Leeds United: Championship’s sack race picking up pace

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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A number of new bosses have found their first game in change has been against Leeds United. Leon Wobschall reports.

SHAKING hands with a new face in the opposing managers’ dug-out in their first game in charge is nothing new for Brian McDermott in 2013-14.

Tomorrow evening will represent the fourth occasion so far this season in which the Leeds United manager has pitted his wits against a new man – or men – directing operations at a rival club after next opponents Wigan Athletic parted company with Owen Coyle yesterday morning by ‘mutual agreement’.

Traditionally, bosses across the land may be wary of the managerial bounce usually associated with new men at the helm, but this season’s evidence suggests that McDermott should not be too overly concerned given recent developments.

Leeds have already faced three sides, Brighton and Hove Albion, Derby County and Middlesbrough, who have been led out by a new manager so far this season and the results have been rewarding on two of those occasions.

It was the opening day of the season that United faced their first managerial newcomer in Brighton and Hove Albion manager Oscar Garcia, with Spaniard’s Championship baptism being a losing one in front of a huge home crowd of 33,432, thanks to a last-gasp strike from £1m man Luke Murphy in a 2-1 victory.

Basque-born Aitor Karanka was also to rue a disappointing start to his tenure at Middlesbrough on November 23, with the ex-Real Madrid assistant-managers’ maiden game in command of Boro ending in a identikit 2-1 reverse at Elland Road.

Leeds didn’t fare so well against bogey side Derby County on October 5, with the Rams crowning Steve McLaren’s first game in charge with a 3-1 triumph at Pride Park – their tenth consecutive victory over United.

But when it comes to facing new men at LS11, the portents are set fair on the evidence of this and the last couple of seasons.

Back in February, Paul Ince was handed an arduous trip to Leeds in his first appointment as Blackpool boss, which ended in a 2-0 reverse, thanks to goals from David Norris and Steve Morison.

That remains the last time United took the field in a home game on a Wednesday, with home supporters hoping for a re-run of those events on February 20, in front of another bumper crowd.

At the start of the 2012-13 campaign, ex-Wolves manager Stale Solbakken also copped defeat in his first league game at the Wanderers helm in a 1-0 reverse at Leeds.

Last season, Ian Holloway’s first game in charge of Crystal Palace was also at Elland Road and ended in a losing cause in a 2-1 defeat back on November 24.

Two faces have been entrusted to take care of first-team matters for Wigan tomorrow evening in West Yorkshire in the shape of first-team coach Graham Barrow and assistant-manager Sandy Stewart following Coyle’s ill-fated six-month spell at the DW Stadium.

Coyle only took over at Wigan in June following Roberto Martinez’s departure to Merseyside giants Everton, with the former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers boss leaving the Latics 14th in the Championship.

But a third successive home loss in Sunday’s 3-1 reverse to Derby, coming just three days after a 2-1 reverse against Belgian outfit Zulte Waregem – which significantly damaged the club’s hopes of reaching the UEFA Europa League knock-out stages – signified the end of the Scot’s disappointing tenure in Lancashire.

It also provided a spot of schadenfreude in the process for McLaren, who was pipped for the Wigan post by Coyle in the summer.

The mood was mutinous and ugly at the DW on Sunday – on a dark weekend which saw three Championship managers dismissed in the space of three days.

First to go was Barnsley chief David Flitcroft, whose 2-0 victory over United back in January at a black day for visiting supporters at Oakwell did much to land him the Reds post on a full-time basis early in the New Year.

The 39-year-old was axed shortly after Barnsley’s 3-0 home reverse to fellow strugglers Birmingham, which dumped the South Yorkshire outfit to the foot of the Championship after a wretched return of just two wins in 17 league games.

Just down the M1, activity the following day saw Dave Jones relieved of his duties at Sheffield Wednesday following several weeks of speculation, with the day ending with another managerial departure in the second tier, courtesy of Coyle’s departure.

All this on a Sunday which also saw Martin Jol axed by Premier League toilers Fulham, with a total of 15 managers having now lost their jobs at English professional clubs since September 28 in a frenzied number of departures.

On his exit from Latics, Coyle commented: “It is with great sadness that we have made this decision and I would like to thank all my football staff and the staff at the club, who have been very supportive of me in my time here. “I am confident that with this set of players, the team can keep moving in the right direction.”

Speaking prior to his departure on Sunday, Coyle – on the topic of criticism from fans and the question of his job being under threat, said: “If they think there’s something better then that’s all good and well, that’s why we love football, it’s all opinion.”

Early favourite to replace Coyle is Holloway, who enjoyed so much success at Wigan’s Lancastrian rivals Blackpool.

Others in the reckoning reportedly include former Manchester United assistant-manager Mike Phelan, with ex-Latics chief Paul Jewell, the former Bradford City striker, also linked with a sentimental return to Wigan, the club where he made his managerial name.

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