The Football League can be a brutal business at times. Games come thick and fast and suddenly, in the blink of an eye, a side can go from the peak of their powers to fighting midtable mediocrity, all with a few bad results. It’s a cutthroat business and, with results the currency of success, fans tend to be extremely reactionary in the early phases of the season, often leading to a plethora of managerial sackings.
Indeed, League One has borne witness to the managerial merry-go-round more than most in recent years, and in order to navigate a side out of the third tier and back into the Championship will require plenty of patience, both on and off the pitch. The league is a great stepping stone for the next generation of up-and-coming coaches, as well as a hub of experienced heads looking to help sides either make the step up or avoid the drop into League Two.
With a few weeks until the start of the season, it will be interesting to see which club parts with their boss first, with newly promoted Forest Green and Gillingham, who narrowly survived the relegation dogfight last term, tipped to struggle the most amongst the predictz English League One predictions. Some managers will thrive while others have their work cut out for them before a ball is even kicked this season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three managers to look out for in the third tier when the campaign gets underway.
This season will mark a decade since Gareth Ainsworth took over as permanent boss of Wycombe Wanderers, and what a decade it has been. The Chairboys have been on a great adventure under Ainsworth, with his heavy metal personified by the luscious grey locks he dons on the touchline at Adams Park. Having narrowly missed out on promotion last season, Wycombe will want to go one better this term and once again reach the dizzying heights of the Championship, hoping to remain in the league longer than in their maiden campaign, which saw them relegated.
Of all the young budding coaches off the English managerial conveyor belt, Danny Cowley is one of the most refreshing. The Portsmouth manager, who enjoyed a solid first full season with Pompey on the South Coast last season, has already dipped his toes in the transfer market this summer, bringing in Joe Rafferty after his contract expired at Preston North End. Alongside a solid defence, Cowley has got the best out of wantaway forward Marcus Harness, although bringing his strike partner George Hirst looks unlikely to return to Fratton Park permanently after arriving on loan from Leicester City. Nonetheless, Pompey have a good side and under Cowley’s tutelage expect them to be one of the favourites for promotion.
Lower down the table now, as a new era dawns on Lincoln City with Mark Kennedy taking over from Michael Appleton. Vastly inexperienced, Kennedy’s only other coaching role came as a brief stint at Macclesfield, taking charge for just 12 games before working as an assistant at Ipswich Town, then as an understudy to Lee Bowyer at Birmingham City. Now given the reins over his own side once again, you wonder if he can help Lincoln reach the dizzying heights of the playoffs as they did in the 2020-21 campaign or whether they’ll succumb to the same inconsistency that plagued them in Appleton’s final months.