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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Saints and Sinners

After Southampton's decision to fire boss Alan Pardew, Nobes looks at some of the other unwarranted managerial sackings that defied belief.

Pardew was given just three games at the start of the season at Saints

It's the kind of shocking sacking that, quite frankly, we shouldn't find so surprising.

Given the strength of their squad, Southampton's decision to sack Alan Pardew may not cost them promotion. It has certainly lost them much respect and raised questions about those running the club though.

The dismissal of the former West Ham boss just three games into the new season, and particularly after Saturday's 4-0 win at Bristol Rovers, seems incredibly harsh.

Whatever the reasons - results motivated or otherwise - it's hard to justify sacking a proven manager at that level.

Then again, it's not the first sacking, and certainly won't be the last, to bemuse onlookers. Here's my rundown of some of the worst Football League sackings of recent times.

10. Colin Lee - Walsall

You couldn't help but feel for Colin Lee when he was given the boot from the Saddlers in 2004.

After Plymouth expressed an interest in taking Lee to Home Park, Walsall gave him permission to talk to the Pilgrims.

However, after deciding to remain in the West Midlands, he was sacked by chairman Jeff Bonser for a lack of loyalty and creating 'uncertainty' around the club.

It was to prove costly for Walsall though. Up until then they had been winning their battle against relegation from the Championship.

After Lee's departure they lost three of their remaining four games and dropped into League One. They've never been back to the second tier since.

9. Eric Black - Coventry City

So angry were Coventry fans at the sacking of Eric Black in 2004 that they staged a 'Black Day' protest for replacement Peter Reid's first home game in charge.

The Scot had only been in charge of the Sky Blues for four months and had led them into the top half playing an attractive brand of football.

Despite picking up 29 points in his 18 games though, chairman Mike McGinnity said the team had been too 'inconsistent' and fired Black.

Replacement Reid failed to do anywhere near as well, and was sacked less than a year later after poor results and even worse football.

8. Peter Jackson - Huddersfield Town

Jackson had two spells in charge of the Terriers - whom he had played for during his career, too. It was his first departure which caused most angst, though.

He had taken over in 1997 with the Yorkshire outfit fighting relegation from the Championship.

After keeping them up he then took them to 10th the following campaign.

However, the popular manager was then sacked and replaced by 'big-name' Steve Bruce - who was sacked after a poor start to the 2000/1 season.

It ended with Town being relegated to the third, and later fourth, tier. Only on Jackson's return in 2003 did he immediately take Town back into League One and they only missed out on a return to the Championship in the play offs in 2006.

7. Gary Peters - Shrewsbury Town

The former Preston boss had turned around Salop's fortunes since joining them in 2004.

He kept Shrewsbury in the Football League and then set about building a team capable of challenging at the right end.

That culminated in the 2007 play off final where, despite taking the lead, they lost out to Bristol Rovers at Wembley.

Despite so much progress, a sticky spell in the following campaign - his first at the club - saw him promptly dismissed.

Successor Paul Simpson was granted huge funds to gain promotion but could only match Peters with a play off final defeat to Gillingham in 2009. Had Peters had similar money to spend, Town probably would have been promoted by now.

6. Gareth Southgate - Middlesbrough

Southgate had been at the helm as Boro crashed out of the Premier League after 11 seasons in the big time.

However, he had been given the opportunity to get them back at the first attempt - and seemed to be making a good fist of it.

A 2-0 win against Derby saw Boro lying 4th after 13 games - just a single point off top spot.

However, Southgate was then sacked and in came former Southampton manager Gordon Strachan.

The Teessiders' form dropped off remarkably and they ended the season in 11th - a full 40 points behind Champions Newcastle United.

5. Danny Wilson - Hartlepool United

After relegation to the basement division in 2006, Pools turned to the experienced Danny Wilson to help get them back up into League One.

He did so - and at the first time of asking.

United finished 2nd - missing out on the title by a single point - and then he helped re-establish them back in the third tier with a respectable finish of 15th.

A solid start to the next season saw Pools in the top half but, after successive draws saw them drop to 13th in December, he was sacked.

They finished that season in 19th - a single point above the drop zone, and last term only survived on goal difference. Slipping out of the top half suddenly doesn't seem so bad now.

4. Ian Atkins - Oxford United

When Oxford beat Cheltenham 1-0, they sat 4th in the League Two standings - a point off the automatic promotion places.

They had only been beaten once at home all season and, with nine games of the season remaining, looked a sure bet for at least a place in the play offs.

Despite that good form, manager Ian Atkins had not been offered a new deal.

With his current one due to expire in the summer, he signed a pre-contract agreement to take over at Bristol Rovers for the next season.

Chairman Firoz Kassam decided to fire Atkins and appointed Graham Rix in his stead.

However, Rix's attempt to get a direct team to play passing football failed spectacularly as one win in their last nine saw Oxford miss out on the top seven altogether.

3. Russell Slade - Yeovil Town

Most pundits predicted a struggle for Yeovil when Russell Slade was appointed in 2006.

However, the season ended with the Glovers at Wembley - where they only lost out to Blackpool in the play off final.

Slade had taken a club punching above their weight to stay in League One to within 90 minutes of the Championship.

On meagre resources, it was a fantastic achievement.

It saw him linked to other jobs, but Town rebuffed any approaches. Yeovil ended up 18th the next year and the following campaign was another battle against the drop - but four straight wins in the New Year saw them comfortably in mid table.

However, he was then jettisoned from Huish Park due to a 'breakdown' in his relationship with the board. Town won just three of their remaining 17 games and stayed up by just a couple of points.

2. Ronnie Moore - Tranmere Rovers

Moore had been a great striker for Rovers, and returned to the club as manager in 2006.

In his first two seasons in charge he guided the Wirral outfit to 9th and 11th in League One.

The next term saw Rovers once again mount a push for the top six and they finished 7th, only narrowly missing on the play offs out by a couple of points.

However, the board decided to axe Moore - blaming him for falling attendances - and appointed former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes as his replacement.

It was a disastrous decision. Barnes endured a torrid beginning to the 2009/10 campaign and Tranmere only escaped the drop on the final day of the season under his successor, Les Parry.

1. Alan Irvine - Preston North End

Alan Irvine had joined Preston with the club struggling at the foot of the Championship in 2007.

An improved second half of the season saw him guide North End to 15th and safety, though.

The next season they were fighting it out for a place in the play offs and four wins at the end of the season helped them edge out Cardiff for a place in the top six.

There they lost to Sheffield United, but a fine start to the 2009/10 once again had them in contention. Then a poor run - his first at the club - earned him a shock dismissal at the end of 2009.

Replacement Darren Ferguson oversaw a terrible run of results that saw them slide down the table - only narrowly securing another season of Championship football. They have continued to struggle at the start of the new season.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this too early sacking loses Saints respect.

    Great list. The Irvine sacking still amazes a year on.

    I'd add the case of John Rudge to this - sacked by Port Vale after 16 years in 1999 - possibly the best in the club's history - he had the last laugh by moving to fierce rivals Stoke as Director of football - and look where the two clubs are now.