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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Right Man for the Right Job

Southampton's appointment of Nigel Adkins as their new boss has Nobes suggesting it's all about finding the right man for the right occasion.

Nigel Adkins twice led Scunthorpe to promotion from League One

In a statement after the departure of Alan Pardew, Southampton claimed that the appointment of Pardew's replacement would show chairman Nicola Cortese "meant business."

They were right. In luring Nigel Adkins from Scunthorpe, the Saints have landed a manager who has shown that, when it comes to earning promotion into the Championship, he knows what it takes.

For all the talk of big names and former top flight coaches,
the South Coast club have opted for a former physio turned manager from one of the game's least fashionable outposts.

However, Adkins, a genial Liverpudlian, has shown over recent years a capability for achieving results against the odds. He merits his opportunity, albeit in a lower division, at a club with genuine Premier League pedigree.

His managerial CV to date shows two promotions from League One with Scunthorpe, including as Champions in 2007. It was the first time the Iron had been in the second tier for over 40 years.

Unsurprisingly, it lasted just a year, but Scunny immediately bounced back into the Championship and, last term, Adkins worked miracles to keep them there for a second successive season.

During his time in Lincolnshire, he also developed an eye for recruiting strikers such as Martin Paterson and Gary Hooper before selling them on for a big profit. Everton's Jermaine Beckford first found his feet during a loan spell with the Iron under Adkins, too.

Of course, while selling stars was a case of needs-must to keep the Glanford Park club punching above their weight, he will find things completely different at St Mary's.

He must handle the huge raise in expectations and demands. Promotion from League One is the minimum requirement for Saints. It was merely a bonus at Scunthorpe.

His experience and know-how should serve him well though. Saints need it, too. Last weekend's defeat at Swindon left them in the bottom four in the embryonic standings.

He will be walking into a dressing room which, although low on morale, is still the envy of the rest of the division. His noted motivational skills will be required, but then he should be able to turn results around quickly.

It is that experience of success which should also serve to reassure Southampton supporters left bemused and anxious at the goings-on at their club over the past fortnight.

Indeed, a quick glance across the Football League is further proof that, as so often, there is very little substitute for experience.

The top two teams in the Championship, QPR and Cardiff, both have managers, in Neil Warnock and Dave Jones respectively, who have won promotion to the top flight before.

Early League One pacesetters Peterborough are in good hands under Gary Johnson - who took Bristol City into the Championship as runners-up to Adkins and Scunthorpe.

Two of the top three teams in League Two are managed by men with recent experience of promotion from that division, too. Shrewsbury boss Graham Turner was promoted with Hereford in 2008, and Port Vale's Micky Adams won the league with Brighton in 2001.

The experienced Gary Johnson is working his magic at Peterborough

All five, and Adkins as well, know what it takes to construct a promotion campaign. They know their respective divisions inside-out, they know the kind of players needed, and they know what's required of themselves.

Even dropping down into the Conference, it's no surprise to see AFC Wimbledon under the vastly experienced Terry Brown sitting top of the tree. Hotly in pursuit are big-spending Crawley and Steve Evans - who has experience of promotion from that level.

In each case, the respective chairmen of their clubs have hired managers with the intention of winning promotion from the division they currently find themselves in.

It sounds obvious, but if it were, we probably wouldn't see the huge managerial turnover we do. Simply put - a specialist job requires a certain type of manager suited to the task.

Over the years, it's become common to see struggling clubs make a late managerial switch in the hope of staving off the drop.

Ian Atkins, at both Bristol Rovers and then Torquay, helped keep both clubs in the Football League. Russell Slade has made a name as a managerial Houdini at first Brighton and then current club Leyton Orient last term.

In the case of Atkins, he failed to progress either Rovers or the Gulls much further than mid-table. Slade was fired at Brighton after a poor start last season and Orient currently reside in the bottom four of League One.

However, they achieved the initial goals they were brought in to do - namely beating the drop. The clubs too did their job - finding the right man for their brief.
Too many don't.

Does anyone seriously believe that former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Dean Saunders is the man to lead Wrexham out of the Conference? What does he know about the Non Leagues? Being Welsh seemed to be the only reason he was appointed.

In the same division last season, Luton could have won the Conference had they sooner jettisoned Mick Harford - a man who never seemed to have a grip over what it took to be a manager.

Sentimentality to their former player saw them hold on too long and they paid the price.

Hereford's early strugglers under Simon Davey will fill Darlington fans with even more confidence that they are in much safer hands under experience Conference boss Mark Cooper than they ever would have been under Davey.

The same applies in the Football League. What, for instance, does Peter Reid know about League One? Plymouth's early struggles under the former Sunderland boss come as no surprise.

Clubs must learn to avoid the lure of the big name or the former player. Managerial appointments are all about suitability.

It's about the right man for the right club. The right man for the right scenario. The right man for the right division. The right man for the right job. Southampton have theirs.

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