Nineteen Championship managers have lost their jobs since the end of last season. Phil Hay hears Neil Warnock’s view of the situation.
Neil Warnock has warned that the rapid turnover of managers in English football is getting out of hand, describing the spate of sackings this season as “ridiculous”.
The Leeds United boss voiced concern at what he claimed was an impulsive attitude amongst club owners as he spoke out again in defiance of criticism of his tenure at Elland Road.
Warnock has survived two periods of intense pressure during his first – and potentially only – full season in charge of Leeds, emerging from spells of abuse from United’s supporters to take the club’s fight for a Championship play-off place into the last two months of the term.
The division has seen no fewer than 19 managerial changes since the end of last season, beginning with Nick Barmby’s exit from Hull City and continuing most recently with Alex McLeish leaving Nottingham Forest, and Warnock appeared to be on the verge of becoming the 20th departure three weeks ago after admitting that he would willingly stand aside if United’s owner, GFH Capital, chose to replace him.
Warnock’s contract expires in June and neither he nor Leeds will seek to extend his deal if the Yorkshire club finish beneath the Championship’s top six. The 64-year-old has come under attack during the second half of a season in which Leeds have struggled to escape mid-table.
But the former Sheffield United and QPR boss – appointed by United in February 2012 – said: “Whatever will be will be with me but I’ve brought most of our players in and it’s taken time. I read recently that only three players who were in the squad for the last game of last season are still in the squad now. That’s a massive turnaround.
“I don’t think anybody realises what a manager has to do in that situation. This has been as difficult a job as I’ve had and that’s why I don’t enjoy the criticism of me. I don’t think I warrant it.
“But you’ve got to sell newspapers and radio. People have got to have their say. It’s a hazard of management which wasn’t there when I first started. There were no phone-in programmes or tweeting. I know what I think about tweeting – and it’s not ‘tweets’.
“A lot of things have changed and when you look at 50-odd changes at 90-odd clubs in one season, it’s getting ridiculous. You’re really saying that if you don’t get promoted you’re going to change the manager. What chance have you got?
“You’ve got new owners coming in and everything regarding success and financial gain means you give a manager 12 months and then get somebody else in. That’ll be the answer. But it isn’t the answer.”
Barmby’s dismissal in May began steady sequence of departures. Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers have both been under the control of three different bosses this season Michael Appleton has managed both – and only nine Championship coaches have survived the past 10 months, Warnock included.
Kenny Jackett is the league’s longest-serving manager having held his position at Millwall since November 2007. Millwall were a League One Club for two-and-a-half years under him and have been in the Championship since 2010. It is widely accepted at the New Den that Millwall’s potential, budget and gate receipts make a mid-table standing in England’s second division a fair benchmark for Jackett.
“There’ll never be another Kenny Jackett,” Warnock said. “There’ll never be another manager in the Championship who’s in his job for (six) years. You won’t get that opportunity.”
The need for Leeds to consider Warnock’s replacement is already on them, with the United boss ready to clear his desk unless the last 10 games of the season take his squad into the play-offs.
The club were six points adrift prior to today’s game at Crystal Palace and are a long way short of the tally of 75 points traditionally needed to secure sixth place. Warnock has drawn encouragement from a favourable run-in which will see Leeds play six of their final 10 matches at home.
United, nevertheless, are in the market for his successor amid persistent links to Nigel Adkins, the former Southampton boss who was sacked in January. Adkins is yet to finalise a settlement with Southampton and discussions about a severance package appear to have grown increasingly acrimonious. He will be unable to take up another job until the matter is resolved.
GFH Capital director Salem Patel clarified Warnock’s situation last month saying: “Neil knows that his contract’s up at the end of the season and if the club aren’t promoted then that’s the way the situation is going to stay.”
Patel’s comments came after Warnock reacted to criticism of him by United’s fan during an FA Cup tie at Manchester City by saying he had no intention of remaining at Elland Road if promotion slipped away.
“There was all the speculation and that’s why I said that if we don’t go up, I wouldn’t be here,” Warnock said. “I’ve heard Neil Lennon, Nigel Adkins and all sorts of people mentioned (as his replacement) but I don’t worry about that. All I know is that I’ve got Leeds in a far healthier situation than they’ve been for years on the field of play.
“Yes, if we spent more money then we might have got better but that’s the future for the club, that’s the way they’ll go. (The club) will bring better players in over the next 12 months but you have to walk before you run in this game.
“The Championship’s a hard league and it’s easy sitting on the outside criticising but when you look at the club and the vast amount of changes that have happened, I’m not sure how many managers would have coped, changed the whole squad and still given us a chance to get to where we want to be.”