Wigan, Oxford, Crewe and Barrow – They Will Get You The Sack

Cambridge United manager Mark Bonner left the Abbey Stadium yesterday after a 3-0 defeat against Lincoln City, and it got Imps’ fans on social media excited about the so-called curse of their club.

After Shaun Derry also left Cambridge following a game with Lincoln, and Darrell Clarke departed Port Vale in April after losing 3-2 at the LNER Stadium, their supporters think they’re a curse, a club that ends managers’ careers. Are they?

To find out, we looked at every managerial departure from across the EFL since action resumed post-Covid. We took out resignations for other jobs, managers who were headhunted, and anything that happened in pre-season. That left us with 125 departures that were either enforced, ‘mutual’ or were a resignation with no other job in mind.

Painstakingly, we then went through every one of those departures to find the club that prompted it. Since September 2020, Lincoln City have only been responsible for two manager departures – the same as plenty of clubs. Some have been responsible for three, but there is a collection of clubs who really do get you the sack, with four casualties attributed to them since COVID.

Read on to find out if your club are manager killers.

Luton

They might be Premier League now, but a defeat to Luton in the Championship was like a kiss of death for an underfire manager – sometimes, it didn’t even need to be a defeat! In March 2021, Alex Neill was sacked as manager of Preston North End after losing 1-0 to the Hatters. A year ago, they donned the grim reaper cape for two managers inside two months, Steve Bruce getting the boot from West Brom after drawing 0-0 with them in October, and a month later, Dean Smith was sacked by Norwich after going 2-1 to Luton. Finally, they spelled the end for Kolo Touré at Wigan, who was sacked in January after getting beaten by Luton Town.

Wigan

Toure might have gotten the boot after losing to a Grim Reaper club, but Wigan have also killed their fair share of managers’ careers. They’ve done one a year since COVID, starting with Jake Buxton in December 2020 – he went after losing 4-3 to Wigan (although his side had been beaten 5-1 by Lincoln City on Boxing Day, so Imps fans have tried to claim it). In 2021, Keith Curle got the boot after his Northampton side lost 1-0 to Wigan. Those sackings were League One, but two more came in the Championship – Danny Schofield at Huddersfield after losing 2-1 to the Latics and Mark Hudson in January 2023 with Cardiff after a 1-1 draw.

Oxford

Oxford are League One staples, they seem to have been there longer than almost every other team. They’ve also been responsible for four managers losing their jobs in the third tier. The first (post-COVID) was in February 2021, when Paul Tisdale’s short run at Bristol Rovers came to an end. Early the following season, Simon Grayson left Fleetwood after being beaten 3-1 by Oxford, and less than a year later, it was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink resigning at Burton after a defeat against the Us. The most recent was this season when Dean Holden got the heave-ho from Charlton after losing 2-1 to Liam Manning’s U’s. Before he left.

Crewe

Into the basement division, and like Wigan, Crewe’s sacking effect spans two divisions. As a League One club, they did everyone a favour by (checks notes) drawing with Fleetwood and prompting Joey Barton’s sacking. They were an EFL trophy opponent of Doncaster immediately before Richie Wellens was sacked, and Jody Morris left Swindon immediately after losing 2-1 to Crewe. Finally, Neil Harris was booted from Gillingham this season after losing 2-0 to the Railwaymen.

Barrow

If there’s ever a team that feels like they should get you the sack, it’s Barrow. Seriously, what self-respecting manager under pressure could list a Barrow defeat on their CV and expect to walk away from it? You don’t want to play them in October either – three managers have got the push after a bad October result against the Bluebirds. In October 2020, Graham Coughlan left Mansfield after losing 4-2 against them, whilst a year later, Michael Flynn’s long run at Newport ended after a 2-1 defeat – he had wanted to stay on for one more game to milk the applause, but was denied the chance. Two months later, Paul Cook’s spell at Ipswich came to an end after his side drew 0-0 with Barrow in the FA Cup.

Honourable mentions

Colchester

Whilst Colchester are not in the club of four, they do have the honour of twice ending a Tranmere manager’s stint at Prenton Park. Keith Hill was fired after a 0-0 draw with Colchester, while Ian Dawes went after losing 2-0. Their other casualty was Neil Cox at Scunthorpe.

Preston

Similarly, Preston have the honour of twice ending the managerial reign of a Reading boss. However, it’s not quite cut and dried – Veljko Paunovic was sacked after the Royals beat Preston 3-2! Paul Ince went from the Madejski after losing to Preston, 2-1. Preston have ended one other run – Slaven Bilic, but they didn’t need to win that game either – the Watford boss was fired after drawing 0-0, making Preston the only side to put paid the three managers, but win just one of those fixtures.

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