Who will be Stevenage’s next manager?

Stevenage are looking for a new manager after Gary Smith was sacked after failing to challenge for promotion this season.

After a run of 14 losses in 18 games the board obviously felt the club were going backwards and did not want to fall any further down the table. The latest defeat a 2-0 loss to Bury must have been tough to take because Bury are struggling and will probably get relegated this season. But, Smith may feel hard done by as they had just beaten Sheffield United 4-0 at home at the weekend, so at least he will be happy with that performance and gave the fans one last thing to cheer while he was in charge. They are currently 15th in the table and personally I do not think that is bad for a team like Stevenage who have only been back in the Football League for a few years and maybe the board’s ambitions are set too high at the moment. They obviously feel that promotion was a realistic target again this season and they need someone in that can get them back up there next season, however it is a tough league and it will not be easy as the teams dropping from the Championship this season will have a lot of quality.

The favourite for the job is Graham Westley and if he did get the job then it would be a third spell in charge for him. He may not be the most likeable manager and the way his team play may not be the most eye catching but he does have a fantastic record at Stevenage and if he can work his magic again then they will always be in with a chance next season. His time at Preston was very poor but sometimes it just doesn’t work for you at a club and that could be the case here.
Graham Westley
Since leaving Luton Town, Paul Buckle has been linked with quite a few jobs and I still find it strange because he was doing ok with them but it still seemed like they were going to fall short and not get promoted so why should he get a job in a higher division? But, he has had some good times as a manager and maybe somewhere like Stevenage would be good for him and he could do a decent job. However, I don’t think this will be likely but I wouldn’t be surprised if he accepted it, if it was on offer.
Paul Buckle
Finally, and possibly even stranger than Buckle, Gary Waddock has been linked with the job and it is a surprise because he has been out of management since leaving Wycombe Wanderers in 2012. It wasn’t a good end for him there either, with the club in 21st place in League 2 they may have suffered another relegation under him. The one positive is that he does have a promotion on his CV and that could certainly work in his favour.
Gary waddock
Others linked with the role are Iain Dowie, Peter Taylor and Paul Dickov.

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Who will be Swindon Town’s next manager?

Swindon Town may be top of League 1 after beating Tranmere Rovers but they are in search of a new manager.
Paolo Di Canio left the club after new owners were not in place before a deadline. It is such a strange time for him to leave as the club are doing well under him and could have secured back to back promotions however Di Canio had not been happy for quite a while and the sale of Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth was hard to take. It was surprising when he decided to join the club as manager as I thought he would have been able to get a job higher up the football pyramid simply because he is well known. I respect the fact that he wanted to make his name down the leagues and be known as a good manager but his decision to leave does still seem to suggest that his ego is quite big and wants everyone to know that he is the boss and is getting things his way. With a record of 54 wins in 94 games you could argue that he has proved himself and I am sure a few Championship clubs will be interested in him. But onto Swindon and who will be the next manager?

The current favourite for the job is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. I think this would be a strange decision, it may have worked for them last time going for a big name with no experience as a manager but can it work twice in a row? The former Chelsea striker has had a spell as a coach at Nottingham Forest so he will have learned something from manager Sean O’Driscoll but maybe not enough to lead a club battling for promotion. However, there would be slightly less pressure on him and he would get time.

Second favourite and yet again a little surprising is Paul Buckle. He has managed in the Football League before but he has been a little hit and miss. At Torquay United he was very highly rated but when he went to Bristol Rovers, a team that should have been challenging for promotion he wasn’t so successful. He has just recently left Luton Town because of personal reasons that haven’t been disclosed yet and maybe he could become the new Swindon manager and be a success but I don’t think it would be a great appointment.

Finally, Kevin Blackwell has been linked with the job and this at least seems like someone that has experience and could be a good appointment. But yet again, he is currently at Bury and has only won 6 of his 29 games in charge there. Obviously he would have a better squad at Swindon and in the past he has done quite well at both Leeds United and Sheffield United. I am not sure what the fans would make of this because he certainly won’t be as passionate as Paolo Di Canio but maybe he will bring a cooler head to their promotion charge.

Others that have been linked with the job are Mike Newell, Chris Wilder and Dave Hockaday.

Intersting ties in the 3rd of the FA Cup

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar as it can throw up fixtures that nobody will have even imagined.

Clubs from the lower leagues want to draw a big Premier League side and this year hasn’t disappointed in that respect, with the winner of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town hosting Liverpool. This will add even more incentive to the replay and both teams will be hoping that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will be visiting their stadiums in the very near future. Personally, this is what makes the FA Cup special and in recent years the competition has lost a little of its spark but a tie like this will get a lot of attention and possibly even a giant killing.

Two other teams that have to play again are Harrogate Town and Hastings Town and these will be equally looking to win their game after seeing the draw as they will get to travel to former Premier League side Middlesbrough. The team from Teeside may not be in the top league anymore but under Tony Mowbray they are certainly challenging for a place in the playoffs at least.

Looking at potential upsets in this round, you certainly don’t have to look further than Brighton as they have been drawn against Newcastle United, who they also beat in the competition last year and with the Europa League participants not having the best of times at the moment, I expect this game to be on television so more viewers can see if Brighton can win. Other similar to this are high flying Crystal Palace against Stoke City. The Championship side will be looking to test themselves against an experienced and consistent Premier League side and if they can get through the tie then their fans will be optimistic for the rest of the season and their challenge in the Premier League if they do get promoted at the end of the season.

Two more potential shocks in my mind are Crawley Town vs Reading because Reading may be distracted by their own league form and may discount the cup this season. Also, Luton Town vs Wolves could be a potential shock as going away to a non-league side is always difficult, no matter what position you are in.

Finally, the FA Cup also throws up a few interesting all Premier League ties and this year the biggest one is probably West Ham United and Manchester United who will both be looking for good cup runs this year. West Ham may have hoped for an easier tie but you cannot count them out and will be doing all they can to qualify for the fourth round. Swansea have been given an equally difficult draw at home to Arsenal, but their last performance against the Gunners will give them a lot of confidence but Arsene Wenger really needs a trophy this year and the FA Cup may be the last one they can realistically go for.

Who will be relegated from League 2?

Being relegated from League 2 could possibly be the worst relegation in England as it means you are no longer a Football League club and teams often struggle to return at the first time of asking.

In recent years, Luton Town, Darlington (this could have been more because of financial problems that affected them for years) and Stockport County have been some of the bigger names to be unable to win promotion from the Blue Square Premier. I am going to look at the five teams that could be likely to battle against relegation even though I could be way off with the league being very unpredictable.

Barnet are the first team I believe will struggle simply because they have been unable to improve for years now and keep on avoiding relegation on the last day, eventually this is going to catch up on them and they will fail and this could be the year. With the loss of 22 goal Izale McLeod they need a replacement and have brought in Jon Nurse but he only got eight goals last season so he will need to improve if they are to stay up.

Burton Albion fresh off their penalty victory over Sheffield United in the Capital One Cup will need to start off their season just as quickly if they are to comfortably mid table. They definitely have goals in their team with Calvin Zola, Billy Kee and Justin Richards so they shouldn’t struggle in this department if they manage to keep them for the whole season but the defence looks a little light and a few injuries may completely derail their season.

Morecambe, another team that caused a shock in the cup will be hoping this is what is to come from their season however I don’t think this will be the case and they could be dragged towards the bottom of the table. The key person for me could be manager Jim Bentley as he clearly loves the club but his managerial inexperience could work against him but at least the fans know that he will be putting his all in.

Accrington Stanley lack a goal scorer in their squad and last season their star striker was Padraig Amond who only got eight goals and they will certainly need to improve here which is why they have brought in Karl Sheppard who does have a good record so far in his career and looks like he could be a vital addition.

Dagenham and Redbridge struggled last season but a good run of form towards the end of the season saw them safely avoid the drop but they may need a little more in the coming season. The loss of Jon Nurse to rivals Barnet could be key as his goals may just make the difference between the two sides. Brian Woodall had a decent year and will be hoping to build on that and manager John Still knows what it takes to be successful in this division so even though I am tipping them for a struggle this year, they could also be the surprise package.

Out of the five I think it could be Barnet and Accrington Stanley to go down.

Graham Alexander retires from football

Graham Alexander has retired from professional football after a fantastic career which has seen him play for four different clubs as well as represent his country.

Alexander took penalties with the outside of his foot which is quite unorthodox

Alexander also became only the second outfield player to play over 1000 professional games during his career. For every club he played for he played a minimum of 150 league games which just shows how brilliant and consistent he has been since his debut for Scunthorpe United in the 1990-91 season. Remarkably, in the very next season he became a first team regular and was virtually an ever present for the team for the next four seasons. Even though he was usually deployed as a right back or a holding midfielder he could also score goals and in his 159 league games he got 18 goals.

Luton Town was the next club he signed for and continued to play in most games for them too. His £100,000 price tag did not faze him and there was no doubting his commitment for the cause with him playing 152 league games and added 15 goals to his career tally. Although his first season ended in relegation he stayed with the club in the old Second Division and played over 50 games for the first time in his career, the first year they were down in the Second Division.

Unfortunately for him and the club he could not help them get promoted and joined Preston North End in the 1998-99 season. In his second season at the club he helped the club gain promotion to Division One after scoring 10 goals in 58 appearances. It is not very often you get a player that can score that amount of goals from the positions he played for the club. After securing Preston’s place in the league for a number of years, he was appointed club captain and was taking all of their set pieces including penalties which accounted for many of his goals. During his eight years he did not suffer many injuries and was able to play in most of the games and was one of the first names on the team sheet. He made exactly 400 appearances for the club and was named in the PFA Championship’s Team of the Year in the 2004-05.

But he did eventually leave the club for rivals Burnley which was seen as slightly controversial and a little strange after he had turned them down earlier in his career. The transfer was completed for £200,000 so Preston could not really complain after all the years of service he had given them. At the age of 37 he gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in his career and played in an amazing 61 games in all competitions that season and in the next season became the oldest player to make his Premier League debut. In his only season in the Premier League he scored seven goals in 33 games and was one of their better players in a season which ultimately ended in relegation. For Burnley, he played in his 1000th professional game when he came on as a sub in a game against Swansea City.

He left Burnley and returned to Preston North End where he has ended his career. To make it even more special in his very last game in his career he scored against Charlton Athletic which both supporters applauded.

It was a fantastic career and he will be proud of every moment of it and I am sure the fans will have some wonderful memories of his time at their club. Alexander will also be proud of his 40 international caps for Scotland and his only disappointed will be that he didn’t score for his country.

Macclesfield Town wave goodbye to the Football League

Macclesfield Town have been relegated from League 2 and manager Brian Horton has left the club so should there be optimism that the club will return to the Football League next season.

Assistant manager Glyn Chamberlain will take charge of the final fixture against Southend United in a disastrous season for the club which has left them rooted to the foot of the table and being unable to secure a place in the Football League for next season.

If the club are serious about bouncing back to the Football League at the first attempt then they need to appoint a manager and quickly so he can get some confidence back in the players and he can make sure that all the players he wants to stay do which is going to be vital. There will be quite a few players out of contract but there is still some quality in the side which is a lot better than the Blue Square Premier. Jose Veiga is a really good goalkeeper at this level and does have international experience although it is only for Cape Verde. His contract is out in the summer so hopefully they can keep hold of him as he is very consistent and although he may not have had the greatest of seasons, he has still played 41 times this year and they will need his experience in the squad next year. Tony Diagne is one of these who will benefit from his experience as he is only 21 but does look to be quite promising but inevitably he will make mistakes because of his age and he will need players like Veiga around him to support him, as well as the fans who shouldn’t get on his back too much. He has played 47 times this season scoring four goals which isn’t a bad return for a defender but he will be disappointed with the amount of goals they have conceded.

Ross Draper is another that has probably underperformed this season and he may not have been able to influence the play as much as he would have liked. But he is still a very promising player and a year in the Blue Square could toughen him up if he wants to stay and the new manager wants him too. This season he has played 31 games and scored four goals which just shows where the problem lies although he is not meant to get a lot of goals he will be disappointed he hasn’t contributed slightly more.

When you can’t defend you need to be able to score goals and unfortunately for the Moss Rose faithful this hasn’t happened that often with their top score only grabbing seven goals in the league. George Donnelly is the man with these goals and he has got them in 32 league games. Hopefully next season will be better for him as he has played in the lower leagues before and will know what it’s like. He signed for Macclesfield after an initial loan spell for an undisclosed five figure sum and he will be frustrated he hasn’t quite repaid the faith but if he scores the goals to get them back in the Football League all of the fans will be singing his name.

It is always sad to see clubs going out of the Football League and this time it was Macclesfield Town’s turn and they seem like a good set of fans and very friendly so I personally hope to see them return at the first time of asking. But it is not always simple just ask Luton Town, Darlington and Stockport County fans.

Who will be Crawley Town’s next manager?

Crawley Town have had an interesting few days with their manager leaving and appointing Steve Coppell as their director of football.

This is Crawley Town's first season in League 2

Steve Evans has left for Rotherham which seems a strange decision seen as though Crawley are in 4th and pushing for an automatic promotion spot and Rotherham United are 10th and still have an outside chance of making the playoffs but will need results to go their way if they are to get there. So what are the chances that Rotherham and Crawley will meet each other in the playoffs?

Craig Brewster is the current caretaker manager and he guided the team to a 2-1 victory over Barnet which lets the board know that if he wants the job then he would be a very good candidate. Maybe they will just give him the job until the end of the season and if he gets them promoted, he will get the job permanently. But is Steve Coppell poised to takeover? He is a very experienced manager and throughout his career he has been successful but he had retired from management but he may be tempted into one last go at managing.

So who could Crawley appoint as their new manager if they decide to go in another direction? The current Dover Athletic manager Nicky Forster could be a good choice as he is performing quite well at his current club and did a decent job as caretaker manager of Brentford in 2011 losing only five of his 21 games and maybe should have been given the job permanently. He played most of his football in the lower leagues and therefore will have many contacts and will know a lot about it which will always give a young manager a slight advantage over someone who has been out of the game for a while.

Richard Money is also linked with the job and he has a lot of experience which maybe Forster lacks therefore he could be given the job. In his last job he was sacked by Luton Town which to me was very harsh seen as though his team were third in the league and he actually had the highest win ratio of any manager in Luton’s history. In his 83 games in charge, he won 45 but his downfall was that he couldn’t get the club promoted back to the Football League. However, he has got teams promoted from League 2 before when he was the manager of Walsall. Money, always gets his teams playing good attacking football and this would please the fans.

Finally, I would like to throw Mark Robins name in the mix as he has been out of work for a little while now but always had the potential to be a good manager and with a little guidance he could succeed at a much higher level. With Steve Coppell at the club already it could be a perfect partnership and he has a good record in League 2.

The board have a big decision to make, do they leave it until the end of the season and hope that Brewster is good enough to get them promoted or do they give the job to someone else and hope that they come in and give the squad a little boost. However, it is a very good position to come into a club, the team are near the top of the league and the players should be very confident