2018-19 League Two Managerial Preview: can Harry stay Kewell?

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 26 July 2018, 11:54

John Coleman and Jimmy Bell’s title win with Accrington Stanley last season will inspire many League Two managers that success can be found with modest budgets. Who will be the managerial stars of this League Two season? Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) previews the 2018-19 campaign.

Title Winner: Danny Cowley – Lincoln City

Unity was key to Stanley’s success last season: when they went on a four-game losing streak in December, the whole club stood behind the manager and that allowed them to quickly re-gain momentum.

At Sincil Bank, Danny and Nicky Cowley have a similar relationship with their club. They are very grateful to the board for giving them an opportunity to manage professionally, having previously been working part-time with Concord Rangers and Braintree Town.

Equally, they are grateful to the fans for the unanimous support and the atmosphere.

If the duo had wanted to, they could easily have landed a Championship job, where they would have earned more but had to prove themselves all over again and, potentially, move into the managerial merry-go-round.

Instead, they are happy to take longer to build the club up and while they might not earn as much instantly, they have more security and are able to keep the family in one place; it’s not out of the question that the duo could still be there in 10 years.

In the meantime, they have added pace and quality in forward areas in John Akinde, Bruno Andrade and Shay McCartan while Harry Toffolo looks a strong addition at left-back.

Cowley’s Lincoln tick all the boxes for potential champions; the togetherness at the club could play a huge part.

Surprise Package: Harry Kewell – Crawley Town

12 months ago, many onlookers were sceptical of Crawley Town’s appointment of Harry Kewell: other than a glittering playing career, his only relevant experience was a brief, forgettable stint as coach of Watford’s Under-23s.

Suggestions that the former Leeds and Liverpool winger would have a short stint in Sussex looked accurate when he had overseen just four league wins from a possible 18 after a 4-0 loss at Wycombe.

In the aftermath of that defeat, Kewell went over to a disgruntled supporter: there’s differing accounts of the nature of this interaction but, the fact some fans weren’t happy with how the Aussie handled it (fairly or not) at least gives us an insight into the pressure he was under.

Few would have predicted what happened next. The Red Devils got a crucial 3-1 win over Exeter the following Tuesday, kick-starting a run of 10 wins in 14 games that propelled them, remarkably, into play-off contention.

In doing so, they played an exciting brand of football, with cute triangles down the right channel through Lewis Young and Enzio Boldewijn. The latter has gone to Notts County but quality has been added in the enigmatic Dominic Poleon, super-sub Ollie Palmer and assist-king Filipe Morais.

If Kewell can help tighten his side up at the back, then maybe those post-match exchanges will become a thing of the past.

First Casualty: David Flitcroft - Mansfield Town

We should make it clear that we have nothing against David Flitcroft personally, nor do we wish for him to lose his job.

Of the 24 managers starting the League Two season however, he is arguably under the most pressure.

When Steve Evans left Mansfield in February – Peterborough had nothing to do with his decision to resign, obvs – the team was in fine form with just two defeats in 21 and looked set to bulldozer it’s way into the top three.

They had got into that position though, by playing early balls into Kane Hemmings and Danny Rose, only bringing the midfield into play when one of the duo held it up.

Flitcroft, when he came in, encouraged players to keep the ball on the deck for longer and that slight shift in strategy might have interfered with momentum; the Stags ultimately fell out of the top seven altogether.

The Bolton-born boss was perhaps fortunate to keep his job this summer, but he is planning another change to a 3-5-2 formation.

That might suit attacking full-backs like Hayden White and Mal Benning but many players, who were used to 4-4-2 under Evans, might take time to become accustomed to this new system; it remains to be seen whether Flitcroft will get that time.

Key appointment: Paul Tisdale – MK Dons

Tisdale is the best appointment MK Dons could have made after relegation from League One.

Chairman Peter Winkelman has done a lot of good things for the club but, perhaps, his confidence has taken a knock after two relegations in three years and there are question marks about his off-field leadership.

For that reason, MK Dons needed an authoritative figure in charge; Dan Micciche, a rookie with only Under-16s coaching experience, was never going to be that figure, even if he had tried to re-connect the club with it’s possession principles.

In Tisdale, they have a man who ticks more than one box: on the one hand, he encouraged neat interplay over a relatively successful 12 years at Exeter, where he also developed plenty of young players, an encouraging sign given the promise MK’s academy showed last term.

Equally, ‘Tis has the presence to enforce his ideas. He speaks calmly and takes emotion out of situations; a skill that, although not necessarily suited to big occasions, can be valuable in overseeing steady progress over long periods.

We can expect, therefore, that the power dynamic between him and Winkelman could be very different to that of most manager-chairman relationships.

Tisdale may be given a free reign to run all aspects of the club, in hope of getting the Buckinghamshire boys back on an upward trajectory.

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