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A Period of Calm

Dave Challinor’s unexpected return to the National League to take charge of Stockport is quite a shock given he’d just signed a new 3 year deal, but it’s a great move from the Hatters’ perspective and one that will be the envy of many of their competitors. Hartlepool are currently sitting 10th in League Two and although they’d just suffered a 5-0 defeat to 6th place Leyton Orient, they are level with them on 23 points and in good shape, so this isn’t a retreat from a manager that feels exposed by the standard and belongs elsewhere.

You always imagine that when one gets promoted, he would be completely absorbed by looking to consolidate his reputation as a competent boss at the higher level, striving again for promotion to League One. However, Challinor has decided to drop down to take on the project at a club he made around 100 appearances for as a player. He’ll also undoubtedly be a little closer to family and is quite likely to be on a better deal financially so the attraction is understandable.

We seem to be in a phase where there are plenty of clubs removing managers but are there potentially more afoot? Last season’s absence of a relegation threat will have kept the wolves from the door but whilst we’re on our 3rd dismissal my feeling right now is that we won’t see another one at least until the new year.

From an outsider’s perspective there is possibly only one club that you can think of who would conceivably feel an urgency to part ways but according to my sources Phil Parkinson is under absolutely no pressure whatsoever at Wrexham. His next 3 league games Aldershot, King’s Lynn and Wealdstone are ones you’d expect them to win and will tell us a lot about where his Wrexham team are and what they need moving forward, but performances have been good and if anything, lapses of concentration are the general focus for improvement.

It’s unfortunate that when Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney were over they only managed a point in the games v Maidenhead and Torquay. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Wrexham this year, but I’m told being mid-table and 7 points off of the play off positions is not enough of a stumbling block at this point to warrant any speculation over the manager’s position.

Further to that point Wrexham have two games in hand having only lost 3 in 12 and if they were to get even 3 points from those fixtures, they would be a much healthier 9th place so there’s no reason for panic. I think we just look at what Stockport have done while being in a healthier position (currently 9th having played a game more) and it just makes you wonder, if the other pre-season title favourite is making early changes maybe Wrexham might consider it too?

It does beg the question, when there are such parallels between the two, why there is much higher expectation at one club than the other? Are Wrexham fans more realistic? Apparently, lots of them think it’ll happen next season but would no doubt take it if they were in the Top 7 come April time.

If we’re looking around at how others are doing, despite not winning a game this season I think the perspective at Dover is they are lucky Andy Hessenthaler has stuck to the task. The 12 point deduction and apparent lack of effort from the board to assist the manager with the additional funds to strengthen belies the apparent acceptance around the club and all things considered means that Hess seems anything but under pressure.

Mark Moseley, one of the National League’s most recent appointments, has lost 5 of his first 6, a run that will need curbing should he wish to see the season out. I think they have experienced some poor luck, are battling with a few key injuries but there is only so long their supporters and board will accept being winless at home.

Kevin Maher has only been the Southend boss for 5 minutes and we can’t judge anything on their back-to-back defeats without scoring before the Dover win because there are injuries, off the field considerations and a transitional phase of settling in to take into account. I just think it’s a really tricky job that is beyond simply improving the squad and improving results. With one ex-manager describing it a poisoned chalice, there is the psychological hangover of back-to-back relegations and fans’ discontent with the owner to overcome too.

Gary Johnson is rebuilding his side after coming so close last season and you just have absolute faith that he will get it right and improve the team to the point of competing in the play-offs even though they’re a way off at the moment. The question for Johnson will simply be when he wants to call it a day and I personally hope it doesn’t come anytime soon.

There are a few managers in the league that are seem incredibly secure even though they’re not expected to be promotion chasing sides. Ian Culverhouse, Alan Devonshire, Brian Stock to name a few. Is it fair to say that there is often an acceptance that the managers fit perfectly with what the club are trying to achieve on particular budgets and feel happy with that?

Has anyone considered if Hartlepool will dip into the National League to recruit their next manager to continue where Dave Challinor left off? There are many others that will be catching the eye of teams in the EFL. We have a really strong crop of managers throughout the 5th tier and these are the ten managers who I currently see as most likely to appeal.

  1. Andy Woodman

  2. James Rowe

  3. Paul Hurst

  4. Ian Burchnall

  5. Pete Wild

  6. Neil Ardley

  7. Phil Parkinson (Altrincham)

  8. Luke Garrard

  9. Phil Parkinson (Wrexham)

  10. Daryl McMahon

With 30 points from 14 games, something only Bromley on 27 with a game in hand can equal, you have to put Luke Garrard in the top 10 and you can rearrange the order countless times but the reason this doesn’t simply follow the league table positions is that there are many variables, like the length of time some managers have on their contracts and the experience they already have on the CV.

I think for Andy Woodman to have had the impact as he has puts him right at the top of my list. His vast experience at working at the very top of the game combined with the evidence that he can compete with the best in the 5th tier and create a PPG average since he took over that is better than any other manager in the same period means that it looks inevitable he will manage higher in his next job.

Ian Burchnall is on a similar trajectory although I feel like a manager is only a few defeats away from trouble at a club with such high expectations like Notts County. Then there’s the managers that have been there before like Phil Parkinson at Wrexham and Paul Hurst at Grimsby who you get the impression regardless of how they go this season, will always find a job back in the Football League.

Pete Wild has been there before with Oldham which came early in his managerial career, and you can’t deny he has proven himself by keeping Halifax in the promotion pack despite having a lesser budget than most. Neil Ardley is interesting because he has had previous success with AFC Wimbledon winning promotion to League One via the play-offs in 2016. He was relegated with Notts County in his first year, but you’d imagine his admirable start to the season with Solihull will put him in contention for bigger jobs too.

If James Rowe doesn’t do it with Chesterfield, he’ll be an obvious choice having only lost the once despite a ridiculous list of injuries. Yes, he’s had a great budget to work with, but the recruitment has stood up to the test and his management of what others would refer to as an injury ‘crisis’ deserves lots of credit.

It appears to be a contradiction that Phil Parkinson of Wrexham is both of interest to league clubs and under a degree of pressure to deliver with Wrexham but that’s just the way it works. As we know, clubs don’t define a manager as unemployable if they didn’t achieve something in their last role, sometimes they just believe their club will be a better fit than their previous engagement.

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