On Wednesday morning, it was announced that Salford City had parted ways with manager Neil Wood.
The decision came less than 24 hours after Salford’s 5-1 defeat against Tranmere Rovers on Boxing Day. That loss continued what is one of the worst winless runs in the EFL, with the club without a win since October, spanning a total of eight games.
As a result, the Ammies have dropped down the League Two table like a stone and now sit in 21st, just five points ahead of the relegation places.
Last season’s play-off experience already seems like a long time ago and although they lost in a crushing penalty defeat to current League Two leaders Stockport County in the semi-finals which no doubt looms over the club still, a drop-off in performance to this extent was not expected.
Part of that said drop-off can be attributed to a long injury list however very few excuses can be made given their current vein of form.
Wood had been in the job for less than 18 months and despite taking them to the play-offs last season, the board have now decided that he is no longer the best option to lead the future of the club.
With one of the higher budgets in the league with the club owned by Project 92 Ltd, comprised of multiple former Manchester United legends including Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, expectations at the club are obviously high. Those expectations have not been met so far this season, resulting in Wood being relived of his duties.
Given their higher budget than most other fourth tier sides, the club can attract some managers that many others at the level simply cannot. Although survival will now be the primary aim, the position will very much be a long-term project to turn those lofty ambitions into reality.
Here are five potential options that Salford might pursue to become their next permanent manger…
Out of a job since April after a torrid season with Reading, Ince is currently the bookies favourite for the position and there is good reasoning for that. Ince played with the majority of the owners during his time at Manchester United, and a reunion could be on the cards.
Not only would Ince bring experience from managing in the Championship, he also has success at managing in League Two and knows how to get a side promoted having taken MK Dons to the 2007-2008 League Two title.
Ince does have a bit to prove after his time at Reading but this could be the perfect time to get his managerial career back on track.
Much like Ince, Hughes also has experience of playing with the majority of the ownership which no doubt enhances his chances. Having taken Bradford City to the play-offs last year, a good showing was once again expected this season.
Alas, much like Wood, those expectations did not become a reality and Hughes was relived of his duties in early October. With plenty of big clubs on his CV, Hughes obviously has plenty of experience, yet he still has an empty trophy cabinet despite managing in the professional game since 1999.
Therefore, he also has something to prove and there are potentially more risks attached than others.
From two managers who are well-established in the EFL to a man who is really putting his name about in the National League, Altrincham’s Phil Parkinson could be a left-field pick. The 42-year-old has been with the club since 2017 and now might be the time to make a step-up having got his side into 6th in the National League with one of the smaller budgets in the division.
Although not proven in the EFL, Parkinson did get Altrincham promoted from the National League North via the play-offs a few seasons ago, so has experience in that regard.
Maybe a potentially risky choice given the club’s proximity to the relegation zone, it is unlikely that Parkinson would be given the time to implement his tactics. That being said he has the most upside of any of the five options and is doing great things at Altrincham currently.
Fresh from being sacked by Burton Albion, Maamria may not be a long-term pick, but knows exactly how to keep a side in the league. Having turned Burton’s fortunes around last season, a long winless spell this season ended his reign as manager.
Geographically there are no problems and Maamria could be an option that the owners look to explore. That being said, it could be seen as a negative that he has no experience with a team with promotion chasing ambitions, which does not align with the club’s vision.
Similarly to Maamria, Bonner himself was only recently relived of his duties as Cambridge’s manager. The 38-year-old established himself as somewhat of a cult hero at Cambridge, with his first role at the club coming in an academy capacity way back in 2002.
Relatively new to managing in the professional game in the grand scheme of things, Bonner has only ever had one job, managing Cambridge from 2020 to 2023. A change of scenery might get the best out of Bonner who has plenty more to offer.
He’ll likely be linked with plenty of jobs in the coming months, that is if Salford choose not to pursue him.