After the chaotic Championship campaign concluded with Saturday’s playoff final between Swansea & Brentford, I thought I’d rank each & every Championship manager still employed at their club.
It’s impossible with these opinion pieces that we’ll all agree on my selections, and to save writing an essay each justification will be brief. However, I’ve attempted to judge each manager on how they’ve dealt with circumstances at their respective clubs, and whether said team has over/under achieved. So, with that in mind, this is my attempt at Ranking EVERY Championship Manager This Season.
24: Wayne Rooney (Derby)
Beginning with the latest ex England international to enter management, Rooney should count his lucky stars that he’s not already got a relegation on his CV.
After a strong finish to last season, Rooney’s Rams were winless in their last six with five defeats. Consequently, ‘Wazza’ struggled to galvanise & motivate his side when it mattered, and with the three relegated sides fighting adversity off the pitch, Rooney’s side never should’ve been so close to demotion.
23: Nigel Pearson (Bristol City)
From one side that slumped into the end of the season to another, how Pearson has secured the permanent post at Bristol City is beyond me.
For years Bristol City lingered around the playoff spots to perennially miss out on promotion, but this season have finished towards the wrong end of the table. Despite a brief ‘new manager bounce’ under Pearson, the new boss has hardly justified the new contract he was given.
22: Carlos Corberan (Huddersfield)
This one felt a tad harsh for a man trying to impose an ambitious style of football in the second tier, but Terrier fans will be hoping the Bielsa disciple’s free flowing football will bring more success next season.
Given the fact they fired the Cowley brothers for saving them from relegation, it begs the question of why they’re so content with two less points this season, and two places lower in the league table. If they continue to falter next season, expect the young Spaniard to be struggling to retain his job.
21: Darren Moore (Sheffield Wednesday)
Despite the clear issues off the pitch for both Moore & Wednesday at the tail-end of this season, it’s tough to place the bottom placed side’s manager any higher than this.
He knew the size of the task he took on when he left Doncaster for Wednesday, but given the fact the side remained rooted in the relegation zone during his tenure, here’s hoping his first full season in Sheffield is more successful.
20: Paul Warne (Rotherham)
Although I think Paul Warne’s a good manager, it’s again impossible to give too much credit to a man that can’t break his side’s yo-yo nature between the second & third tier.
Like Wednesday, the issues extended beyond the pitch for the Millers, with covid outbreaks paving way for a harshly hectic relegation run-in. Hopefully, in years to come, we can see Warne consolidate Rotherham back within the Championship.
19: Chris Hughton (Nottingham Forest)
Although I like Forest’s chances to move up the table next season, you can’t say Hughton’s job has been anything more than mediocre this year.
Having taken the job on relatively early on in the season (before Valerien Ismael at Barnsley), the side has still vastly underachieved after narrowly missing out on the playoffs the season before hand. With more time and greater resources than Ismael, in context, Hughton hasn’t done that great of a job at the City Ground yet.
18: Tony Mowbray (Blackburn Rovers)
Regardless of a strong end of the season, Mowbray’s side has regressed under him this season.
I understand he’s often without his key man Dack to injury, but with one of the division’s best strikers, 15th just isn’t really good enough. As all the men on this list are still employed, they’ve at least done an average job, and I think average describes his job this year pretty well.
17: Michael O’Neill (Stoke City)
Being a Stoke fan myself, I’ve seen M’On’s job first hand, and despite injuries to his squad, he again fits rather well in the bang average category of bosses.
After his heroics last season, many Stoke fans, including myself, expected us to build on last year’s form for a playoff push this season. Campbell’s injury derailed those playoff aspirations, but the near relegation form since solidifies him as lower mid table on this list.
16: Gareth Ainsworth (Wycombe Wanderers)
The only thing stopping Ainsworth from moving further up this list is Wycombe’s eventual relegation, as despite it he’s done a rather impressive job.
They were just a point away from survival, an incredible feat given their rapid rise through the leagues regardless of their inferior financial means. For Ainsworth to keep his side motivated and fighting despite their torrid start is indicative of his position as a great man manager.
15: Frankie McAvoy (Preston North End)
Take notes Bristol City, this is the sort of interim manager you choose to appoint on a permanent basis.
Whispers of Preston being drawn into the relegation battle were intensifying as McAvoy stepped into the role as interim manager. Those doubters were silenced once he took on the position, guiding them to promotion form over his 8-game tenure. An impressive feat, but fears it’s just a new manager bounce keeps him mid table.
14: Gary Rowett (Millwall)
Rowett’s first full season at the helm has featured a slight regression from their near playoff form last year, but the Lions still continue to impress under his management.
With the budget the Londoners run on, anything above mid table is somewhat of a success for them. Therefore, with an 11th placed finish despite Jed Wallace’s drop off in form, Rowett is mid table in this list just like his side.
13: Jonathan Woodgate (AFC Bournemouth)
It was a whirlwind couple of days for Woodgate in January, joining Tindall’s coaching staff only to replace the man a couple of days later.
With a strong squad like Bournemouth’s is, Woodgate did a solid job to eventually secure them a playoff place come the end of the season. Unfortunately, the Cherries struggled to carry momentum into the business end of the season, losing their playoff semi & last three games of the season.
12: Lee Bowyer (Birmingham City)
Birmingham were destined for third tier football under Karanka, so for Bowyer to resurrect a side in such a desperate situation is testament to the great manager he is.
The only thing stopping him moving further up the list is the longevity of his tenure in the Midlands, but his start to life at St Andrews bodes well for next season. Bankrolled by Bellingham money, could we see him move further up the list in 2022?
11: Neil Warnock (Middlesbrough)
Warnock has achieved with ‘Boro what us Stoke fans hoped would happen under O’Neill this season.
A controversial appointment just before football came back after lockdown, Warnock has built on the survival mission Gibson tasked him with last season. A lack of firepower kept them out of playoff contention, but Warnock deserves credit for consolidating them in the top half.
10: Mark Robins (Coventry City)
With Coventry experiencing a similarly quick rise through the leagues as Wycombe, it could’ve been tough for the Sky Blues to survive this season.
Coventry ended the season in brilliant form, eventually comfortably surviving the drop, a scenario Robins would’ve taken entering the season. Given this impressive feat, I’m sure Robins will be in the conversation for jobs higher up the league next season.
9: Mick McCarthy (Cardiff City)
When Neil Harris was sacked earlier in the season, Cardiff looked far from even challenging for the playoffs.
Fast forward to the end of the season, and despite missing out on that playoff berth, Cardiff fans will be hoping they’ll be challenging at the right end of the table again next season. For McCarthy to get a tune out of another manager’s squad so swiftly just goes to show his experience and quality at this level.
8: Veljko Paunovic (Reading)
Many eyebrows were raised, including my own, when Bowen was replaced by Paunovic last summer, however he’s proved many doubters wrong.
An electrifying start to the season saw them become real contenders for at least playoff football. Although those lofty aspirations tailed off towards the end of the season, Paunovic’s team’s performances on the pitch are something to be proud of alongside the development of their young core.
7: Nathan Jones (Luton Town)
After pitiful performances with the Potters, Jones is back at home with the Hatters and impressing once again.
A top half finish for a side that narrowly avoided the drop last season just shows how great Jones is at finding a tune with this Hatters side. With that, I’d imagine Jones will once again find himself in conversations for vacant job roles, but he’ll be careful about jumping ship from his beloved Luton side.
6: Daniel Farke (Norwich City)
Although his Canaries side have been incredible, they were pre-season favourites for promotion so I can’t really place Farke atop this list.
To largely maintain the core of the previous promotion side pays dividends to Farke’s ability to motivate his team. Also, as we’ve seen with many relegated sides in the past, it’s an underrated feat to so swiftly change a side’s fortunes but Farke showed he belongs in the top tier.
5: Xisco Munoz (Watford)
You must be wondering how I can place Munoz above Farke given the latter’s superior performance on the league table, however Munoz took that Watford side to another level.
While Farke has shown in the past that his side was capable of domination, Munoz was handed a side fighting to stay in the playoffs. He also inherited a rumoured discontent dressing room, so to galvanise his side to push into automatic promotion contention was incredible. Now, it remains to be seen if he can stay on the Hornet’s managerial merry go round for longer than his predeccesors.
4: Steve Cooper (Swansea City)
Cooper will be bitterly disappointed to miss out on promotion once again, even if he may find himself in the top tier next season.
I certainly didn’t expect the Swans to succeed once again, but Cooper has continued to use his links within the game & great coaching to prolong their promotion aspirations. For the club to also turn a profit in such an economically destructive year goes to show Cooper’s ability to succeed on and off the pitch.
3: Mark Warburton (QPR)
It would’ve been Eze to tip QPR for relegation after the departure of their aforementioned star, but Warburton went on to improve their fortunes this season around.
To lose an undoubted Premier League quality player, without the financial means or pulling power to replace him is a tough feat for any boss. With their strong end to the season, the hope is Warburton will be handed more of that Eze money to push on towards playoff contention.
2: Thomas Frank (Brentford)
Talking of losing key players and improving, Brentford’s success behind the ‘Moneyball’ approach to recruitment saw the Bees soar to the top flight.
Beating Brentford’s playoff demons was Frank, who continued to embody the Bees clear philosophy and blueprint for success. To lose both Watkins & Benrahma and to lick the wounds of playoff defeat in a short off season is no mean feat, so to push on for promotion immediately after places Frank in manager of the season contention.
1: Valérien Ismaël (Barnsley)
Who else? Ismael was incredible as the mastermind behind Barnsley’s Cinderella story.
Another side that champions the use of statistics in sport, you’d be forgiven for fearing for Barnsley’s survival chances once Struber walked out after a slow start. In came the relatively unkown Ismael, but he’s established himself as one of the league’s best coaches. He’ll be another second tier boss in the conversation for Premier League jobs this summer.
There you have it, my rankings for every single Championship manager (that’s still in a job). It was tough to find a fair way to rank all 24 of them, so let me know what you think about my selections in the comments below, or tweet us @FanHub_football .