Outside the Box: Pilgrims' progress was slow but Jack got them up at last


Figures compiled by the League Managers Association suggest that the current average length of tenure for a manager is three years, 11 months in the Premier League; 17 months in both the Championship and League One; and 26 months in League Two.

All of which makes it the more remarkable that if Sir Alex Ferguson is still in position at Manchester United come August, he will be among the top dozen longest-serving managers of all time with one club. According to the LMA's records, his 28th season at Old Trafford will put him joint 10th with Brighton's Charles Webb (1919-47) and Bob Jack, who held the reins at Plymouth Argyle from 1910-38.

Jack was a fellow Scot, whose team set a record by finishing runners-up in the Third Division South for a frustrating six consecutive years (1922-27). These days he would probably have been sacked, but the Pilgrims' board, like United's in Ferguson's early days, held firm, and promotion was finally achieved in 1930.

His son David joined Bolton from Plymouth and in 1923 scored the first FA Cup final goal at Wembley, later playing for Arsenal and England. However, even Fergie may struggle to match Fred Everiss, who was in charge of West Bromwich Albion as secretary-manager from 1902-48.

Echo down the years

Words of wisdom from another great manager, the late Bill Shankly, were always sought after, and a collection from his earliest days at Liverpool has now been published as Shankly: The Lost Diary (Trinity Mirror Sport Media, £9.99).

It's based on a weekly series he contributed to the Liverpool Echo starting in May 1962, which he intended "to maintain interest in football in Liverpool and district during the close season". As his team had just won promotion back to the First Division, where they would join the next champions, Everton, interest seems unlikely to have been in short supply.

A bout turn by troll

Since last week's item about rival Sheffield United and Wednesday fans contesting a welterweight bout at the Don Valley Stadium, another Sheffield pugilist with football connections has been making news.

Curtis Woodhouse, the former United captain who turned to professional boxing, was bitterly upset at losing his English light-welterweight title to Lancashire's Shayne Singleton on a disputed points decision, and did not have his mood improved by abuse from a Twitter troll, who called him "a complete disgrace". He used Twitter to discover the troll's address and announced that he was on his way round before his arch-critic suddenly – and understandably – backed off with a weasly tweet or two about "a bit of harmless fun".

Five go off in a strop

Having had last Sunday's Ryman League match against Thurrock abandoned because five of their players were sent off (in separate incidents), Wingate & Finchley can hardly have been surprised that the result has been confirmed as a 1-0 defeat, which was the score at the time. And the name of the League secretary investigating the case? Ms Kellie Discipline.

Coaches' sharp practice

As the theme tune to the 1980s children's TV series Jossy's Giants (written by the late darts commentator Sid Waddell) used to claim, "Football's just a branch of science". Here to prove it is the Science + Football conference at the London Soccerdrome (adjacent to the O2) next weekend.

Speakers addressing the theme "intelligent coaches produce intelligent footballers" will include the former England coach Steve McClaren, Manchester United's head of sports science, Chelsea's head of international scouts and Liverpool's director of performance analysis. For further details, visit: www.scienceandfootball.com.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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