What Everton Should Learn From Devastating Blackburn Rovers Freefall

Blackburn RoversAs we edge towards the end of one of the closest Championship seasons in years, we have up to seven teams locked in a relegation battle. If anybody ever needed retelling of the instability and unpredictability of modern English football, this season’s Championship has proved a swift reminder. However, it is at Ewood Park where we have seen the serious repercussions taking a ruthless, unnecessary turn can have on a club.

Blackburn Rovers have been dragged into the thick of the relegation scrap, and were sitting 20th in the table just two points above the relegation zone at one stage. They are also on their fourth manager of the season after another distressing year for the Rover’s faithful, which has attracted fresh criticism and embarrassment for the club’s Indian owners. Steve Kean’s reign, which coincided with the beginning of the club’s troubles, was bought to its inevitable end when the Scot resigned in September, despite guiding them to third in the table.

His successor, club legend Hanning Berg, was dismissed after just 57 days in the hot-seat while Michael Appleton lasted just ten days longer then the Norwegian after he was sacked in March.

And so, the Rovers, Champions of England in the 1994-95 season and seemingly an established Premier League side just over two years ago under Sam Allardyce, could now face a potentially nail-biting battle to avoid relegation to the third tier of English football. The former Newcastle and Bolton manager bought some much needed stability to Ewood Park following his arrival in December 2008. The Lancashire side had endured a difficult start to the season under Paul Ince, who was axed after just 17 league games at the helm.

Blackburn RoversHowever, Allardyce steered them to a respectable final finish of 15th in the table, and an equally decent finish of 10th in his first and only full season in charge. Unfortunately, this was not deemed suitable by the club’s controversial Venky owners. They bizarrely opted to replace Allardyce with his assistant Steve Kean as manager in December 2010, under a month after they completed the takeover of the club.

This sent the club on a downward spiral, as Kean struggled to adapt to life in the top job, which eventually lead to the club’s relegation to the Championship last year. Many have rightly highlighted the Venkies and the topic of foreign ownership as the main issue surrounding Blackburn’s decline. However, their fall has also emphasized the dangers of clubs taking their place in the football pyramid for granted. The dangers of being blinded by over-ambition and the paranoia of making rapid progress as a club have all contributed to Blackburn’s freefall.

It is mindsets such as these which have also contributed to the continuing problem of managerial changes which at times has made English football a laughing stock. On the final day of the 2008/09 season, Tranmere missed out on a spot in the League 1 playoffs on goal difference to Scunthorpe, thanks to a late equalizer by The Iron in the winner takes all match.This led to then manager Ronnie Moore’s dismissal, with the club stating they wished to move in a “new direction.”

Moore was replaced by John Barnes at Prenton Park, who lasted just three months at the club before himself being sacked after leading them to 22nd in the table. It took the return of Moore last March to finally lead the Birkenhead club away from the relegation zone. It is outcomes such as these that clubs facing managerial dilemmas need to be aware of.

EvertonDebate suddenly raged about the future of David Moyes at Everton following their humbling FA Cup exit at the hand of Wigan. Some sections of fans began to question whether the Scot had taken the club as far as he could, and even more outrageously, began to ridicule his contribution since his arrival in 2002. Those fans seem to be forgetting the solidity that Moyes has bought to Goodison Park.

Prior to his arrival, Everton struggled to gain any momentum in the Premier League and were regularly languishing towards the bottom of the table. Apart from a lackluster season in 2003/04, Everton have mainly secured solid finishes in the top half of the table under his guidance.

It was details such as this that were wrongly ignored when Allardyce and Moore were removed from their positions. The Everton faithful should remember the price Blackburn and Tranmere paid for their delusion as we head into a potentially pivotal summer.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

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Why Ferdinand Saga Shows England are Failing to Progress

Rio FerdinandIt was a development that bought all the typical England debates bubbling back to the surface. The classic club vs country row. The questioning of the desire of our top stars to turn out for their country. You know the rest.

But the quarrel surrounding Rio Ferdinand’s recall then withdrawal from the England squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers also highlighted another disparaging issue that continues to dominate England’s international scene. An issue that has been holding back England’s progress for some time and remains a concern despite some promising advances during Roy Hodgson’s reign.

It is the subject of this country’s so called ‘golden generation’, and the inability to move on from these players and think in the long term. The idea of the English golden generation, which has included the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, and Ferdinand, is a term that has caused much debate and ridicule.

They were the group of players who, after being so dominant at their clubs and winning so many plaudits at domestic level, were supposed to divert their class to the international stage and end England’s barren run in major tournaments.

But their time never came, as tournament after tournament has gone by with England failing to mount a serious challenge to claim their first trophy since their legendary 1966 World Cup win.

However, despite these shortcomings, many have clung to the idea that players of this ‘golden generation’ are untouchable when it comes to the England team. Despite the frustration of seeing England teams featuring the likes of Beckham and Lampard failing to deliver when it matters on the international scene, coaches and fans have developed a strong desire to see their names on the team sheet.

It is almost as if they can not imagine an England team without them and they see no other alternative. Even when attempts to take them out of the equation and try other systems have been made, it has not been received well.

Rio FerdinandWhen England were struggling away to minnows Andorra in a European Championship qualifying tie in 2007, travelling fans responded by chanting David Beckham’s name as a way of criticizing then manager Steve McClaren, who had dropped the former Three Lions captain upon taking over as head coach.

Many observers have also allowed their fondness for these players cloud their judgement and common sense when it comes to commenting on the issue. The calls by some for Michael Owen and Ferdinand to be included in Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad last year was the perfect example of this.

Superb servants Owen and Ferdinand have been in for the national side at times over the years, it was ridiculous to consider them candidates for the squad given their record with fitness and injuries, especially Owen. Even Ferdinand’s club manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, doubted whether the defender could make a meaningful contribution in Poland and Ukraine.

He stated that Ferdinand’s fitness situation meant he would not be able to cope with the tight schedule of tournament football.

So it seems at times that many analysts concentrate too much on what players have done in the past rather than important factors such as more recent form and fitness.

Of course, we love to reminisce and treasure classic moments such as Owen’s hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Germany and Beckham’s last minute free kick against Greece in 2001. But to use moments like these as sole justification for their inclusion in vital tournament squads almost a decade later is ludicrous.

A mind-set like this also prevents younger, new talent getting opportunities in the side. England’s over-reliance and affection for their top stars has cost them dearly in the past.

England National TeamSven Goran Eriksson was particularly guilty of this, and his decisions to take a crocked David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups was to cost them dearly later in the tournaments. Fabio Capello took a reckless gamble on Gareth Barry in South Africa three years ago and paid the price when his lack of fitness was exposed by a rampant Germany side in the last 16.

Even the great Sir Alf Ramsey’s devotion to his World Cup winners was to prove costly, as this prevented a new generation of players gaining valuable international experience. This led to England failing to even qualify for successive World Cups in 1974 and 1978.

So England must break free of this habit and continue to blood new and younger talent. But this does not mean they should banish the more experienced in the squad completely. If they are in form and making valuable contributions to the team, of course they have earned their place.

But they should never be running unopposed for their place in the team, and we should not view a team without them as inconceivable. England only needs to look at how other nations have progressed for inspiration.

Germany’s loss of their captain Michael Ballack through injury was a huge blow to their 2010 World Cup hopes. However, this allowed younger players such as Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil a chance in the first team. Both impressed hugely in South Africa and have been permanent fixtures in the side since.

Although Roy Hodgson’s squad is still a work in progress, it has been refreshing to see some of the younger and untested players getting time on the pitch.

This is a practice all of England must come to terms with if they are finally to shake off their under achieving international tag.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 4


MillwallKenny Jackett’s squad have been the hot and cold side of the league this season. They found themselves on the verge of the play-offs earlier in the campaign after they went on a 13-game unbeaten run. However, a run of just one league win in nine games, coupled with the loss of loanee Chris Wood and striker Darius Henderson to Nottingham Forest, means it has been a difficult 2013 so far for the Lions. Their poor form means they are now in danger of being dragged into the relegation fight, particularly with the sides below them showing signs of improved form. Even without Wood and Henderson, there is enough talent in the Millwall squad to see them to safety. But with a number of tricky games still remaining and their recent struggle, it could be a nerve-racking end to season for the London outfit.

Nottingham Forest

Although a majority of the attention has been focused on off the pitch matters at the City Ground this season, the Reds are starting to hit form on the field at the right time. The return of fan favorite Billy Davies as coach in February has bred new life into the club. Forest have won all but one of the Scot’s six games in charge, which has seen them reclaim their place in the play-offs. However, it will be interesting to see if they can continue their form until the end of the season. The teams they have beaten under Davies have mainly been teams languishing towards the bottom of the Championship. Davies lost two play-off semi-finals in his first spell at the City Ground, but if they can carry on taking points off the likes of Hull, Brighton, and Cardiff, it may be the run he needs to finally lead them back to the top flight.

Peterborough United

Peterborough UnitedAs expected, it has proved another tough season for Darren Ferguson’s side. They have again been involved in a relegation scrap for a majority of the season. Strangely, it has not been scoring goals that have been a problem for the Posh this campaign; they have hit five in a match past Bolton and Millwall this season. However, they have also been generous in defense this season, particularly at home, where they have conceded 36 goals: the second worst in the league after fellow strugglers Bristol City. They must also be aiming to collect points from the rest of their remaining games, as 10 defeats both home and away this season has left them with very little room for error. Despite a tough run in in their remaining fixtures, wins over high flying Hull, Cardiff, and Leicester earlier in the season will have given them some hope of securing their Championship status yet again.

Sheffield Wednesday

Last season’s League One runners up have probably found life back in the Championship the hardest out of the promoted teams. Like many of the teams battling for survival, they have found themselves towards the wrong end of the table for a majority of the year, and safety is by no means assured given the tightness of the league. However, they have recovered well from a dreadful run towards the end of 2012 which saw them take just eight points from a possible 54. Credit must go to manager Dave Jones for this turn in fortunes, and also to Owls’ chairman Milan Mandaric, for sticking with the former Cardiff and Wolves boss. The Yorkshire side will particularly have taken inspiration from recent wins over promotion hopefuls Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Brighton. With many of their fellow strugglers still to play though, the most vital part of Wednesday’s season is still to come.


WatfordSadly for the Hornets’ faithful, their stunning season has been eclipsed by the clubs use of the loan system. Gianfranco Zola’s men have borrowed 12 players in total from Italian sides Udinese and Granada this season, who are Watford’s sister clubs. These include Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra, who have scored 30 league goals between themselves already this season. Many have questioned the fairness of this loophole in the loan system policy, which Watford have exploited. This has overshadowed the superb form the club have been in, which has seen them shoot up the table and made them strong favorites for a return to the Premier League. The Hertfordshire side have lost just four times in the league since the beginning of November and have shook off their inconsistent start to the campaign. They have been particularly ruthless in attack and are the division’s top scorers. Despite games against a number of other promotion hopefuls still to come, it would be hard not to back the Vicarage Road side for automatic promotion. Yet rumors of a change to the loan market system could significantly impact their progress for next season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Despite the disappointment of relegation last season and the risk they took with the appointment of the largely unknown Stale Solbakken in the summer, nobody could have predicted the difficulties Wolves would face this season. Solbakken was dismissed after a humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league Luton Town in January, and left them 18th in the table. However, his successor Dean Saunders has found life at Molineux equally difficult, and has picked up just one win in his eleven games in charge so far. This dismal form has seen them drop into the relegation places, and with the likes of Bolton, Hull, and Brighton still to come in the fixture list, securing their Championship status looks by no means a formality. They must especially improve their home form and take advantage of ties against fellow strugglers Bristol City and Huddersfield to avoid an unthinkable drop to the third tier.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 3

Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield TownAfter being a dominant side in League One for some time, the Terriers are finally looking to establish themselves in the Championship. Their determination was shown in the ruthless dismissal of manager Simon Grayson in February. Grayson led them to triumph in last season’s play-offs, and even took them as high as sixth in the Championship, but was shown the door after a winless run that lasted 12 games. Although it seemed harsh at the time, it seems understandable considering their recent heartbreak in the League One play-offs that denied them Championship football. Quite fairly, they are determined to seize their opportunity in England’s second tier and should secure their status for another season despite some inconsistent form and the departure of star striker Jordan Rhodes to Blackburn in August. However, their defense must tighten up away from home, as they have conceded an astonishing 42 goals on the road this season, which has contributed to having the worst goal difference in the division.

Hull City

Steve Bruce’s side have been the surprise package of the Championship this year. Despite rarely threatening a promotion push since relegation from the Premier League, they have been one of the leading teams this time round. They have been equally solid both home and away throughout the season, which has kept them in contention for an automatic promotion spot. Like many other teams though, their fate could be heavily impacted by whether Cardiff’s recent slip ups and Watford’s superb form are to continue until the end of the season. Their upcoming games against two of their biggest promotion rivals are likely to be crucial, particularly the home tie against Cardiff on the final game of the season. The fact that their form against the top sides has been varied this season makes the promotion race all the more unpredictable.

Ipswich Town

Ipswich TownSimilarly to Steve Kean at Blackburn, there was no sense of shock when Paul Jewell was axed as manager at Portman Road in October. After struggling for large parts of last season, the Tractor Boys began the season in poor form, collecting just seven points from their opening 12 games, which left Town with little choice but to relieve the former Derby and Wigan manager of his duties. The appointment of former Wolves boss Mick McCarthy revitalized the Suffolk club, vastly improving the team’s fortunes and leading them off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation places. They could be at a major disadvantage in the relegation scrap due to their inferior goal difference, but if they can continue their current form under McCarthy, survival should definitely be achieved. Upcoming games against the likes of Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday could prove vital though.

Leeds United

The expedition to lead one of England’s once most revered teams back to the top flight has showed no signs of simplifying this season. While much of United’s season has been dominated by off the field matters surrounding takeover rumors, an end to the Yorkshire side’s nine year exile from the Premier League is by no means guaranteed. It looks increasingly unlikely that Neil Warnock will be at the club next season, ultimately admitting that he will leave Elland Road if he does not achieve promotion. While the notoriously outspoken Warnock’s relationship with the club was always likely to be a talking point, many might consider that a little harsh. A play-off spot is not out of the question for Leeds, and they have been in impressive form at home throughout the season. But it has essentially been their away form which has prevented them excelling further, picking up just three wins on their travels: the joint lowest in the league. Whatever the outcome of this season, an important summer lies ahead for Leeds to bring some much needed stability both on and off the pitch.

Leicester City

Leicester CityThe Foxes have made considerable progress this season under Nigel Pearson, and have looked to be strong candidates for a play-off spot. However, a disappointing couple of months, which has seen them deliver just one win in eight league games, has stalled their season. Although they have been aided by the fact that they are not the only play-off hopefuls struggling for consistency, their form has allowed in-form teams, such as Nottingham Forest and Bolton, to reduce the gap between them in the table. City face a tough run in from now until the end of the season, with many of their fellow promotion hopefuls still to come, including difficult trips to Brighton and Crystal Palace and a potentially decisive local derby at the City Ground on the final day of the campaign. Recent form must be overcome, and done quickly, if they are to secure their place in the top six.


After a solid spell of form before Christmas, 2013 has proved to be a disaster so far for Tony Mowbray’s men with just two league wins. Their away form in particular has been dreadful with twelve defeats all season, the current joint worst in the division with rock bottom Bristol City. This form is particularly unwelcome with trips to Hull and in form Bolton still to come. Although recent wins over Cardiff and Leeds will have given the Boro faithful hope that this can still be a successful campaign, they will have to improve considerably, particularly in defense  to have any chance of securing a play-off spot. With a tricky number of fixtures still remaining, they may have to rely on teams around them hitting a lean spell in their remaining games.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 2

Bristol City

Bristol CityIt’s been another difficult season for the Robins, who currently sit at the bottom of table with their six year stay in the Championship now facing its biggest threat. The year started badly after manager Derek McInnes was sacked following a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Leicester in January, which saw them slip to the foot at the table. They have improved under new boss Sean O’Driscoll, particularly at Ashton Gate, where they have won four out of five matches. However, it is City’s away form that is an on-going problem, as they have lost 12 times on the road this season and claimed just 12 points. But with O’Driscoll at the helm and proven goalscorers such as Steve Davies in their ranks, survival is by no means beyond City. Upcoming fixtures with fellow strugglers Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday are simply must-wins games.


The 2009 play-off winners have had a steady season, despite having to come to terms with former manager Eddie Howe’s shock return to Bournemouth in October just under two years after they recruited him from the Cherries. The appointment of former Watford manager Sean Dyche has proved a shrewd one, as he has built on his solid start to management at Vicarage Road and led the Clarets up the table away from the relegation zone. Although holding onto star striker Charlie Austin, who has over 20 goals already this season, who has been vital and they may be in danger of becoming a one man team, a play-off spot is still a possibility. However, given their own unpredictable form and the form of those around them, it might take a very strong finish to the season.

Cardiff City

Cardiff CityAfter threatening for so many years and three failed play-off campaigns in the past three seasons, the Welsh outfit finally look on course to join fellow south Wales side Swansea in the Premier League. Malky Mackay’s men have been leading the way in the Championship for some time now and will be desperate to avoid any late season slip ups. Their home form has proved vital in their success so far, having suffered just two defeats on their own soil this season. They must continue to make the Cardiff City stadium a fortress to maintain their title push. This is particularly due to the likes of Hull, Crystal Palace, and particularly Gianfranco Zola’s free scoring Watford currently challenging them for the two automatic promotion places. Automatic promotion will be a must this season given their recent fortunes in the play-offs and the inevitable late season dip in form that would see them surrender their place at the top of the table.

Charlton Athletic

After storming to the League One title last year, the Addicks look set to establish themselves in the Championship for another season. This is despite some poor form at The Valley, where Chris Powell’s side have just four victories so far; the joint worst in the division with Wolves. However they have redeemed themselves slightly with some impressive form on the road, though, with seven victories; only the current top three have won more. However, with home ties against lowly Wolves and Bristol City still to come, there is still time to turn this form around. For now, it is vital the London side stick with Powell and take their time in their pursuit of a return to Premier League football, and not make any rash or unnecessary decisions which has cost them in the past.

Crystal Palace

Crystal PalaceEight years after relegation at their first attempt from the Premiership, this is the Eagles’ best chance to return to the top flight since that heart breaking season. After years of languishing towards the wrong end of the table, Palace have been impressive all season. The departure of Dougie Freedman to Bolton in October could easily have derailed their promotion charge, but the appointment of Ian Holloway, who led Blackpool to the top flight three years ago, has proved a masterstroke as they continue to keep the pressure on high flyers Cardiff and Hull. While Manchester United bound Wilfred Zaha has grabbed many of the headlines, huge credit must go to strike partner Glenn Murray, who is the top league scorer in the country this season with 28 goals. With many of their remaining games are against teams in the bottom half of the table, Palace must surely be confident of claiming an automatic promotion spot. Although it could all come down to how Cardiff and particularly in form Watford fare in these last two months.

Derby County

It’s been a familiar story for Nigel Clough’s side this season as they seem destined for yet another mid-table finish. Mid-table is a term that has come to define the Rams in recent seasons, although they should have been in no rush for a promotion push following their humiliating spell in the Premier League in 2007-08. While they have achieved some impressive results, notably their 1-0 away victory at fierce rivals Nottingham Forest, it is Derby’s inability to build on results like these and string a decent set of results together that seems to hold them back. Their recent policy of allowing proven goalscorers such as Steven Davies and Theo Robinson to leave also seems questionable. However, with some solid home form and no real threat of relegation, perhaps building momentum in the Championship is the best way forward after their fateful one season stay in the top flight.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 1


jason-scotland_1670440aThe Tykes have probably become one of the more overlooked teams of the Championship since their promotion in 2006. But the South Yorkshire side deserve enormous credit for managing to preserve their status in England’s second tier, despite having to deal with the pressure of a relegation battle almost every season since promotion. They have faced similar difficulties this season but have gone a superb run since current boss David Flitcroft took over from the sacked Keith Hill in December, winning four of their last six games. They have also gone on an impressive FA Cup run, reaching the quarter-finals. Flitcroft faces a tough task to prove this is more than just a honeymoon period though, and must continue this dominant form if Barnsley’s inspiring stay in the Championship is to continue.

Birmingham City

It’s been a bitterly disappointing season so far for Lee Clark’s side. There were high hopes for the Blues following last season’s fourth place finish and the appointment of Clark, who had gained a notable reputation while at Huddersfield Town. But they have languished towards the bottom of the table throughout the season and have struggled for any form of consistency, with September’s 5-0 home defeat at the hands of Barnsley a particular low point. The presence of the likes of England hopeful Jack Butland and top goalscorer Marlon King in their ranks should be enough to steer them clear of relegation, but in an increasingly tight league, it is up to the players to start delivering the performances that this under-performing team is capable of.

Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn RoversA lack of stability has cost Rovers what looked like was going to be an imposing season. There was an air of inevitability surrounding Steve Kean’s resignation as manager in September after failing to win over the Blackburn faithful, despite leading them to the top of the table prior to his departure. The unrest among fans that dominated Kean’s time at the club seems to have made the club’s owners more impatient when it comes to bringing success to the club, as Kean’s replacement, Hanning Berg, was sacked after just 10 games in charge following a disappointing start to his tenure. The board mist give current time to boss Michael Appleton, who has had a promising start which included a superb 1-0 FA Cup win at Arsenal, to deliver some much needed consistency to get their promotion charge back on track.


Last season’s play-off finalists have been rocked by two shocking managerial departures which has overshadowed some very promising early season form. Ian Holloway left for league rivals Crystal Palace in November after three years at Bloomfield Road, and his replacement Michael Appleton lasted just two months in the job before leaving to join Blackburn. The Seasiders have took a gamble on new manager Paul Ince, whose last job in management saw him last just five months in charge at League One side Notts County. The former England midfielder is reunited with son Thomas, who the Lancashire side have come to heavily rely on throughout the season. Promotion looks just out of touch this time around but a strong end to the season is vital to show they are still a force to be dealt with.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton WanderersThe Trotters have struggled to adapt to life outside the Premier League in their first season not in the top flight for 11 years. A poor start to the season saw Owen Coyle sacked in October, leaving them struggling in 18th place. Dougie Freedman was recruited as his replacement after an impressive spell as manager at fellow Championship side Crystal Palace. The Scot had a sluggish start to his time at the Reebok as they struggled to string a decent run of results together. However, there are signs that Freedman is starting to work his magic, with Bolton winning their last three games and having lost just one of their last eight. With the likes of Cardiff, Middlesbrough, and Brighton still to come this season, promotion may be too much to ask, but if their current form can be maintained it could still leave the likes of Brighton looking over their shoulders.

Brighton & Hove Albion

The Seagulls have continued to flourish under the management of Gus Poyet. The former Chelsea midfielder has worked wonders at the south coast club since taking over in November 2009, and they have continued to impress this season. The club have been spurred on by huge attendances at the new Amex Stadium, which they moved into last season following their promotion from League One, and the team has responded magnificently. They have been beaten just once this calendar year, and have shown they are more than capable of beating the bigger teams by recording wins over fellow promotion hopefuls Cardiff and Hull last month. Although Poyet’s men do need to aim to convert more draws into wins at home to solidify their place in the play-offs, on current form, it looks as though they might take some stopping. They are certainly one of the dark horses going into the last few, vital games of the season.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

Reality Check Needed to end Meadow Lane Merry Go Round

Notts CountyWe often rue and bemoan the seemingly fading relevance and power of the ordinary fan in modern English football. This was summed up in a banner unveiled by a Manchester City fan in January during the Champions’ visit to Arsenal which criticized the £62 asking price for an away ticket at the Emirates on the day.

However, this month, we have perhaps seen an example of the more unfortunate side of fan power at Notts County.

At the beginning of the month, the League One side dismissed manager Keith Curle after less than a year in charge. This was despite the club being tenth in the league table and only five points off the play-offs after narrowly missing out on a spot on goal difference last season.

Curle’s departure means the Magpies are now searching for their seventh manager in three years! On paper, the former Chester City and Mansfield Town boss’ sacking would come as a complete shock. Curle lost just nine league games as Notts County manager, and only suffered his first away defeat with the club a week before his dismissal.

However, County’s notorious record for dismissing managers meant his exit following defeat to bottom of the table Hartlepool came as no shock. It had been, as the club’s Chief Executive Jim Rodwell said, “on the cards for a while.”

Curle’s departure has shown that County’s ruthless attitude towards managers shows no sign of halting. Even the club’s promotion from League Two in 2010 has not bought some much needed stability to the club. If anything it seems to have raised the standards higher and shortened the patience of those associated with the club.

Craig Short was shown the door in October 2010 after just 4 months and 16 league games in charge, despite the club being only being a few points off the play-off places and it being his first job ever in English football. Martin Allen suffered a similar fate to Short and Curle after he was axed last February following a dip in form, despite leading the club to the fourth round of the FA Cup and vastly improving the team’s fortunes.

It seems that certain individuals at Notts County have disregarded the years that preceded their successful promotion season in 2009/10 when venting their frustration at the club’s recent form.

Following relegation to England’s bottom division in 2004, the magpies struggled to adjust to life in League Two, and finished in the bottom half of the league table for five consecutive seasons. In fact, they only secured their Football League status in 2006 and 2008 thanks to results in their final home games of the season.

Keith CurleThere were days where the idea of becoming an established League One side seemed a million miles away. It was this hugely exasperating period that made the enthralling 2009/10 promotion season all the more sweet.

However, the success of that season seems to have given a section of supporters (and to some extent the board too) the idea that success in football is easy. The indication that they were destined to climb the football pyramid as easily as they claimed the League Two trophy three years ago. The brutal way in which Short, Allen, and Curle were dismissed as manager certainly seems to suggest so.

There was no indication that the team’s League One status was under threat when all three left their posts, which is the only issue that might have warranted a managerial change.

Like all managers, they ran into difficulties, particularly Curle, in the form of the falling attendances, disappointing home form, and the departure of striker and fan favorite Lee Hughes to Port Vale in January. But the managers are not being given enough time to address those problems and are being removed as soon as the side hit a poor run of form.

It’s almost as though the club are paranoid of being sucked back into their old ways and thus are taking unnecessary, drastic actions. Their experiences in League Two should have helped them appreciate the progress they have made since promotion. The recent criticism and questioning of the club’s ambition by fans has been ridiculous.

Chairman Ray Trew has bought much needed financial solidity to Meadow Lane since purchasing the club in February 2010, all at great personal risk too, investing an estimated £12 million of his own money. One thing Trew must now do is decide on the type of manager he wants at the club and stick with him.

He is running out of options when it comes to the category his managers come under in terms of style, having already tried riskier, more inexperienced managers such as Short, more experienced coaches such as Ince and motivational characters such as Allen.

When he does finally make his choice, all Notts County fans must get behind him and the manager for the sake of the clubs stability. Most importantly, they must continue to remember that things could be, and until recently have been, a lot worse.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2

Why a Paolo Di Canio Departure From Swindon Town Would be a Tragedy

It seems to be one of the guarantees of the modern English football season. Managers sacked by ruthless owners in an ever-increasing competitive business. And this season has been no exception.

Paolo Di CanioRoberto Di Matteo, who delivered an FA Cup victory, and of course, Chelsea’s first ever Champions League success last season, was axed by Roman Abramovich in November.

Nigel Adkins was shown the door by Premier League new-comers Southampton, despite taking them from 22nd in League One to England’s top division in just over two years.

And the soap opera at Blackburn Rovers continued when club legend Henning Berg was dismissed after just fifty seven days on the job.

But undoubtedly one of the most disappointing managerial developments of the season came this week at the County Ground, where Paolo Di Canio announced that he was considering his position as Swindon Town manager. The Wiltshire side has run into financial difficulties this season, and only narrowly avoided entering administration after being taken over by a local consortium at the end of January.

However, Di Canio was still prevented from making 3 signings on transfer deadline day as the Football League ruled the sale of the club had not yet been finalized. This led to the Italian’s announcement of the consideration of his managerial position. He described his position as “untenable,” and also announced his disappointment at a number of decisions being made by the club without his consent, particularly the sale of top scorer and last season’s player of the year Matt Ritchie to promotion rivals Bournemouth.

Di Canio has worked wonders at the League One club since taking over in May 2011 following their relegation to League Two. Although it was his first coaching role in England, it proved a shrewd appointment as Di Canio led the Robins to a League Two title in his first season in charge, meaning they were promoted back to League One at the first attempt.

This in itself was an impressive achievement considering how other teams relegated to England’s bottom division have fared in recent seasons. Out of the four sides that were relegated from League One in the 2010/11 season, Di Canio’s Swindon were the only team to mount a successful promotion campaign the following year.

In fact, the other three teams (Bristol Rovers, Dagenham and Redbridge, and Plymouth Argyle) have all struggled for stability and have languished towards the bottom end of the League Two table since relegation.

Swindon Town-League 2 ChampionsSwindon has continued to impress under Di Canio this season, and currently sits third in the League One table having lost just six games all season.

But it’s also Di Canio’s off the field antics that would also make his departure all the more sad. The 44 year old is one of the few characters remaining in English football with a more unorthodox yet refreshing approach to the game.

He is of course famed for winning FIFA’s fair play award in 2001, when he decided to catch the ball rather than score into an empty net when opposition goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying on the floor injured.

And the former West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday striker has continued to show he is not afraid to resort to unconventional methods in his management career when necessary. After finding his side 2-0 down within ten minutes to Preston North End in September, Di Canio decided to substitute his goalkeeper, Wes Foderingham, with 20 minutes of the first half still remaining, a decision which was widely criticised by Swindon fans.

Di Canio responded by offering to refund the money supporters had paid for their season tickets and also advised them to go and support their rivals, Oxford United, if they disagreed with his approach. He also offered to donate £30,000 of his own money last month in order to keep hold of his loan players after being told he would be given no extra funds for the January transfer window.

In short, Di Canio is everything as a manager that he was as a player.

Eccentric. Ruthless. Probably an official’s worst nightmare.

But he is also extremely talented and clearly appreciates and cares deeply for the club that employs him and the fans that adore him. He is also guaranteed entertainment that also draws some much needed and much deserved media attention to English football’s lower league, and perhaps more importantly, has turned around the fortunes of a club that was in danger of free fall.

In summary, Di Canio has had an instrumental impact at his first English club as manager, and for it to end on such a blunt and unworthy note would truly be one of the season’s greatest tragedies.

Written by @AndrewCrawley2