Mark Fotheringham was dismissed by Huddersfield Town in a rather matter-of-fact statement this week, becoming both the Terriers’ second permanent manager sacking and the 17th to change jobs in the Championship since the beginning of the season.
Fotheringham is also the 41st managerial casualty across the 92 league clubs in England. Aside from the sheer numbers, which obviously tell their own story, what can be read into what is happening at Championship level?
Multiple sackings the norm in 2022/23
Huddersfield are far from the only ones hiring and firing managers multiple times this season. Shaun Maloney took charge of his first Championship game in charge at Wigan on Monday after the Latics had already waved goodbye to Leam Richardson (who, awkwardly, was in the Sky Sports studio for the game) and Kolo Toure in a few short months.
Cardiff City are in the same boat as well, Sabri Lamouchi probably already wondering what he has walked into in South Wales after Steve Morison and Mark Hudson were given their marching orders. Blackpool didn’t give Michael Appleton all that long, but it was a lifetime compared to Watford’s patience with Rob Edwards.
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Is this unusual for the Championship?
The 2022/23 season is on course for reaching the highest number of managerial changes in the competition’s history. The current record is 19, set in the 2014/15 season.
However, it is not necessarily a trend. The previous three seasons had all seen exactly 11 managerial decisions within the season so we cannot say that there has been a growing frequency of managerial changes.
What are the pitfalls of relegation?
Regardless, it does feel as though there is a lot of panic, especially around the bottom of the Championship as clubs dread looking down into League One. The financial drop-off for falling into the third tier is nowhere near as great as the one from the Premier League to the Championship, but it is still substantial. Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday have been able to continue to sustain a higher wage budget than many Championship teams for a couple of seasons now but have done so at huge losses.
The smart evaluation of how much clubs would lose as a result of dropping from the second to third tier is at least £10m. £6m at least in TV money and then another £3-£6m in other revenue.
It is interesting to think about the likes of Wigan in this scenario. Having just been promoted, one would think that they considered relegation to at least be a possibility. But their actions give the impression that it would be a disaster for the club to go back down. Giving Leam Richardson a new deal a couple of months into the season seemed a fine decision given the success of his tenure, but then to sack him only weeks later and appoint a rookie manager, only to sack him and appoint someone they had rejected in that process is a chain of events that smacks of poor planning.
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Will the sacking trend continue?
It is noticeable now that despite the improved processes in clubs in terms of using data and smart decision-making, there are still a lot of knee-jerk decisions made by owners and directors.
There also appears to be a lot less patience in the stands with managers. Looking at the current situation now with Nathan Jones in the Premier League, or the Kolo Toure at Wigan example, or even Danny Schofield at Huddersfield earlier this year, opinions were formed by fans very early on and it seems difficult to turn that first impression around.
As always, in the modern world, the influence of social media can be felt here. The sheer amount of opinion on platforms such as Twitter — often negative and forcibly so — sometimes compels people to act to appease those fans. Social media can influence behaviour in the stands as well. Where it might take months or even years for a fanbase to turn against a manager, it is more often weeks or even days in the modern world.
It is not unreasonable to suspect the trend for an increased managerial turnaround may settle down. Certainly, it is pretty unusual for dismissals to occur late in a season, anyway, but with so many new appointments a fair number of those managers will be given at least some time to make an impact.