Waddle's management test

SECOND DIVISION
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The Independent Online
Chris Waddle has long been tipped as management material. West Bromwich wanted him last year and Sheffield United toyed with the idea this summer, yet it is Burnley who have provided the platform for him to prove he has the organisational craft to complement his class and charisma.

Intriguingly, the former England, Tottenham and Marseilles maverick's first moves were to spend pounds 275,000 on a midfield snapper, Leeds' Mark Ford, and decree that the object of football was "to stop the other team playing". Burnley, just out of the frame under Adrian Heath, will settle for a few compromised ideals if Waddle, who is to continue playing, can inspire them to promotion.

Their principal challengers are likely to include two Lancashire neighbours who have reached the Second Division by different routes. Oldham, who were relegated, may be relying too heavily on Neil Warnock's reputation for getting sides up on a shoestring.

In contrast, promoted Wigan have the impetus, on and off the pitch, to maintain upward mobility. John Deehan's Third Division champions were outscored only by Bolton in the entire League, Graeme Jones bagging 33. He should thrive on the service from David Lee, an old-fashioned winger bought from Bolton, and the club's owner, Dave Whelan, is ready to bankroll further strengthening.

Fresh finance, from that died-in-the-wool Hammersmith Ender, Mohammad Al Fayed, also gives Fulham a fighting chance of emulating Bury's surge from Third to First. John Sillett, when manager of Coventry, famously pledged to "shop at Harrod's" for players. It will be fascinating to observe whether the owner of the so-called top people's store allows Micky Adams to do likewise.

The prospects for nearby Brentford hinge on who succeeds Dave Webb after this week's bizarrely timed resignation. The other play-off losers, Luton and Bristol City, look more likely to set the pace. They should be joined by relegated Grimsby, where Alan Buckley has something to prove after his stint at West Brom, plus pounds 1.5m from the sale of John Oster to Everton with which to do it.

Chesterfield came within 20 minutes of the FA Cup final in April. Such feats are often the springboard for League success but, far from building on them, John Duncan has lost his best players, Kevin Davies and Sean Dyche, to Southampton and Bristol City respectively. Making the play-offs would be as great an achievement as reaching the semi-finals.

Blackpool, having had consecutive near-misses under different managers, should challenge again under the newly appointed Nigel Worthington. Preston have stabilised at the higher level and, like Burnley, can count on substantial support if they show signs of being in contention.

Millwall, where Billy Bonds has resurfaced as manager, need time to to regroup after their near demise. They should have enough to avoid the dogfight at the bottom, which may be more than can be said for Bournemouth, Carlisle, York and Northampton. However, the way Bury mocked the bookies and pundits last season offers hope to all.

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