Luke Coulson, journalist and footballer for Ebbsfleet United, looks at the precarious life of a manager in the Vanarama National League.
A week ago, Ronald Koeman felt the harsh sting of football management as he became the second managerial casualty of the Premier League season.
Koeman joins Frank De Boer and five other managers from the top four tiers of English football that have felt the axe from their clubs this season. However, the National League is a different level of cut-throat business entirely, with six managers already losing their jobs.
With the promise and reward of League Football, the stakes are high and a slow start in the National League can cost a manager his position. The five clubs currently lying at the bottom of the table have all sacked their managers this season and with the recent announcement of their new manager, Ady Pennock, Barrow are now on to their third manager of the campaign.
After beating East Thurrock in a replay two weeks ago, we will host Doncaster at home in the first round of the FA Cup this weekend. Yet, before we could even begin to think about the League One side, we had to re-focus our minds on the league and the three upcoming fixtures. Of those games, we hosted Barrow and Torquay United, two of the teams that have welcomed new gaffers to the dugouts during the season.
In late August, after only five games of the season, Barrow sacked their manager Paul Cox. Ten games later and four days before we played them, Micky Moore, their second manager of the season departed the football club.
When a manager of a football club is sacked, it can have an adverse effect on the team. The squad may have respected the gaffer and therefore there may be players that are disappointed and unhappy with the changes to the coaching staff. On the other hand, with a new manager to impress and positions up for grabs, the sacking of a manager can have a positive effect on the team. Therefore, as we welcomed Barrow to Stonebridge Road, we were very aware not to underestimate our opposition.
Having experienced similar circumstances, I know what the current Barrow squad have been going through. Chris Todd signed me for Eastleigh in the January of 2016, yet after four games of the following season, he was dismissed from his duties. Chris was the first manager to have ever bought me and subsequently gave me a chance in the National League, so I was personally disappointed to see him leave. Ronnie Moore was brought in to replace him but after three months, we were once more without a manager. In early December, Martin Allen left Barnet to become our third manager of the season but was sacked 14 games later to continue the rollercoaster of managerial changes.
It is difficult to mentally prepare knowing that a new manager is about to take over. You hear constant rumours about who may take the job and it’s an unsettling period for the team. It is a worrying time for each player because a new manager may not like their individual style, or not play a formation that brings out their full potential.
Each manager has his own way of playing, training and managing the team and consequently it can be difficult to become used to a new manager especially if you don’t agree with his philosophy. In that case you keep your head down, work hard and don’t complain if you want to play.
Before the announcement of Ady Pennock, we were able to claim all three points against Barrow and their interim manager Neil Hornby with a 3-2 victory. However, that win was followed by a defeat three days later against Torquay United. Similarly to Barrow, Torquay United decided to have a change of management early in the season, sacking Kevin Nicholson after four games and replacing him with Gary Owers.
Following the loss against Torquay, we came away with a hard fought and well deserved point at Sutton United. The draw means we now sit 13th in the table, still only three points adrift of the playoffs as we take a break from league duty this weekend to prove ourselves against Doncaster in the first round of the FA Cup. A challenge we are more than ready to overcome.