EFL Preview 2020/21: 15 tasty managerial narratives to keep an eye on this season

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 07 September 2020, 10:10

EFL clubs have already taken to the field in the Carabao Cup but it’s the action in the three leagues we are looking forward to the most when proceedings get underway this week.

Below we bring you 15 tasty managerial narratives to whet your appetite ahead of the big kick-off...

1. How will Bournemouth fare without Eddie Howe?

It’s going to be extremely strange not seeing Eddie Howe in the Bournemouth dugout this coming season. 

After all, his second spell at the Cherries lasted a touch short of eight years - virtually unheard of in the current managerial climate.

A familiar face - to fans at least - has stepped up to the plate in Jason Tindall, Howe’s long-serving assistant.

He’ll be keen to branch out in his own right but logic suggests he’ll look to follow a similar way of running things to Howe, aka ‘The Bournemouth Way’. 

It will be somewhat of a rebuild as the new gaffer has already lost the likes of Nathan Ake, Aaron Ramsdale, Ryan Fraser and Harry Wilson - and there could be further exits on the horizon.

2. Can Neil Warnock make it to nine promotions?

In June the managerial arena’s version of marmite returned to the dugout for the umpteenth time with buckets of confidence and passion. 

He swatted away the threat of relegation and now, while Middlesbrough aren’t amongst the top cluster of ante-post favourites for promotion into the Premier League, Neil Warnock - with a glint in his eye - will be bidding for an unbelievable NINTH promotion of his career.

More imminently, the veteran boss is just three games away from racking up 1,500 games as a manager.

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Could number nine be on the cards?

3. Will Watford go through a season without sacking a manager?

Let’s face it, probably not.

The trigger-happy Hornets romped through three permanent managers last season. 

But if that sounds hectic, the last time they were in the Championship (2014/15) they had four different managers in a campaign which, perhaps surprisingly, ended in promotion.

The latest incumbent, Vladimir Ivic, arrives with an impressive record but the Championship is a notoriously tough and competitive division which has ruptured many a reputation.

Nigel Pearson could be back in a flash.

4. Can Gareth Ainsworth continue to surpass expectations?

The Sack Race’s newly crowned EFL Manager of the Season - a prestigious award you know - has two promotions in his last three seasons at Wycombe. 

Gareth Ainsworth loves nothing more than proving the doubters wrong and surpassing expectations, but surely promotion to the Premier League is a step too far…isn't it?

75/1 for the optimistic amongst you.

Keeping Wycombe in the second-tier will be a titanic feat in itself, given the gap between the leagues, but with Ainsworth at the helm anything is possible, and we mean anything.

5. Can Barnsley keep hold of Gerhard Struber?

What a breath of fresh air Gerhard Struber was last season.

His appointment may have raised eyebrows yet he swiftly won over fans with his passion, emotion and man-management skills.

The Tykes now have to do everything in their power to keep hold of him.

6. What can Garry Monk muster up at Sheffield Wednesday?

To many, Sheffield Wednesday were very fortunate not to have their 12 point deduction slapped on the previous campaign, which would have seen the Owls sink down to League One.

Instead, the punishment comes into effect this season as Garry Monk’s men start the season cemented to the foot of the Championship, already a dozen points behind everyone else.

They aren’t actually the favourites to be relegated - Wycombe are odds-on - but it’s more than likely to be a tough old season for Monk and his troops who lost seven of their final 11 games last season.

It’s worth noting that Sheff Wed have changed managers in each of the last three seasons...

7. Who is waiting in the wings for a new job?

There’s some class managers waiting for their next opportunity in the dugout, and given that there have been 44 EFL managerial changes over the course of the last year, you’d expect a few more this term. 

The new season could well see Eddie Howe, Paul Cook, Lee Johnson, Chris Hughton and Danny Cowley return to the fold, while there are plenty of other managers looking for a route back in, including Paul Tisdale, Nigel Pearson, Nigel Clough, Sol Campbell, Dino Maamria, Jonathan Woodgate, and Michael Jolley. 

And let’s not forget Sam Allardyce and Mark Hughes.

8. Will League One’s sleeping giants wake up?

This will be the ninth time in 10 years that Sunderland begin a season with a manager who wasn’t in charge of the club at the start of the previous campaign. Jack Ross is the anomaly.

Current boss Phil Parkinson replaced the Scot in October, but he’s yet to fully convince with the Black Cats falling to their lowest position in their 141-year history - not all his fault - meaning anything other than a fast start is likely to result in the club making yet another managerial change.

Kenny Jackett has been in charge of Portsmouth for the last three seasons, during which he’s finished 8th, 4th and 5th in League One - reaching the play-offs twice - and two EFL Trophy finals: he won the first and is still waiting to play the second.

Considering that Pompey have never won a play-off game, it goes without saying that automatic promotion is an absolute must. If they are off the pace, don’t be surprised if a new boss climbs into the hot seat. A return for Paul Cook perhaps…

Likewise, Ipswich we be determined to escape the clutches of the third-tier. They enjoyed a bright start last term before they inexplicably plummeted down the league ladder to 11th, their worst standing since the early 1950s.

Ipswich - rather bizarrely - decided to hand a stonking new five-year contract to boss Paul Lambert mid-way through their torrid run last season, meaning they’ll have to stump up the cash if they want to replace him anytime soon. 

“Do I feel under pressure?,” said Lambert recently. “No. Not one iota.”

9. When will Wigan appoint a new manager?

Who knows!

Wigan are currently the only EFL club without a permanent manager. 

For the moment at least it looks like it will be Leam Richardson who leads the Latics in League One, as it’s him who has been overseeing first team affairs since Paul Cook left last month.

Richardson’s only previous managerial experience was a six-month spell at Accrington Stanley during the 2012/13 season. 

10. What will happen next at Charlton?

The off-field chaos continues to overshadow the club. 

How on earth Lee Bowyer goes about his daily business is a complete mystery in itself. He deserves huge credit for conducting himself in such an admirable manner during this most tumultuous of times at Charlton.

Few would loathe him for deciding to leave should another club show an interest, but he’s remained loyal to date and fans will hope that he stays and works his magic once again.

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Lee Bowyer will once again try to block out the off-field carnage

11. How will the managerial novices fare?

Over the last few years there’s been a real trend in giving young or rookie managers a chance to shine. 

This has been the case more so than ever over the last year and while the financial situations of certain clubs certainly factors into the decision as many opt to promote from within, either way it makes for a rather unpredictable and intriguing season as many managers will be learning on the job.

In the Championship Jason Tindall and Carlos Corberan make their managerial bows at Bournemouth and Huddersfield respectively, while Dean Holden was the surprise choice to replace long-serving Lee Johnson at Bristol City.

In the lower leagues a quest to unearth the next Ritchie Wellens, David Artell or Ryan Lowe is the goal, with all three bosses played entertaining and attractive football en route to winning promotion to League One last season.

Speaking of League One, Jake Buxton makes his debut at Burton Albion after he replaced long-serving boss Nigel Clough. Neil Critchley has only managed a few games at Blackpool, with much expected of the former Liverpool U-23 boss, and Ben Garner has overseen 17 games at Bristol Rovers. Russell Martin, appointed MK Dons manager in November, begins a season at the helm for the first time.

Meanwhile, League Two is a caldron of managerial novices bidding to shine.

Steve Ball is a Football League manager for the first time at Colchester, as is Mark Molesley at Southend, whereas Mark Bonner (Cambridge), Chris Beech (Carlisle), and Alex Revell (Stevenage) each start seasons for the first time in the dugout - they were all appointed mid-way through the previous campaign.

Elsewhere Mike Jackson at Tranmere and David Dunn at Burton are looking for more success and longevity from their second spells in management.

12. Can Ryan Lowe make it a hat-trick?

Ryan Lowe will be hoping to achieve the unheard of feat - we think! - of winning three promotions in his first three full seasons as a manager.

The Scouser led Bury into League One in 2019, then repeated this accomplishment with Plymouth last season.

The 41-year-old has taken to management like a duck to water, employs an attractive brand of football, and has an extremely promising career ahead of him - he’s likely to be linked with a number of League One and Championship vacancies in the immediate future.

13. Can Ian Evatt sprinkle his managerial magic upon Bolton?

After the most painful period in the club’s history, Bolton fans will at last be feeling excited ahead of a new season.

The Trotters snatched Ian Evatt from Barrow’s grasp and the boss, along with some fresh faces on the field, will be looking to bring his dazzling brand of football to his new club.

Barrow bagged the tag ‘Barrowcelona’ last season en route to their promotion into League Two, and it was Evatt who orchestrated the proceedings. His new side start the season as the favourites for promotion, and with goal-machine Eoin Doyle now nestled in their ranks, a promising campaign could be on the cards, at last.

14. Simon Weaver is already top of one table

Simon Weaver has yet to manage a Football League game yet he’s already the longest-serving manager in the top-four divisions.

He first took charge of Harrogate all the way back in 2009 and has since taken the North Yorkshire outfit - who are owned by his dad Irving - from the Conference North to the Football League in the last three years, following their historic promotion last season.

A third promotion in four seasons is admittedly far-fetched but avoiding the drop will be a huge achievement in itself.

15. Can Harry Kewell stabilise Oldham?

Harry Kewell is back for a third crack at the EFL having previously managed Crawley Town and Notts County - you can read our interview with the boss here.

The Australian has joined one of the most trigger-happy clubs in the land - he’s remarkably Oldham’s SEVENTH manager in TWO years - so stability is key here.

Expectations won’t be overly high but fans will demand positivity, progress, and a first season without a managerial switch since 2013/14.

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