The Championship is, and has been home to some of the country’s most respected managers, and with the profile of England’s second-tier continuing to rise, it is set to become even more appealing for such high-quality personnel.
Managerial patience is a rarity in the modern-day, results-based football world, making the task of becoming a successful Championship manager increasingly difficult. Additionally, only half of the current Championship managers have spent longer than a year at their respective clubs.
The Championship Managers Who Have Had the Greatest Impact on Their Club
Gareth Ainsworth’s Success Story Lives on as a Championship Manager
Wycombe Wanderers may be sitting at the bottom of the Championship table, but their journey just to make it as far as the second tier is nothing short of incredible. Gareth Ainsworth – who is one of the division’s youngest managers – has recently made it to eight years with the Buckinghamshire side and has developed The Chairboys into a determined and resilient Championship outfit.
Ainsworth became the club’s caretaker manager in September 2012 after the sacking of Chris Waddock, despite still being the club’s captain. The club were in a rather desperate situation at the time, but the former Queens Park Rangers midfielder managed to guide The Chairboys into 15th in the league and relieve any relegation fears. Wycombe would go on to spend the next five years in England’s fourth tier, before an unexpected promotion to League One during the 2017/18 campaign. Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, Ainsworth’s side were heavily-backed to finish bottom of the pile but managed to escape relegation quite comfortably, finishing the season in 17th place.
Despite defying the odds the season before, The Chairboys were once again fancied to get relegated. But, remarkably, Ainsworth guided his side into eighth place before the League One campaign was curtailed. However, Wycombe’s season was not done there, as they made the playoffs via a much-contested points per game system. Once again, Wycombe were not a fancied outfit for promotion, but a brilliant two legs against Fleetwood Town, followed by a late winner against Oxford United at Wembley, earned The Chairboys a place in the Championship for the first time in their history.
Under Ainsworth, Wycombe have become one of the country’s most organised and resolute football teams in English football, all whilst possessing the financial resources of an average League Two club. Despite not being able to offer expensive contracts like their Championship counterparts, Ainsworth has created a lovable, professional working environment, where working hard for the team is an absolute necessity.
Thomas Frank Turning Brentford Into Title Contenders and Becoming One of the Most Respected Championship Managers
Brentford’s emergence as one of the most feared teams in the Championship can be largely accredited to the appointment of Thomas Frank. Unlike Gareth Ainsworth, the Danish manager took over The Bees whilst they were in quite a comfortable mid-table position in October 2018, but it took Frank a while to get used to his new authoritative position, after having been the club’s assistant manager for the two-and-a-half-years prior.
After just a single win in ten games, the Dane started to find his feet and a run of two defeats in 13 ensured a mid-table finish for the rapidly improving Bees. Ahead of the 2019/20 Championship campaign, Frank made a couple of tweaks to his formation, adapting his Brentford side into the team he had envisioned. The Bees once again started the season comparatively poorly, but Frank’s footballing philosophy started to shake up the division in mid-October and The Bees subsequently started to rocket up the league table.
After a disappointing defeat to Barnsley on the last game of the season, Brentford had to settle for the play-offs. After overcoming a first-leg defeat at Swansea City, The Bees recorded a 3-1 victory to send them to Wembley, but were then beaten by West London rivals Fulham 2-1 in a game that was goalless after 90 minutes.
Despite their playoff heartbreak, Frank’s side have recovered brilliantly, showing the Dane’s elite mind-set and ability to get the most out of his players after a difficult period for the club. The Bees are currently on a 15-game unbeaten run and have shown their ability to adapt, replacing Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins, by signing Ivan Toney and continuing the development of 23-year-old winger Sergi Canos.
Nathan Jones Getting it Right in Second Spell With Luton Town
The Hatters find themselves sitting comfortably in mid-table, distant from the relegation scrap that they were confined to last season. And, it is safe to say that manager Nathan Jones’ return has been highly successful.
The Welshman joined the Town in 2016, taking over from Luton legend John Still. The fans built a brilliant relationship with the former Dagenham & Redbridge manager, making the job that little bit more difficult for the unproven Jones. However, Still himself admitted that he had taken the club as far as they could go, and he thought that the club would benefit from a modern footballing philosophy.
Joining in January, Jones guided Luton into an 11th placed finish in his first season. A unique style emerged and attacking possession-based football became the expectation. A semi-final play-off defeat followed, but in Jones’ second full season in charge, The Town were promoted to League One. After a difficult start to life in the third tier, The Hatters started to find their feet, with the Welshman’s trusted diamond formation continuing to blow teams away in the higher division. In January 2019, the job that Jones was doing at Luton was gathering speculation and he was subsequently offered the vacant managerial position at Stoke City; an opportunity he took.
The Welshman struggled for the remainder of the season at his new club, but he had the summer transfer window to try and transform his Stoke side in preparation to challenge for promotion in the 2019/20 campaign. However, Jones failed miserably right from the very start and was relieved of his duties with Stoke in the relegation zone in November. However, Jones’ wait for a new job opportunity was relatively short and he was awarded the job in late May.
Miraculously – with the Hatters six points adrift with ten games to go – The 47-year-old managed to keep The Hatters in the division, with his Luton side showing the third-best post-lockdown form in the division. His second spell is proving to be a much different time for The Town, who have had to somewhat stray away from their free-flowing attacking football seen in the past.