17 games. But in replacing the inexperienced Scot with Holloway, the powers-that-be at Selhurst Park have conducted some shrewd maneuvering.
With promotions at QPR and Blackpool to his name, the charismatic figure has begun his tenure at Palace with three-straight victories, and with Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray at his disposal, Freedman’s departure does not appear to have knocked the promotion push off course. A note of caution will be voiced by supporters at Plymouth and Leicester who will have been underwhelmed by Holloway’s spells at their respective clubs. His engaging public persona can at times cover over the cracks in his managerial ability.
Freedman’s move to Bolton will no doubt appease restless Trotters fans, and an unbeaten start from his opening four games at the helm will continue to build the good feeling felt towards the new man at the Reebok. Only seven points off the play-off pace, Freedman still has the opportunity to guide Bolton back to the Barclays Premier League, but he may look on enviously at Holloway at the end of the season, unless his players finally shake off their relegation hangover.
Staying in Lancashire, a 4-1 victory for Blackburn at Peterborough will have extended Henning Berg’s honeymoon period at the Ewood Park. Yet with no major honours in a seven year managerial career, the Norwegian may have to place his faith in the motivation of the players themselves to get Rovers out of the division. Anyone would be a step up from Steve Kean in the eyes of the supporters, and so he will be given time to bed in.
Sean Dyche’s promising start at Burnley was stunted by a home defeat to Charlton, but the former Watford boss could yet prove the perfect fit at Turf Moor, while Michael Appleton has been given his reward for fine work at Portsmouth with the post at Bloomfield Road. Appleton’s appointment is a bold one which should be applauded. But the action taken by the owners at Ipswich may yet prove most astute, despite the erratic start, as the leaves begin to settle.