Championship managers do not get time to shine
THE average lifespan of a manager in the Championship has plummeted from 15 to 12 months this season, and looks like it is shrinking fast.
Since the shock sacking of Nigel Clough at Derby County back in September, a further five clubs have dispensed with the services of their boss – with Gianfranco Zola (Watford), Wigan Athletic (Owen Coyle), Middlesbrough (Tony Mowbray), Barnsley (Dave Flitcroft) and Sheffield Wednesday (Dave Jones) all making changes at the top.
In a world of knee-jerk reactions and boardroom obsession to join the Premier League elite, Dougie Freedman is, by divisional standards, a seasoned veteran 14 months into his tenure at the Reebok.
Head-scratching though it seems, the Scot now stands sixth in the list of longest-serving managers in the Championship and will this weekend meet the grand-daddy of them all, Charlton’s Chris Powell, who with just under three years in the Valley hot-seat is somewhat of a doyen at this level.
Incredibly even the former England defender is under pressure in South London, not from the terraces, where he is still fondly remembered from his time as a player, but seemingly from the boardroom, where his relationships with the men at the top remain cool.
To those looking on from the outside, Powell has done an admirable job keeping Charlton in the Championship with a meagre playing budget, and doing so in some style.
The likes of Jonnie Jackson, Yann Kermorgant, Chris Solly and Dale Stephens attract plenty of admiring glances from elsewhere in the second tier and yet those close to the club believes Powell could be living on borrowed time because of a potential takeover at the club.
Powell – along with a handful of his top players – is out of contract next summer and with American investors sniffing round for a capital bargain, the honest and likeable 44-year-old, who guided the Addicks out of League One as champions in 2012, is reportedly at risk.
That kind of pressure and speculation appears par for the course for anyone looking to ply their trade in football, let alone a division where the stakes of success and failure are so pronounced as the Championship.
Nigel Pearson, second in the list, was apparently a condemned man at Leicester City after failing to guide his side through the play-offs last season.
Like Wanderers, the Foxes have been working hard to curb a massive wage bill. But with the added uncertainty of foreign ownership, the fact that Leicester are enjoying such a consistent season perhaps shows there are benefits to keeping a calm head.
Freedman remains confident – or perhaps as much as he can be – that his stay at the Reebok will be a long one.
Asked again whether he felt under pressure after Sunday’s derby defeat against Wigan the Whites boss produced a familiar and measured response.
“I don’t really look at it that way,” he said. “I put more pressure on myself than anyone else will ever put on me. I have a passion to do well and this is a great opportunity.
“I see my responsibility to organise the players, make sure they are fit, and play to the best of their capabilities and I think they have done that.
“I need to make sure that the club is in a stable condition from the fans’ point of view and not spending silly money on players. On that point I think we have done well in the last year.
“Do we need to pick up some results? Of course we do.
“But by gelling all that together it is a recipe for getting results.”
Freedman is confident that his brief to restructure the club from top to bottom will buy him time and patience with Eddie Davies and Phil Gartside, who on the face of it share his view for the future.
He is equally sure his coaching values, picked up from his time as a player under the likes of Don Howe and Dave Sexton, and honed at Crystal Palace, are exactly what the club need now.
In one of the least secure environments in football Freedman does appear to be on safer ground than most.