A Championship club has yet to beat the record of Torquay United, who three years ago relieved Leroy Rosenior of his post within 10 minutes of introducing him as their new manager, but as another season begins this weekend the one certainty is that the first sacking will not be far around the corner.
Norwich City, who kick off the campaign at home to Watford tomorrow night, know all about making such painful decisions, having dismissed Bryan Gunn within a week of a humiliating 7-1 defeat at home to Colchester United on the opening day 12 months ago. It was not, incidentally, a decision they lived to regret as Gunn's successor, Paul Lambert, led the club to the League One title and an immediate return to the Championship.
Of this season's 24 Championship clubs, 14 have changed their managers in the past 12 months, including seven since the end of last season and 11 since the turn of the year. Statistically the Championship offers the least job security to a manager, with the average tenure lasting less than 16 months, which is eight months shorter than the figure across all four divisions.
Neil Warnock, who took over as Queen's Park Rangers manager in March, says the rapid turnover is down to impatience. "Everybody demands success and they want it instantly," he said last night. "If you don't get it, the managers are the first to take the blame, but it really isn't the way to go about building long-term success."
One of Warnock's predecessors at Loftus Road has just started his third job in 16 months. Paulo Sousa, appointed by QPR in November 2008, lasted less than five months. After a season at Swansea City he left last month to join Leicester City after Nigel Pearson upped sticks to Hull City. Sousa's replacement at Swansea, Brendan Rodgers, stayed only seven months and six months in his previous jobs at Watford and Reading respectively.
While managing can be stressful at any level, Championship clubs feel the financial pressures more than others. Warnock believes the demand for instant success – leading to the regular turnover of managers – is greatest in the Championship because clubs are chasing the Premier League's pots of gold. "That's the goal and some clubs are just desperate for it," he said.
To add to their pressures, the majority of clubs also have to compete against some rivals whose fall from the top flight is cushioned by parachute money. Although the current financial struggles of Portsmouth and Hull, who were both relegated from the Premier League in the summer, are a lesson to all, Burnley, having been careful not to overstretch themselves in theirone season among the elite, have been able to invest sensibly in their squad, having paid out some £4m in transfer fees to recruit quality players such as Ross Wallace, Chris Iwelumo, Dean Marney and Lee Grant.
Burnley's case, nevertheless, is hardly typical. Over the last six years Leeds United, Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Derby County have all suffered varying degrees of financial difficulty following relegation from the top flight.
The Premier League is the division with the most job security for managers, with incumbents lasting an average of three years and nine months. The country's longest-serving managers are Sir Alex Ferguson (24 seasons at Manchester United) and Arsène Wenger (14 seasons at Arsenal), followed by John Coleman (11 seasons at Accrington Stanley).
Mind you, Sir Alex has a long way to go before he beats the national record. Fred Everiss was appointed manager of West Bromwich Albion in 1902 and remained in charge for 46 seasons. As for Rosenior, his brief reign could be put down to bad timing. Within 10 minutes of being named in the post he took a call from Torquay's chairman, who said he had just sold the club to a group who wanted to reinstate Colin Lee.
The 14 Championship clubs to change manager in the last 12 months:
Norwich City: Paul Lambert (appointed August 2009)
Barnsley: Mark Robins (September 2009)
Middlesbrough: Gordon Strachan (October 2009)
Preston North End: Darren Ferguson (January 2010)
Burnley: Brian Laws (January 2010)
Reading: Brian McDermott (January 2010)
Queen's Park Rangers: Neil Warnock (March 2010)
Bristol City: Steve Coppell (April 2010)
Coventry City: Aidy Boothroyd (May 2010)
Crystal Palace: George Burley (June 2010)
Portsmouth: Steve Cotterill (June 2010)
Hull City: Nigel Pearson (June 2010)
Leicester City: Paulo Sousa (July 2010)
Swansea City: Brendan Rodgers (July 2010)
Stars of the Championship season ahead: Andrew Surman (Norwich City)
At 23 he is hardly a newcomer, but the new season offers the chance of a fresh start for Andrew Surman.
The midfielder, a former England Under-21 international, was a bright prospect when he emerged at Southampton but his move to Wolves last summer did not work out. The Johannesburg-born Surman started only five matches under Mick McCarthy and left two months ago to join Norwich City.
He came through the youth ranks at Southampton and, after loan spells at Walsall (where he scored on his League debut) and Bournemouth, he established himself as a Saints regular four seasons ago, featuring in 39 League matches and scoring five goals – three of them in one match, at home to Barnsley.
Having scored 18 goals in 146 appearances for the south coast club, Surman moved up into the Premier League, but struggled at Molineux. He has the chance to make amends at Carrow Road.Reuse content