Sven axe offers a lesson for chairmen everywhere
by James Riches
In the opening paragraphs of my Championship preview for this very website back in August, I wrote the following sentence:
“Add into the mix two former England managers, and we could be set for one of the most exciting Championship seasons ever.”
Now, in my defence, that is so far not a lie. Yes, it’s not even November, and Sven-Göran Eriksson has joined the hapless wally extraordinaire Steve McLaren in exiting the division, but you can’t say their downfalls haven’t been entertaining in their own sad, grimly imminent way.
by James Riches
There can’t be a Championship fan out there who has not at some point heard their manager hurl clichés at some poor reporter about how hard this division is to get out of. Obviously nobody told Steve McClaren this, because he’s managed to escape from it in just ten games.
It is the first of March 2004 and two managers sit in their respective offices. They are pondering a match the day before which had seen Steve McClaren’s Middlesbrough narrowly beating Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the League Cup Final. Two of the most promising English managers going head to head. Allardyce, with his focus on scientific methods and dedication to pragmatic, aggressive football, had managed to firmly establish Bolton as a Premier League team since promotion in 2001. McClaren had also steadily improved Middlesbrough, using a mixture of young home-grown talent he found within his new academy and an attacking flair borne of his days as assistant manager at Old Trafford. His team would go on the next season to finish seventh in the Premier League and reach the UEFA Cup final the season after that. How exactly did these two successful, unique and talented coaches end up, seven years later, preparing to face off yet again, this time in the second tier of the English domestic game?