League One Sack Race – Opinion

League One is set to be another season of twists and turns with Peterborough United and Barnsley looking to bounce back from playoff disappointment alongside side fellow promotion hopefuls Derby County and Bolton Wanderers. 

Last season, the managerial merry-go-round was in full swing with long-serving managers such as Gareth Ainsworth and Karl Robinson leaving Wycombe Wanderers and Oxford United and Liam Rosenior lasting less than three months at Derby County. 

I have looked at three managers who will be under pressure to succeed immediately.

John Mousinho – Portsmouth

Mousinho gained plenty of experience as a player making over 500 appearances for clubs such as Oxford United, Brentford and Wycombe.

He was appointed manager in January 2023 following the dismissal of Danny Cowley with Pompey sitting 15th in the League One standings. At the time, BBC Radio Solent described it as a ‘shock appointment’ as Mousinho was taking his first step into management. 

His first 23 games in charge yielded 39 points, including 10 wins and only four defeats and briefly allowed the club to flirt with the idea of making the playoffs. After a good start to his managerial career, why is the former Stevenage man on this list?

Pompey had not won a game in the final nine of the Cowley reign and the club sat in 15th despite once harbouring thoughts of a promotion push. They averaged around 18000 at Fratton Park last season and the fans expected more.

 The club were at a low ebb and needed a lift, one often associated with a new manager. Unlike other managers on the circuit, Mousinho was unscarred from previous failures and somewhat galvanised the squad.

However, this season he will have a squad that reflects him and has already been busy in the transfer market by adding no fewer than eight players to the roster. He has added quality in the shape of goalkeeper Will Norris who joins from Burnley after being instrumental in Peterborough’s charge to the playoffs last season and forward Anthony Scully following his disappointing season at Wigan Athletic.

By acting quickly in the summer window and bringing in a host of players Mousinho is taking the opportunity to stamp his mark on the club and bring in the additions he wants. This will add pressure on the manager and he will need his new charges to gel immediately and have the club challenging towards the top end of the table right from the off. A failure to do this and I fear the calls for a more experienced man will start being heard.

Ruben Selles – Reading

Selles is due to take the Reading reigns on July 1st after the club had a long, drawn-out search for a permanent manager after Paul Ince was dismissed. The Royals were linked to Chris Wilder, Luke Williams and John O’Shea before the former Southampton coach was handed the role.  

With the time taken to appoint and the speculation focussed on other names, I would question whether Selles was the man they wanted for the role.

The man from Valencia arrives at the Madejski Stadium after a brief spell at the helm of relegated Southampton, a spell that saw the club earn just 10 points from his 16 Premier League matches. 

His coaching career has seen him experience football all over Europe, including Greece, Norway, Denmark and his homeland before arriving in England. 

What he has walked into at Reading is going to take all his experience and for him to deal with situations he has not faced before. The club were deducted six points following a breach of an agreed plan after a previous sustainability rule breach and it was these points that saw them relegated.

Manager Ince was given the boot with just five games left of the season meaning that former striker Noel Hunt took on the challenge of rescuing the team from relegation. Three points from five games did not achieve that. 

Selles joins a club that, at the time of writing, has a further EFL charge hanging over them for not paying their players on three separate occasions. He is working for an owner who was charged with causing the club to breach EFL regulations and The Royal’s fan base is, at best, disgruntled with the state of their club. 

The squad requires a huge rebuild after 11 players were allowed to leave at the end of their contracts. The new manager will need to identify targets to join a club in a league he has never experienced and on a smaller budget to allow the club to at least try to improve their financial status. 

To add to his list of problems, the club may yet face another points deduction over the non-payment of wages should the EFL decide upon that punishment. With all of these problems to deal with, I can see Ruben Selles leaving Reading in the not-too-distant future.

Shaun Maloney – Wigan Athletic

The problems at Wigan Athletic are well known. Following six failures to pay players over the last season, the club are scheduled to start the League One campaign on minus eight points. The points loss gives Maloney and his side a huge mountain to climb and they need to get points on the board quickly. 

After relegation, nine players left the club and only one has been added ready for the new campaign. Scottish Under 21 international defender Liam Morrison has joined on loan from FC Bayern II. Maloney needs to act quickly to get a group of players ready for a gruelling League One season.

Before taking on the poison chalice at Wigan, the former Celtic winger had a brief spell in charge of Hibernian but was sacked after just six wins and only four months at the helm. Before that, he had coached alongside former Wigan manager Roberto Martinez as Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ consistently fell short in major tournaments. 

Thus far, his management career has returned a smidgen over one point per game, a return that is unhealthy and will see him relieved of his duties pretty quickly. 

The crisis club have managed to find a new owner after local businessman Mike Danson was confirmed to have taken over. Danson is also involved in Super League side Wigan Warriors. Following the takeover, it was confirmed, as you would expect, that Maloney would remain as manager. If the club start poorly and begins to get further away from safety, I question how much time the Scotsman will be given.

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