While the City of London is said to be a bear pit, it’s a kindergarten compared to the Championship, a euphemism for Division Two of league football in England.
A manager has less chance of survival in the Championship than a third class passenger on RMS Titanic. For Championship club chairmen the Premiership is the ‘promised land’ and their desperation to reach it has comparisons with those thousands of those young, single, males recently domiciled on the northern coast of France and dreaming of ‘Eeeng-land’.
But while failure to gain promotion is dangerous enough it’s even worse for managers who find themselves increasingly isolated in the relegation zone.
There was astonishment, therefore, when just a few days after leading Hibernian to their first Scottish Cup final triumph in 116 years, manager Alan Stubbs announced his departure from Easter Road to take on the vacancy at Rotherham United, a club that has struggled to maintain Championship status.
Rotherham, ‘The Millers’, subsequently made a poor start to their latest league campaign and Stubbs was sacked with the season barely two months old.
On the middle Saturday in October, the guest on Channel 5’s Championship coverage was Kenny Jackett, who had taken Wolves back to the Championship from ‘League One’ but struggled to win further promotion and left Molineux in the summer. Asked on camera about his own employment position, Jackett replied that he felt he could help a club that was currently ‘underperforming’.
Four days later Rotherham sacked Stubbs and replaced him with Jackett.
Three years ago, when the Championship was covered by the BBC, another former Hibs manager, Tony Mowbray (at the time between jobs having being sacked by Middlesbrough} was asked a similar question. Mowbray refused to comment, saying he did not want to be implicated, no matter how unwittingly, in some other manager losing his job.
Kenny Jackett has a good reputation in football, both professionally and as a likeable person; his comment was made on the spur of the moment in a television studio and almost certainly had no bearing on the Rotherham decision to dismiss Stubbs. But it just goes to show that in the Championship bear pit, one really has to choose one’s words very, very carefully.