Of Managers, Sackings and Improvements.
Some managers are born great, some managers become great, some managers have greatness thrust upon them. The Football League sees them all. From Dario Gradi, masterminding a production line of young talent to rival any at Crewe, to David Moyes, working an apprenticeship at Preston before taking step up to the big time, to Nigel Adkins, who left Scunthorpe fans puzzling the need for a Mourinho despite his previous role at the club. In short, there is no obvious winning formula to become a manager. This time of year, we tend to see that fact manifest itself overtly, as the merry-go-round starts up, the chopping and changing begins and everybody wonders where Alan Curbishley will end up and where John Gregory has gone.
Having failed to win in ten league games for Huddersfield, Simon Grayson is under a little pressure from the fans. The FA Cup victory was nice, and papered over the emotional wounds of the 6-1 drubbing at Leicester (though the reward - another game against the Foxes - wasn't ideal) and bringing in Neil Danns is a step in the right direction, too. At the risk of having to pick egg out of my beard, I don't see Dean Hoyle as a man to make snap decisions - if Simon Grayson was the right man in September, he is still the right man in January (though the current barren spell won't go un-noticed, of course).
There will be others who are less generous with their time. Keith Hill failed to re-ignite Barnsley the way I hoped he might, while the same was true of Stale Solbakken at Wolves, who couldn't marry the expectation with the cloth-cutting going on. Henning Berg failed to see the axe of Venky's Ugly Sisters above him, and the curtain fell on the latest act of that particular pantomime.
I wonder about this. As regular readers of these pages will know, I'm a fan of stability within clubs. It remains a difficult call, however, as to whether stability is a cause of success or whether success is a cause of stability. I thought it would be instructive to see, for those clubs who have lost managers (and for those Huddersfield fans who think the club should do the same) whether the general Championship record for management changing is positive or negative, so I've gathered data for the last six seasons (52 management changes before 2012/13) and will draw my conclusions from that.
40 of the 52 management changes have been involuntary on the part of the manager involved. I've included the 'mutual consent' too, because, well, I don't need to explain. You know as well as I that it has taken on the terminology of an 'agreed sacking'. Does that forced replacement work, though? I've plotted a graph detailing the change in Points Per Game that the change brought about - using the date of the new manager taking the reins (I did it that way on the basis that until then, the sacking hadn't been 'completed' - you don't get any new manager effects until the new manager takes over).
The figures are quite informative. No matter when, during the season, teams have sacked their manager, the results have improved (hurrah for trigger-fingered chairmen!). What I would say, though, is that there is a very definite divide between that happening before January, and it happening after the New Year - if you're looking at a (average) 0.2 PPG increase to present performance that would take Town from 57 points for the season to 58 when rounded up (its 56.6 v. 57.5). Is that worth the payoff? I shouldn't have thought so.
There's another thing to consider, too. Are Town playing anything like their potential? Would a new manager bring about a massive new upturn in fortunes? Well, Town are averaging 1.23 points per game at the moment. While I'd be more comfortable with it up around 1.50, its not a disaster. If you look at the graph below, with the PPG of the team before the sacking working its way upwards (so the 2010/11 Bristol City, with 0 points from their 1 game are left-most, while the 2009/10 Middlesbrough, with their 23 from 13 are right-most) - there's a definite upturn in fortunes in the teams who are performing awfully, but it becomes less and less pronounced as you work your way upwards. For illustration, I've added a trendline (you may wish to print it out and draw a skier on it) and highlighted the two bars that represent the figures closest to Town's current figure in blue (you might want to click to zoom in on the graph - but the rough outline tells you enough).
The startling thing is that above Town's current 1.23 PPG, only three teams have increased their PPG by sacking their manager - one being Ipswich, who won their last two games, and the other two went up by 0.06 and 0.09 respectively. In short, when you're doing alright, particularly at this stage of the Championship season, you don't, historically benefit by sacking your manager.