Which Championship managers are bound for the Premier League? Part 1
Ultimately, the Premier League is the standard that all Championship clubs must aspire to reach. And every manager in the second tier must believe in his ability to earn a living at the highest level. So which managers are cut out for the top flight? The Seventy Two enlisted some readers to offer their views…
Steve Cotterill (Portsmouth)
Ten years ago, the answer would almost certainly have been “yes”. At that stage, Cotterill was in the process of taking Cheltenham Town into Division Three (League One by today’s name) for the first time in their history, having taken over when the club was in the Southern Premier League. He had a Conference title along with an FA Trophy win under his belt, and even had experience in Europe from his first job at Sligo Rovers. At the end of 2001/02, Cotterill moved on to newly-promoted Championship club Stoke City. It seemed his star was in the ascendancy.
Six years later and the answer to the question would have changed. Cotterill had quit his post at Stoke after just 13 games in order to become Howard Wilkinson’s assistant at Sunderland. The duo were charged with saving the club from relegation, but failed to make an impact and were relieved of their duties after just 20 games in charge. His next port of call was Burnley, where he would stay for just over three years. Lack of finance hampered his efforts, with the club being forced to sell players, such as Richard Chaplow, Robbie Blake and Ade Akinbiyi, throughout his reign, and Cotterill eventually left in November 2007. Given that his successor would take Burnley into the Premier League at the end of his first full season, the bright young manager image had been replaced with that of a perennial struggler. Cotterill would spend the next few years in the Sky Sports studios, just another man who had fallen off the managerial merry-go-round.
The boardroom turmoil at Notts County during 2009/10 proved to be his way back into the game. Ian McParland, Dave Kevan, Michael Johnson and Hans Backe all had spells in the hot seat before Cotterill was appointed in February 2010. Whilst admittedly he was able to call upon players playing well below their level such as Kasper Schmeichel and Lee Hughes, he was was still able to guide the club to 14 wins in 18 games, clinching the League Two title along the way. This spell seemed to re-ignite his career, and in the close season interest came once again from higher up the divisions, with both Coventry City and Portsmouth reported to be interested in securing his services. Portsmouth won that battle, and Cotterill once again found himself hampered by a lack of finances. Despite this, and being unable to play certain players due to contract issues, Pompey currently sit mid-table, 13 points from the play-offs and ten points clear of the relegation zone.
Cotterill’s sides are well set up, well disciplined and well organised. While that may not sound enthralling to those used to Tony Pulis’ Stoke team, with his reputation largely rebuilt in 2010, it seems that Cotterill could be a success at the highest level.
Nigel Pearson (Hull City)
During his short time in charge of Hull City, Nigel Pearson has proved that he has all the qualities required to manage in the Premier League. The start of his tenure saw City restricted by crippling debt, and with the bulk of the squad available for transfer, every day seemed to see another departure. But free signings like Robert Koren and Liam Rosenior show Pearson’s eye for talent as well as a bargain. This ability to work to the tightest of budgets would be advantageous should Pearson need to manage in the top flight.
Clubs like Wigan, Bolton, and even Everton would surely see this as a plus point were they ever to consider appointing Pearson. He has also shown himself to be tactically astute, getting the best out of a functional squad of players at the start of the season, and ensuring that, by keeping a solid base, the Tigers were still competitive throughout a period of disruption. With City now on the cusp of the play-offs after a run of just one defeat in 18 games, Pearson has coped admirably under circumstances that would test even the best managers and looks to be on the verge of even brighter things, potentially with Hull City.
Simon Grayson (Leeds United)
Simon Grayson will be a Premier League manager one day. With his beloved Leeds United. He marked his first full season at Elland Road by finishing second as automatic promotion was secured with a 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers. Grayson is still young and hungry, having established himself as a manager at Blackpool – guiding the Seasiders to their highest league placing for over 40 years. However, when Leeds came calling there was no choice for him but to leave.
Leeds had been on their knees for far too long and Grayson’s job was to restore some honour back to the club he loves with a passion. What marks him out is that he is a fan as well as being the manager. When the Whites score, no-one celebrates more than Grayson. When the Whites concede, no-one is more downbeat than Grayson.
He has unfinished business at a club he hardly played for as a youngster and he would not have left a cushy job at Blackpool for any other club. There is no more pressured job outside the Premier League. You are expected to win every game with Leeds. Grayson’s proactive style of management will yield Premier progress. At Leeds United.
Sven-Goran Eriksson (Leicester City)
Leicester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has been one of the top managers in world football, but will he return to the Premier League? He has already managed there with Manchester City before the mega money appeared – and Eriksson fast became a hit at Eastlands. After his spell in Manchester, Sven managed Mexico for just under a year but a run of one win in seven competitive games in charge saw him sacked. He then took temporary charge of the Ivory Coast during last summer’s World Cup.
After the World Cup, Eriksson was linked with a number of Premier League clubs – Liverpool and Aston Villa among them – before turning up to watch Leicester’s 3-1 win over Scunthorpe United. He signed a two-year contract after the full time whistle to take charge at the Walkers Stadium. With the financial backing of the club’s new owners, Eriksson’s Leicester have flown up the Championship table and retain a hope of promotion this season despite a poor start. Eriksson is one Championship manager that will definitely work again in the Premier League, especially given his vast experience of the game.
Kenny Jackett (Millwall)
Millwall manager Kenny Jackett has the ability to manage at the highest level. There were even rumours he was in line for the Wales job before he decided to rule himself out of the running. Jackett has achieved numerous promotions during his managerial career, as well as working under Graham Taylor during Watford’s season in the Premier League and acting as assistant to Ian Holloway. He took his first job as a manager at Swansea, taking the club up to League One. In fact, Jackett very nearly took them up again to the promised land the next season only for the Swans to falter at the final hurdle, finishing sixth and losing the play-off final.
After leaving Swansea, Jackett was appointed Manchester City reserve team manager. In 2008/09, he guided Millwall to the League One play-off final, where they were beaten by Scunthorpe. But the Lions were not to be denied as they were promoted via the play-offs the following season. Millwall currently sit in 11th place in the Championship, just 8 points from the play-offs. So Jackett does possess the qualities necessary to manage in the Premier League. It’s whether anyone is willing to give him a chance…
Nigel Clough (Derby County)
This is the worst possible time to be manager of a Championship club that either do not or cannot spend any money. Multiple that by the growing frustration that Derby supporters can feel building at their inability to challenge for promotion. Square it by the fact your father was one of the greatest British football managers of all time. Cube it by the fact your bitter rivals, managed by your father to European glory twice, are at the right end of the table for the second year in a row while your side flounders. If there are any Derby fans still reading, hats off to you.
Nigel Clough is getting very little help from the club’s American owners, pending the announcement of three possible loan signings in the very near future, but neither does he help himself. Clough’s strange team selections, his inability to balance his side between defence and attack and his propensity to criticise his players in public have all contributed towards Derby’s slide down the Championship table. Much to prove. Little to suggest Clough junior is destined for the Premier League, let alone European football…
Billy Davies (Nottingham Forest)
Billy Davies has had a taste of the Premier League, albeit a very short one, lasting only 14 games in charge of Derby County having taken them up in 2007. Davies has spoken of his unfinished business in the Premier League and Forest fans would love that to be with them. He would no doubt be able to get the best out of limited budgets that so many Premier League clubs have in these tough times. Excluding the bigger clubs, the era of chairmen bringing in big name managers and offering them vast amounts of cash to spend in the transfer market is a thing of the past. Even well-established clubs like Everton have little or no money available for new players.
Davies has proven that he can get results out of a very tight budget but also improve players already at the club. With chairmen up and down the country looking for mangers who can work with existing squads, Davies may well find himself on a few wanted lists in the near future. For those who say he has had his chance, the man himself knows only too well that Premier League opportunities don’t come around too often and this time he may have to bite that fiery Scottish tongue!
Brian McDermott (Reading)
Reading boss McDermott has been in the job since December 2009, having previously worked as the head scout at the Royals. He has had little managerial experience with this being his first role in league football. Prior to this, McDermott managed Slough Town and Woking. He has shown great tactical nous so far in his role, utilising his key players – Gylfi Sigurdsson last season and Shane Long this – and bringing the best out of them.
However, McDermott has also shown his naivety by being very “protective” over certain players such as Ian Harte and Hal Robson-Kanu, both of whom have been given more than enough chances without impressing. To manage in the top league, he would need to eradicate such loyalty to players out of form, and bring in new players. McDermott has the potential to manage a mid-table Premier League side one day. However, he will need to spend more time trying to learn the role of manager first, regarding both his media appearances and his slight lack of tactical knowledge from time to time.
Parts two and three featuring the rest of the clubs in the Championship still to come.
If your club has not been covered yet and you would like to write around 200 words on whether you think your manager is destined for the Premier League, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org