Lincoln City coach Michael Skubala got off to a losing start this weekend, with his side going down 1-0 to Stevenage.
However, if his quotes in this weekend’s Football League Paper are anything to go by, he won’t let it affect him too much. The former Leeds United caretaker was reflecting on the progress of his counterparts at Nottingham Forest and Ipswich, confessing that nobody is fast-tracked into a head coach role.
Skubala doesn’t have a traditional football upbringing – he’s come through coaching university football and futsal, only stepping into senior men’s football when he moved to Elland Road. With no significant professional football on his CV, he wouldn’t have previously been the sort of candidate a club would appoint.
However, the landscape in 2023/24 is very different, with Kieran McKenna and Steve Cooper two trailblazers for a new breed of coach, one who has cut his teeth on training pitches from a young age. Liam Manning and Des Buckingham are two more to make their way to jobs through unconventional means, but Skubala was eager to point out it isn’t an easy path.
“Don’t ever underestimate the effort, sacrifice, and perseverance it took to get where they (Cooper and McKenna) are because football is a tough industry,” he is reported as saying by the print edition of the Football League Paper (19/11).
“Everybody wants your job. Everybody is trying to win. To succeed, you have to have that one percent edge every day, and you have to be ready to go out and win when you get the opportunity. That’s what they’ve done.”
Skubala replaced Mark Kennedy at Lincoln City, a manager who had a long football career before moving into coaching. He takes over a side 10th in the table (after their defeat at Stevenage) with aspirations of going higher. That’s something the 41-year-old is ready to go for.
“We know where the team is,” he added. “We’ll hopefully be able to push as hard as we can. We’re only in November, and nobody wins the league in November, do they?”
The games come thick and fast for the Imps as they travel to Leyton Orient tomorrow night before Barnsley visit the LNER Stadium on Saturday.
The Imps are in a good place in League One, but the decision to appoint a relative unknown, in football terms at least, was mildly divisive. However, the board there is in credit, given the club were languishing in the National League when current chairman Clive Nates arrived, and that buys Skubala time.
Time is what both McKenna and Cooper got at their respective clubs despite coming through what were previously unconventional routes to the senior game. However, in the modern world, the concept of a head coach who hasn’t played the game at a high level isn’t a novelty anymore.
McKenna and Cooper are just two of the names who have proven it’s a viable route to not only the Football League but also success. Imps fans will be hoping the sacrifice and perseverance of their new head coach elevate him to be mentioned in the same breath as the two he clearly admires.