When Nigel Clough was sacked by Sheffield United he became the 7th permanent manager to exit the post at Bramall Lane since Neil Warnock parted company with the club in 2007. Here I look at the how things have panned out for the six managers that came before Clough and what they went on to achieve after leaving The Blades.
Bryan Robson could have had few complaints when he was sacked by the Blades in August 2010. His inability to get a United squad featuring the likes of James Beattie, Gary Cahill, Matt Killgallon and Gary Speed anywhere near the play-offs was a quite staggering failure. It seems unlikely that any other Chairman in England will take a punt on Robson again after his stint at Bramall Lane. He hasn’t managed in his home country since he was sacked at United and his only other managerial job was with the Thailand national team. Here he took over from Peter Reid and in his 2 years as manager Thailand dropped 15 places in the FIFA rankings. The drop was mainly due to Thailand’s failure to reach the Asian Cup for the first time in 23 years and their early exits in both the Southeast Asian Games and the Southeast Asian championship. Thailand had long dominated in these tournaments and these disappointing performances led to protests from fans which effectively forced Robson to resign in 2011. Robson hasn’t managed since and is now back at Manchester United in a ‘Global Ambassador”‘ role
The decision to sack Kevin Blackwell just three games into the new season is arguably the reason United find themselves in League One. After Blackwell left three managers took the reigns over the course of the season but were unable to prevent The Blades slipping into the third tier for the first time since 1988. Blackwell divided the fans at The Lane. On the one hand the football was terrible to watch but on the other he kept the Blades comfortably in the top half despite having almost all his best players sold. Even Blackwell’s harshest critics would concede that the timing of his sacking, after giving him a full pre-season to make his signings, was lunacy. After leaving United in 2010 Blackwell had to wait 2 years before he got back into management with Bury. Here he won just 13 games in 57 as the club were relegated to League Two before he was sacked after a 2-0 home defeat to Morecambe left The Shakers 4th from bottom in the basement division. Blackwell brought in 23 players during his short tenure but was unable to change the fortunes of the club. Since sacking Blackwell, Bury have progressed under the guidance of David Flitcroft and last season won automatic promotion back to League One . Blackwell is currently on the coaching staff of Barnet after leaving a similar role at Crystal Palace following the sacking of Neil Warnock.
Gary Speed was thrown in at the deep end with United. He took over a squad built by Kevin Blackwell to play in a direct manner and was asked to change the style of play whilst also getting results. In hindsight the fact he left United outside the relegation places when he took the Wales job in December 2010 was a remarkable achievement given what followed. Under Speeds Stewardship Wales were awarded the title of ‘Best Movers’ of the year by FIFA having gained more ranking points than any other nation in 2011. It was widely acknowledged that Speed was quickly improving a Wales side that had faltered under John Toshack. Tragically Speed never had the chance to carry on his good work. On 27th November 2011, Speed was found dead by his wife, apparently having committed suicide.
Although Micky Adams had taken Sheffield United down to their lowest position in over 20 years it was still quite a shock when he was fired at the end of the season. Many expected Adams to be given a full season to get in his own players and the chance to help United make a quick return to The Championship. That said his record was appalling. Just 4 wins in 24 gave him the lowest win percentage of any United manager (amazingly that record would soon be beaten) and the way he seemingly accepted Uniteds fate long before relegation was confirmed confused fans. After leaving the club he had supported all his life Adams returned to Port Vale, the club who United had poached Adams from less than a year earlier. Back at Vale Park Adams guided the club to a respectable 12th place in League Two. They would have finished higher but the club went into administration and suffered a 10 point deduction. With the club still unable to sign players due to administration and with a number of their better players leaving few expected Port Vale to be challenging at the right end of the table as the 2012/2013 season got under way. Surprisingly though The Valiants overcame the obstacles placed in their way and gained automatic promotion. Despite this many Vale fans were critical of Adams and the way the team almost blew their promotion hopes with a poor run of form towards the end of the campaign. Adams described certain sections of Vales support as “idiots who were waiting for things to go wrong”. In their first season back in League One Vale achieved a creditable 9th finish despite once again struggling financially and having to rely on young loan signings to see them through. The following season Adams and Port Vale got off to a decent start but 6 defeats in just 24 days mounted pressure on Adams and he resigned on 18th September 2014. On leaving Adams said “Certain sections of the fans will be happy but I’d like to think a lot would be disappointed. You don’t work at a place for five years without caring about a lot of the people involved. And I believe I am leaving the club in a stronger position than when I joined.”
Adams was out of work less than a month as Tranmere Rovers appointed him as manager in October. Tranmere were bottom of the league when Adams took over but an instant change in fortunes after he took the reigns saw the club move out of the relegation places. Unfortunately for Adams this was as good as it got for him at Prenton Park . After 4 defeats in a row in the months of March and April Adams left the club by mutual consent. By this point Tranmere were in the exact same position as when Adams took over. Bottom of the league and staring non league football in the face.
The debate still goes on at whether Danny Wilson was unlucky to be sacked when he was. With The Blades sitting in a play off spot with just a month of the season left some still say he should have been given the chance to see the job through. His supporters pointed to the fact that he had kept United in the promotion race despite his top goalscorer, Nick Blackman, being sold in January . Around the same time of Blackman’s departure he also lost 2nd top scorer Shaun Miller to injury for the duration of the season. Others though said United were merely plodding along and had no hope of succeeding in the upcoming play-offs with the way they were playing. It was a 2-0 home defeat by Crawley Town, the 13th time that season United had dropped points at home, that sealed Wilson’s fate. The team he left behind did little better under the guidance of caretaker manager Chris Morgan and The Blades lamely went out at the play-off semi final stage to Yeovil. After his sacking Wilson had to wait 8 months before he was offered the chance to get back into management with Championship club Barnsley. Wilson had enjoyed great success in his first spell at Oakwell and had taken the club into the top flight for the first and only time in their history. However his second spell with the Tykes was less enjoyable for Wilson. He failed to save Barnsley from relegation to the third tier and following a poor run of results that left the club just seven points above the drop zone in League One he was fired on the 12th February 2015. In a club statement the Barnsley board labelled their position as ‘unacceptable’. Wilson is now looking for his 9th managerial role
Most Blades were happy with the appointment of David Weir. After three journeymen managers who had achieved very little we now had a manager who was young and who had a fantastic playing pedigree. Even from the pre-season games it was clear that United’s style would all be about possession football. Young signings such as Febian Brandy, Connor Cody and Lyle Taylor came in and as the Blades kicked off the season there was a good sense of optimism around the place. The performance in the first game against Notts County was good and the way United kept the ball was lauded by the Blades faithful. Those who left the ground that night would never have believed they had just witnessed the only victory David Weir’s United side would achieve. Whilst United still tried to play in the calm and measured way the manager wanted, it was clear after just a month that David Weir was a man very much out of his depth. The blades not only failed to win a game in their next 12 but they actually seemed to be getting worse. After a JPT defeat at home to Hartlepool the Blades board, recently buoyed by Saudi investment, pulled the trigger. Although from the outside it may have looked like a rash decision after such a short time in charge it was the right thing to do as if United had left it longer they would have likely found themselves adrift at the foot of the table. Not many clubs were going to take a chance on Weir after his disaster at United and the next time we saw him in football was when new Brentford manager Mark Warbuton appointed him as assistant manager. Brentford went on to have one of the best 18 months in their entire history as they were promoted and then reached The Championship play offs before succumbing to Middlesborough. Perhaps even more surprising than the success the Bees had experienced was the announcement that Warbuton, and Weir, would be relived of their duties at the end of the 2014/2015 season. It remains to be seen whether Weir will follow the much in demand Warburton into his next job or try another crack at management himself but his time at Brentford will have done much for his status in coaching.
As you can see after leaving United the majority of the managers above didn’t find much success elsewhere. With the exception of Gary Speed and perhaps Micky Adams every manager United have employed since 2007 has so far failed to recover from being fired at The Lane. Were they just poor managers to begin with or is there something in the air at Bramall Lane???????