Stepping Up: Football League Managers
Laura Jones looks at managers who have taken their first step or next step up in the Football League, and how they’re coping with the change.
Jamie Fullarton – Notts County
Notts County look set to announce their new manager this week, and the hot favourite is Jamie Fullarton, Nottingham Forest’s former development coach. Fullarton isn’t the only Football League coach this season who has taken the next step in their career either by taking their first Head Coach role, or by earning a move up a division. There are a number of managers who are learning on the job, and some are learning the hard way what it means to coach at a higher level.
Dean Smith – Brentford
Dean Smith played his former club Walsall in the FA Cup at the weekend, but the Saddlers proved a point by eliminating his new club Brentford from the competition. Smith left Walsall in a strong position on 30th November, only three points off the League One automatic places. They remain in contention for promotion.
Smith has been in charge at Griffin Park for seven league games so far, and it’s been a mixed bag; three wins, two losses and two draws. His predecessor, interim manager Lee Carsley, won five, drew two and lost three, so the Bees’ consistency still needs to be addressed by Smith. It will be interesting to see whether Smith can add to the squad this month, as well as keep hold of key players like midfielder Alan Judge.
David Wagner – Huddersfield
Huddersfield Town looked to Europe for their new manager and chose a relatively inexperienced coach after sacking Chris Powell. David Wagner was the Head Coach of Borussia Dortmund II, the reserve team at the club. Although Wagner worked closely with Jürgen Klopp, the West Yorkshire team is his first taste of first team management.
His first two fixtures were derbies against Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, ending in 0-3 and 3-1 defeats. However, the Terriers’ form has since picked up, and they have only lost once in their last five fixtures.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Sadly, not all new managers are enjoying the next level. Another debutant in the Championship is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Queens Park Rangers. Hasselbaink is finding it hard to settle into the Championship, having failed to win any of his six matches in charge of QPR. It’s a far cry from his record at Burton Albion, where he won 33 of his 54 games in charge, and left the club top of League 1 on his departure.
With another defeat at the weekend in the third round of the FA Cup to Nottingham Forest, Hasselbaink may find out sooner rather than later that QPR are not a patient club.
David Dunn – Oldham Athletic
Hasselbaink’s available resources at QPR are considered luxurious to some managers, such as David Dunn at Oldham Athletic in League One. Dunn stepped into the player/manager role in September, and since then, he’s had to contend with players not being paid on time for three consecutive months, and key players being sold to relegation rivals, such as top scorer Danny Philliskirk, who has joined Blackpool.
The Latics haven’t won in their last eight fixtures, with six of them defeats. Even for the second highest ground in Football League, the prevailing wind at Boundary Park looks very bleak in 2016.
Kevin Keen – Colchester United
Colchester United’s new manager, Kevin Keen, is still finding his feet. He’s only been in charge of Colchester for four games, and his first win was against Championship club Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup at the weekend. Keen was Steve Clarke’s assistant manager at Reading before taking over League One’s bottom club Colchester. The team have struggled this season, having only won five times this season.
Darren Way – Yeovil Town
The only way is up for the Football League’s bottom club Yeovil Town. Former player Darren Way took over from Paul Sturrock as interim manager at the beginning of December, after The Glovers’ horrible run of 12 matches without a win.
Way, who was forced to retire from playing due to a serious car crash in 2008, has started to stop the rot with three draws in the last six games. Way’s first win as a manager was a crucial three points against second-from-bottom York City. The stakes are always high for managers who test themselves at a higher level, but not many would envy Darren Way’s fight to keep Yeovil Town’s league status.
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