As the new season approaches, managers are busy putting together a squad that they believe can produce a successful campaign whether that be to avoid relegation, push for the playoffs or to win the division. Of the managers currently in situ, I have given my opinion on three that I feel will struggle to see out the season.
Duncan Ferguson – Forest Green Rovers
He may only have been in the job for a few months but I don’t see how this partnership works out.
The former Everton forward took the job at The New Lawn Stadium in January following the sacking of Ian Burchnall. The club were bottom of League One at the time with owner Dale Vince describing the link-up as ‘magical’.
Ferguson’s first 18 games have brought six points and 14 defeats, suggesting it is far from magical. In his first pre-season as manager, the former Everton forward has made moves to add former Charlton Athletic defender Ryan Inniss and Brighton and Hove Albion academy graduate Teddy Jenks.
‘Big Dunc’ is hardly known to be a shrinking violet and was never afraid to air his thoughts during his playing days. He was sent off nine times during his career and his eight Premier League red cards put him alongside Patrick Vieira and Richard Dunne with the most red cards. The former striker was sentenced to three months in prison following an on-field incident with Raith Rovers’ John McStay while at Rangers in 1994.
The Scotsman has spoken of how he fought off two burglars at his home in Lancashire in 2001, allegedly beating them up during the middle of the night.
I am not suggesting that Ferguson is likely to get violent towards the Forest Green hierarchy but believe that if the club make a poor start to the campaign his frustration will grow and I can see the former Scotland international walking away.
Ian Dawes – Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere Rovers appointed former assistant and caretaker manager Dawes as the man to replace the sacked Micky Mellon in May 2023.
Dawes began his playing career at Everton before moving to rivals Liverpool and eventually dropping into non-league football. His coaching career started back at Anfield as an academy coach before managing in Malta with Floriana. He joined the Tranmere Rovers following stints with Shrewsbury Town, Bangor City and Blackpool.
After replacing Mellon, he oversaw two wins from eight matches as Rovers finished 11th in League Two. Following the appointment of Dawes, fans were less than pleased with the decision of Chairman Palios.
Some called for a way of cancelling season tickets, others called Palios’ decision pathetic and some have already given Christmas as a time for a change.
The former Liverpool man has made some early moves to shape his squad by adding Regan Hendry, Luke Norris, Kristian Dennis and Connor Jennings from Forest Green, Stevenage, Carlisle and Hartlepool respectively.
Midfielder Hendry joins the club permanently following 19 games on loan last season at a rating of 7.27 from FotMob and Luke Norris leaves League One-bound Stevenage having found the net on ten occasions last season.
Jennings returns to the club for a second spell after contributing 62 goal involvements in his 166 appearances but it is Dennis who is perhaps the biggest deal so far as he bagged 20 goals as Carlisle earned promotion to League One last season.
Dawes has acquired some experienced forward players and will be looking to add to his squad defensively before the season kicks off. My worry is his inexperience, the inexperience of his assistant Neill Danns and the fact that the supporters are against the appointment from the outset, meaning the new man and the board will instantly be under pressure to get results.
Mat Sadler – Walsall
At the beginning of Walsall’s search for a new boss, I gave my reasons why Danny Cowley should be handed the managerial reigns at the Banks’s Stadium.
One of the reasons behind this was how Cowley and brother Nicky can reinvigorate a fan base and raise the optimism around the football club, something that The Saddlers need. The club’s decision to appoint their former player to the role has caused a mixed reaction.
The responses to the club’s official announcement on Twitter were mixed, with fans welcoming Sadler’s style of play with others claiming the owners have taken the cheap option.
Since defeat in the 2015-16 League One playoffs after a third-place finish, the club have drifted somewhat and suffered relegation to the fourth tier in 2018-19. Since then they haven’t managed a finish above 16th in a full 46-game season and haven’t looked like kicking on.
Mat Sadler has a big job on his hands and will have to learn quickly in his first full-time role to galvanise the club and get the fans fully on board. He has surrounded himself with experience on his coaching staff, appointing former Wycombe Wanderers manager Gary Waddock as his assistant. Waddock has managed over 450 games and his experience could prove vital to the young coach.
He has started to shape a squad in readiness for the new season, bringing in five players and releasing 11. The Danny Johnson signing could be an important one after his successful loan spell last term but a good start and a positive brand of football will be key to Sadler’s survival as manager.