Tuesday 12 February ~

Yesterday’s sacking of Iain Dowie was the most recent and stark example of what is happening at a handful of clubs just above the Championship relegation zone. Preston, Leicester, Coventry and Southampton are big(ish) names and towns evocative of football history, modern and ancient. However, managerial instability is chronic at these clubs, a problem exacerbated by phone-ins and message boards where instant reaction is loaded in favour of negative rather than positive opinion. Complaint is always heard louder than praise, or even low grumbling.

Dowie remained at Coventry with a background of takeover machinations, hoping that a new regime would bring a fresh start and money for the transfer market. Unfortunately for him (and his brother, Bob), it seems the new man, Ray Ranson, wanted his own manager. This upset Dowie's coach Tim Flowers, bringing a strong defence of his friend. A new populist and "customer orientated" regime sacking an inherited manager echoes the situation at Newcastle. Ranson, a self-professed Mr Football Businessman who had previously approached Aston Villa, Man City and Southampton before taking over at Coventry, claims the decision was due to a "difference of opinion". But even though his deadline to acquire 90 per cent of the shares has had to be extended until April 11 he seems to be making a personal impression already.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph recognised this, fretting over the fact that Dowie was publicly sacked at 8am on the training pitch by a Ranson "sporting two thin lips and one big axe". It even went as far as a direct comparison of the relative thanklessness of the Newcastle and Coventry jobs, concluding that the midlands club was almost as bad, "but without the fun of wasting millions of pounds and enraging thousands of topless Geordies along the way".

At the top of this mini-table of managerial woe is a club with an unpopular former England captain as manager, a man who keeps getting jobs on account of his name alone. But for how much longer? Contenders to replace Dowie at Coventry include Richard Money, "the most qualified manager outside the Premiership" and Nigel Pearson, who walked out of Newcastle last week. The list also includes Graeme Souness, which hints that things might get even worse before they get better. Ed Upright


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