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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting The Breaks

Nobes looks at the managers in the Football League who Premier League clubs should consider if they are looking for a new boss.

Aidy Boothroyd's best hope of a top flight return is with promotion

There was a time when the departure of a top flight boss, as with Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill this week, would have seen movement in the managerial merry-go-round in the lower divisions.

The managerial 'food chain' would come into full flow, with each bigger club seeking to poach their new boss from a smaller team.

Someone who had impressed and was worth being given a shot in a bigger role would be sought.

Now, as in the transfer market, the focus appears to be overseas, with the big clubs looking to foreign, not home grown coaches, to fill their vacant managerial seats.

However, to do that is to overlook the genuine quality in the lower divisions with managers who have proven their ability and could be worth giving a chance to.

Of the 72 managers outside the Premier League, 17 have managed in the top flight before.

In the second tier that includes Steve Coppell, Neil Warnock, George Burley, and Gordon Strachan. All of these managers have just begun projects at ambitious clubs though, so would be unlikely to jump ship now.

Roy Keane at Ipswich has a combustible nature that might put off potential suitors, and there are question marks over the style of play used by Coventry's Aidy Boothroyd.

The most recent to gain Premier League experience was Brian Laws - a surprise appointment by Burnley last season. He endured a miserable run as he oversaw the Clarets's demotion last May though.

Outside the Championship, four bosses in League One have tasted top flight management - Peter Reid, Danny Wilson, Chris Hutchings, and Alan Pardew.

The former is someone whose career is now on a downward spiral and Wilson, once a promising star of the managerial game, has never recovered from a poor time at Sheffield Wednesday.

Hutchings failed at both Bradford and Wigan and is unlikely to ever get another opportunity.
Only Pardew has any chance of ever making it back into the top flight.

In League Two, Bradford's Peter Taylor had a miserable spell at Leicester in the early Noughties, and Paul Sturrock lasted just a few months at Southampton.

Micky Adams took Leicester into the top flight in 2003 but they were promptly relegated a year later, and the experienced Graham Turner managed Aston Villa in the top flight during the '80s.

At 62, he's unlikely to want to manage at the top again, but there are young, hungry managers waiting to get their first break - or another - in the Premier League.

Here are some of the managers who top flight clubs could do a lot worse than choosing to fill their vacancy:

Sean O'Driscoll (Doncaster Rovers)

Was believed to be frontrunner for the Burnley job but when the Clarets couldn't agree compensation with current employers Doncaster, they opted for Brian Laws instead.

The softly-spoken 53-year-old has earned a reputation for producing teams who play pure passing football and are easy on the eye.

He has established Doncaster in the second tier and won promotion in the lower leagues with Bournemouth, too.

Used to working on a budget and getting teams to punch above their weight, O'Driscoll is quickly becoming a man in demand.

Likely top flight destination: Born and raised in the Black Country, O'Driscoll is a lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers fan. If the Molineux job was to become free, he would find it difficult to turn down.

Why he wouldn't be picked: Not a big name, he spent the vast majority of his playing career in the lower divisions. Would he be respected by top players?

Would his purist footballing views also be counted against him when pragmatism is sometimes called for?

Billy Davies (Nottingham Forest)

A fiery Scot who has built a reputation as the best manager outside the top flight over the last few years.

Twice took Preston to the play offs, before being turned down for the vacant top flight job at Charlton.

He was then promoted to the Premier League with Derby in 2007 before being harshly sacked as the Rams struggled in the top flight.

Next turned up at rivals Nottingham Forest who he, again, led into the play offs last season.

A meticulous planner, he has the ability to produce sides pleasing on the eye as well as miserly at the back.

Likely top flight destination:
Unlikely to be given a big job, a smaller club in trouble - the likes of Wigan - might be tempted on giving him another break in the top flight.

Why he wouldn't be picked:
His torrid time at Derby will put out any potential top flight club. He also a reputation for falling out with his employers.

Dave Jones (Cardiff City)

Jones has twice managed in the top flight. Firstly, he managed to keep Southampton in the top flight before being replaced by Glenn Hoddle when having to fight a court case.

He bounced back to lead Wolves into the Premier League for the first time in their history in 2004.

He was unable to keep the club up and they were relegated in last place after just a season.

Built his reputation in the Football League with Stockport, and in his six years at Cardiff has taken them to the FA Cup final and last year's Championship play off final.

Likely top flight destination:
Jones was linked with Fulham this summer and in the past was previously rumoured to
, despite his Wolves connections, have attracted the interest of West Brom.

His experience and knowledge of relegation battles would be attractive to such a club.

Why he wouldn't be picked: Hard to say why. Being relegated with a newly promoted club is no disgrace and his record at Cardiff and Southampton demands respect. Is he already, at 53, seen as too old?

Nigel Pearson (Hull City)

Only newly appointed at the KC Stadium, but Pearson's track record suggests a man who doesn't bed down roots at a club and happily moves about frequently.

He enjoyed great success with Leicester over the last two years.

First guiding them to the 2009 League One title before taking them into last season's Championship play offs only to fall at the semi final stage.

Has worked at the likes of Newcastle and West Brom as a coach in the top flight before.

Likely top flight destination:
Newcastle's Chris Hughton is the bookies' favourite to be the first manager sacked this season, and Pearson's connections with St James' Park could see him in contention for the role.

Why he wouldn't be picked: Still a relative managerial novice whose only real success has come with a big club in a small pond. It would be a big gamble.

Paul Lambert (Norwich City)

A year ago he was managing Colchester hoping for a top six place in the third tier.

Lambert's stock has been in meteoric rise since taking over at Norwich and storming to the League One title.

The impressive fashion with which the Canaries won the division scoring hatfuls of goals with an attacking brand of football also earned him plaudits.

After a distinguished playing career he started out coaching Livingston in the SPL before making the move to basement tier Wycombe - whom he guided into the League Two play offs in 2008.

Likely top flight destination: Lambert was linked with the Celtic job over the summer - proof that he is in vogue. Any bottom half Premier League team looking for a new manager are sure to consider the Norwich boss if he continues to impress.

Why he wouldn't be picked: Is he really ready? This is his first season in the Championship and he is completely untested in the higher divisions. One for the future, maybe, but not for the present.

Simon Grayson (Leeds United)

With two promotions - both gained by playing attractive football - on his managerial CV already, the 40-year-old is one of the hottest managerial prospects.

He took Blackpool to promotion to the Championship in his first full season before establishing them in the second tier.

When the call came from boyhood club Leeds though, he left the Seasiders and last season took the Elland Road outfit back into the Championship - again in his first full campaign.

Likely top flight destination:
Arguably he's most likely to become a top flight manager by taking Leeds there. Refuted interest from ex-club Leicester in the summer to stay at the club he has always supported.

Why he wouldn't be picked: Like Lambert, he is still very young - although he has proven his ability to work within a budget and get results in the Championship.

Whether a club would be willing to pay the hefty compensation Leeds would ask for their man might be a large stumbling block though.

Alan Pardew (Southampton)

Despite currently being in League One, Pardew and the Saints are heavily tipped to be back on the way up to at least the Championship.

Pardew made his name at Reading - taking the Royals into the second tier before leaving for West Ham. He took the East Londoners back into the top flight and subsequently guided them to the 2006 FA Cup final.

He was dismissed a few months later after a poor start to the following campaign and then endured a disappointing reign at Charlton.

Likely top flight destination:
Pardew is rebuilding his career on the South Coast and is unlikely to be tapped up or want to leave yet himself.

However, if he can resurrect the fortunes of Southampton then, either with the Saints or at another club, the 49-year-old can still bring his brand of good football to the Premier League.

Why he wouldn't be picked: His time at Charlton has probably laid the seeds of doubt in chairmen's minds. He failed to turn around a sinking ship at The Valley and, although he wasn't fully to blame, it will have put some clubs off.

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