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Does Sacking A Manager In October Actually Work?

Using the wider Championship as a guide to allaying/deepening our Stam fears.

Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Will Jaap Stam live out the month of October as Reading manager? To some, this is a pretty sinful question to ask in the first place. To others, the Dutchman’s departure would mean Christmas coming early. But would it actually work? Here, I delve into the past five Championship seasons and collate every October sacking, to see if Stam’s exit would promise a brighter tomorrow or a futile twirl towards mediocrity.

When It All Goes Right

As much as it pains me to say it, sometimes Neil Warnock is the answer. That’s at least what Cardiff are finding having dispensed with Paul Trollope early last season, employing the veteran Yorkshireman with the club sat 23rd. Finishing mid-table, Warnock had his feet under the table for a rapid start to 2017/18. The jury is out, but perhaps this is a case of succeeding a man who was never right for the role in the first place.

Two more cases of widely considered ‘good managers’ being parachuted into failing campaigns are Mick McCarthy taking over from Paul Jewell at Ipswich in 2012/13 and Gary Rowett’s 2014 appointment at Birmingham. Lee Clark had done a decent job at St Andrews with limited funds but they were 21st when he was booted with ex-Blues midfielder, and then boss of nearby Burton, Rowett perhaps the natural candidate.

However risks can work too, as Middlesbrough found out when giving rookie coach Aitor Karanka his big chance in 2013/14, taking over from Tony Mowbray with the side 16th before crawling up the table over the following years and getting promoted in 2016.

When It All Goes Wrong

Natural candidate? Pah. Don’t expect much. There’s little else Steve McClaren was described as when he returned to Derby 12 months ago following Nigel Pearson’s turbulent, if short, tenure. With the big spending Rams 20th when McClaren took charge, he was dispensed with in March as Derby sat 10th and way out the play-off picture.

Roberto Di Matteo also had the CV to take Aston Villa up to the big time but he only got until October before being replaced by Steve Bruce, another man with significant promotion getting credentials. They only ended up 13th amid vast expectations and expenditure, although are seventh after 11 games this time around.

Some clubs are doomed from the outset and yet this only comes to evidence once the boss has been sacked. Wigan and Rotherham chose to move Gary Caldwell and Kenny Jackett on, respectively, before slumping back to League One in 2016/17. Likewise Charlton’s ownership saga involved Guy Luzon’s exit in October 2015 as they went down regardless.

A year earlier, Leeds took the bold move of shifting on faceless randomer Darko Milanic for faceless, but local, randomer Neil Redfearn. The club 18th when taking over, Redfearn took Leeds all the way to 15th while Milanic returned to success at Slovakian side Maribor. Not so much a disaster at Elland Road, more a sign of the times when they couldn’t do anything right.

When It All Goes Meh

Sometimes nothing changes; it turns out it wasn’t the manager. It was some other, slightly more important component of the club, that is inevitably much harder to kick out. Jose Riga apparently wasn’t the reason Blackpool were awful in 2014/15, it was a somewhat higher matter as they tumbled down to League Two with Lee Clark employed in an act of utter futility.

That year, Bolton brought in Neil Lennon as Dougie Freedman’s disastrous start had them lodged in 23rd, but while the former Celtic man saved them from relegation that campaign, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable befell the cash-stricken Wanderers. The same club also had the same luck with the only October sacking of 2012/13, dumping Owen Coyle for Freedman to miss out on the play-offs nonetheless.

Back at Leeds, our journey ends with Uwe Rosler being dismissed after less than four months in the job in 2015. Like Coyle’s Bolton, Leeds were 18th and took in Steve Evans with a run all the way to 13th greeting them. Still, it led them to sacking Evans and signing up Garry Monk the following summer. All’s well that ends well.

Closing Thoughts

Sacking a manager in October. Can it work? Yes.

Does it work? Generally speaking, no.

What’s become apparent over the years are that only the clubs really stagnating or panicking take the plunge at this time of the season. Whether Reading are stagnating is hard to tell (they certainly aren’t panicking as of yet), but very few coaches who did well the previous campaign found themselves launched the following October .

If he is to go, perhaps the Royals can look to Ipswich’s stability under McCarthy and Warnock’s success (so far) at Cardiff as examples of elder statesmen coming in at this stage to good effect. Although Bruce at Villa and McClaren at Derby show there are simply no guarantees at this level.

Finally, wherever you’re currently at, t’s worth remembering that a mid-season Championship sacking hasn’t led to an immediate promotion for any side since Roy Keane took over at Sunderland four games into the 2006/07 season.