This weekend marks the true start of autumn, with big coats invited back out of the wardrobe and half-time hot drinks suddenly becoming appealing again. And with that, welcome back to Sacking Silly Season in the Football League.
In the Championship alone last year, 16 of 24 clubs changed manager mid-season, with many pulling the trigger twice. So far this term, four Football League clubs have changed bosses — Huddersfield, Charlton, Tranmere and Fleetwood — and more will soon follow.
Huddersfield confirmed their replacement last night for Neil Warnock — who said he was ‘gobsmacked and a bit hurt’ by his exit — with Darren Moore taking over. Cheltenham also sacked Wade Elliott on Wednesday with the club yet to score and having taken just one point in eight games.
Michael Carrick, Michael Duff and Xisco Munoz are all under pressure in the Championship. QPR fans have still not fully warmed to Gareth Ainsworth. In League Two, Sutton boss Matt Gray, who has done an admirable job on extremely limited resources, is struggling.
Two under-pressure bosses met on Tuesday, with Carrick’s Middlesbrough and Xisco’s Sheffield Wednesday still both winless after a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough. Two clubs full of positivity last season — the Owls were promoted and Boro made the play-offs — both stink of negativity.
Middlesbrough are winless and have picked up just two points in seven Championship games
Boro boss Michael Carrick is under pressure after guiding his side to the play-offs last season
In Wednesday’s case, owner Dejphon Chansiri has already acted to part ways with new Huddersfield boss Moore, who led the Owls to the Championship having amassed 96 points. What a baffling decision that felt at the time despite a public fallout, and now it simply looks mindless.
And so to rock-bottom Middlesbrough and Carrick. Does Steve Gibson pull the trigger based on the evidence of seven matches? There is definitely a case for doing so, as the results have been awful this season. But a manager doesn’t just turn bad overnight.
The numbers on the league table speak louder than anything, but the underlying data suggest all isn’t as bad as it seems. In the first six league games, Boro were creating an expected goals (xG) tally of 1.65 per game, only slightly down from 1.72 last season under Carrick.
Boro are having more shots on target per game (5.17) than last season (4.67), winning possession in the final third more, touching the ball in the box more. They are not up on every stat but those numbers suggest Boro’s league position is harsh based on performances.
It would also be unfair to discuss Carrick’s side without talking about departures this summer. Chuba Akpom, last season’s top scorer and Championship player of the year with 28 goals, left for Ajax. Cameron Archer, who formed a formidable duo with Akpom, is now at Sheffield United.
Ryan Giles, who topped the Championship assist table and was a dynamic presence from left back, now plays for Luton in the Premier League. Experienced Alex Mowatt, who played 28 times in midfield, returned to West Bromwich. Replacements have not hit the ground running.
Indeed, the squad looks incredibly unbalanced and recruitment this summer has to be blamed, which goes far beyond Carrick. Ivorian forward Emmanuel Latte Lath was meant to replace Akpom and Archer, but the ex-Atalanta man has just one goal and was left on the bench on Tuesday.
Asked if chairman Gibson is calm, Carrick said this week: ‘I speak to him — he’s not hiding from me yet! We speak often and the mood is calm. There is an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve and how we go about it. We’re all working together and that’s a big part of it.
‘We’re not accepting results. It’s how you deal with it that’s important. There was a fairly big turnaround in players, but I believe in the boys whatever age they are and however long they have been here.
However, Boro chairman Steve Gibson (right) must look at the numbers and give Carrick time
They have lost key players from last season’s run to the play-offs, including Aston Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey (left), top scorer Chuba Akpom (centre) and Cameron Archer (right)
‘There’s no acceptance that it will take a certain amount of time. We want it to be here and now. Everyone is connected within the football club. It doesn’t always quite happen, but we’ll find a way, I’m convinced of that. We have to keep pushing and improving as quickly as we can.’
Carrick is certainly not blameless in Middlesbrough’s demise from play-off contenders to relegation candidates. His side have not been good enough for the majority of this season. But looking at how weak the squad is compared to last year, the problem goes beyond the boss.
Better managers than the former Manchester United midfielder have been sacked at this level but, in this case, it would seem premature. Who would realistically come in and do a better job?
Gibson must judge the young coach on his overall ability, not seven games this campaign.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND
Rotherham v Preston, Championship, tomorrow 3pm
Preston have had the joint-best start to a season in Championship history, with six wins and a draw. Only four other teams have won 19 points from their first seven games — three finished in the top six and the outlier is Veljko Paunovic’s Reading. Like the Royals in 2020-21, North End fans must not get ahead of themselves but Ryan Lowe is doing a fine job.
Ryan Lowe’s Preston have had the joint-best start to a season in Championship history
Cambridge v Port Vale, League One, tomorrow 3pm
Andy Crosby’s Port Vale are third but there’s a realistic chance they could end the weekend top of League One with a negative goal difference. That quirk is due to losing 7-0 on the opening day, and then winning five of their next six games by a one-goal margin. Crosby’s side face another team punching above their weight here.
Southend v AFC Fylde, National League, tomorrow 3pm
More protests are planned in Essex this weekend against Ron Martin’s ruinous ownership, with Southend having a date with destiny in the High Court early next month. Fans threw toy rats and tennis balls on to the Roots Hall pitch this week and will march from Pier Hill on Saturday, with supporters urged to ‘unite in huge numbers for a peaceful march, demanding immediate change in ownership’.
CARDIFF EMBRACING A GENERATION GAME
The Football League is full of heartwarming stories and two cropped up last Saturday as Cardiff ended a four-match losing streak in the Welsh derby to beat Swansea 2-0, with both goalscorers having colourful tales.
At one end of the spectrum is substitute Ollie Tanner, who signed from semi-professional side Lewes — who play at the best-named stadium in the country, the Dripping Pan in Sussex. Tanner came off the bench and looked nerveless as he fired Cardiff 1-0 up. The 21-year-old spent time on loan at York City in the National League but a fan of the Minstermen told me he did not stand out at that level. Now he is a hero in Cardiff after helping them beat their bitter rivals.
Ollie Tanner – who signed from semi-professional Lewes – scored for Cardiff against Swansea
Aaron Ramsey added a second and the Welsh legend is flourishing back at the Bluebirds
In contrast to Tanner coming from the seventh tier of the English pyramid, Erol Bulut’s Cardiff also have a player who has spent the last 15 years at the elite level of European football with the likes of Arsenal and Juventus, plus having pivotal roles in multiple international tournaments with Wales.
Aaron Ramsey is flourishing back at the Bluebirds, who he left for the Gunners in 2008, and seems to be playing with a smile on his face for the first time in years. The Welshman, 32, also scored against Swansea — and netted in a Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia earlier this month.
Source From: Football | Mail Online