Football League: 5 managers destined for the big time

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Managerial talent is growing in the depths of the English Football League. Sometimes, chairmen just refuse to take a plunge into the unknown.

Our system is producing a multitude of up-and-coming young managers. Whether playing exquisite, free-flowing football or leading squads to the play-offs on a budget teams in the division below would class as miniscule, several managers look set to step up to the big time in the not too distant future.

Though this selection will have served their lower-league apprenticeship before reaching the big stage, naturally not all will become an instant hit.

For every Roberto di Matteo, who started at MK Dons and ended up leading Chelsea to long-yearned Champions League glory, there is a Tony Adams, who managed Wycome Wanderers before a disastrous 14 game spell in the Premier League at Portsmouth, eventually ending up taking over the reins at Gabala FC in the footballing hotbed of Azerbaijan.

I evaluate five managers currently in charge of lower league clubs who are destined to manage at the highest level...

Eddie Howe

‘The Howe Effect’ – leading a club from the relegation zone to automatic promotion in less than two seasons.

At 36-years-old, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has achieved a huge amount during his short managerial career.

Before taking the managerial reigns, Howe was a fan favourite at Dean Court as a player before being forced into retirement at 29.

How those fans are receiving the dividends of that support now, though in entirely different circumstances than initially expected.

Upon retirement, Howe held various coaching roles with the youth and reserve teams before being promoted to first-team manager in January 2009.

The revolution started almost immediately. Despite a 17-point deduction owing to financial difficulties, Bournemouth ended up clear of relegation and proceeded to gain promotion from League Two the following season. A turnaround of such magnitude looked anything but possible 18 months previous.

After a short term in charge at Burnley where things didn’t quite go his way, Howe returned down south in October 2012. With Bournemouth again in the relegation zone, this time in League One, the baby-faced manager took them on an 18-game unbeaten streak that culminated in promotion to the Championship.

The quality of football Howe has Bournemouth playing caught the eye of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers recently and the 36-year-old could do little better than follow his Anfield counterpart. He is enjoying a second crack at the second tier, albeit in more familiar surroundings, and a move to the Premier League could soon be on the horizon.

 Steven Pressley

Former Hearts and Scotland defender Pressley entered a baptism of fire when he left Falkirk for Coventry City in March of last season.

With the club suffering from well-publicised financial issues (eventually leading to a 10-point deduction) and seemingly in turmoil after Mark Robins departed for a more stable environment at Huddersfield Town, the 40-year-old stemmed the decline and led the club to a respectable 15th place finish in League One.

If that was an achievement, this season’s exploits have been nothing short of heroic.

Just when it seemed it couldn’t get much worse for the Sky Blues, they were handed yet another 10-point deduction before the season had even begun and were kicked out of the Ricoh Arena following disputes over rent payments.

With the club now playing in front of little more than 1,000 fans at Sixfields over 30 miles away in Northampton, Pressley has guided the club to 11th in the table, though without the points deficit they would lie just outside the play-off positions.

He managed to get the best from tempestuous striker Leon Clarke - who bought in much needed funds with his January move to Wolves - and Callum Wilson, who managed just one league goal for them the season before. Both lie within the top five scorers in League One this season.

Pressley has dealt with more in 10 months than most managers would in several jobs, but has emerged through the other side with flying colours. No one would be surprised should he be poached for a bigger job within the next 12 months.

 Gary Rowett

Ex-Premier League player Rowett has used the experienced gained playing for eight different clubs to turn around the fortunes of Burton Albion.

Following a disastrous run of 17 games without victory which led to the sacking of Paul Peschisolido, Rowett took over the club towards the end of 2011/12 after a spell as assistant manager and then caretaker manager following the Canadian’s departure.

In his first full season in charge, the 39-year-old narrowly missed out on promotion at the first attempt. Finishing just two points off the automatic places, his side surrendered a 3-2 away lead at Bradford City to lose on aggregate in the playoffs.

A strong season thus far has proven last year was no flash in the pan. Despite star man Jacques Maghoma moving on to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, Rowett’s side again lie in the play-offs with a two-point gap between themselves and third-placed Fleetwood Town.

His managerial credentials continue to blossom and he enjoys a healthy rapport with the Albion fans, something that cannot always be achievable. Being on the younger side of 40, the Bromsgrove-born manager has time firmly on his side and should continue to polish his skills in the lower leagues before an eventual step-up.

 Uwe Rosler

Current Wigan Athletic manager Uwe Rosler is overseeing a resurgent Latics side gunning for a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Since he replaced Owen Coyle in December, they have lost just one in seven Championship games and lie five points off Reading in sixth place.

However, it is Rosler’s work at previous employers Brentford that forced Dave Whelan to come calling.

After learning the ropes as a gaffer in Norway, the ex-Manchester City striker left Molde and expressed a desire to return to England, eventually landing the Bees job in June 2011.

He led Brentford to a ninth-place finish in his first season before coming mightily close to promotion in 2012/13. They were eventually defeated by Yeovil Town at Wembley after a season full of drama, which included being less than ten minutes away from defeating Premier League giants Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Aside from guiding his side towards the upper echelons of League One, Rosler re-branded a team previously seen hiding in mid-table anonymity.

With the aid of England’s loan system, the German created a youthful side that pressed relentlessly without the ball and counter-attacked with pace and tenacity. Clayton Donaldson, signed from Crewe Alexandra on a free transfer, provided the goals while Adam Forshaw, an initial loan signing later made permanent from Everton, lends composure in midfield to go with technical qualities far beyond his League One opposition.

If Wigan continue their good form under Rosler, he could well be leading the Latics out at the likes of Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium as early as next season. Either way, his stock will continue to rise.

 Dean Smith

What happens when a squad loses four out of its’ five strikers all in one summer? Unbelievably, in Walsall and Dean Smith’s case, you appear to improve.

That was the situation the Saddlers found themselves in last summer. Losing Will Grigg to Brentford, Febian Brandy to Sheffield United, Jamie Paterson to Championship side Nottingham Forest and allowing George Bowerman to seek pastures new left Smith with Craig Westcarr as his only striking option.

Owing to some shrewd business in the transfer market, Walsall have arguably come back even stronger this term.

The 42-year-old has sourced locally, bringing in talented playmaker Romaine Sawyers to support lone-striker Westcarr. Sawyers' move in the summer followed that of Sam Mantom from West Brom, who switched in the previous window.

These two provide the bedrock of a technically sound and hard-working midfield, complemented by Chelsea loanee Milan Lalkovic’s trickery on the wing.

Expansive football only flourishes with a reliable defence. Andy Butler, who Smith made skipper upon being appointed permanently, provides a bedrock in the back line alongside Paul Downing, another recruit from West Brom.

These signings epitomise Smith’s philosophy of attractive, high-intensity football which has changed the face of a club staring at relegation when he first took the helm in 2011. It will perhaps irk Saddlers fans if they again lose their brightest talents this summer, but their unwavering trust in the manager during a similar period last close season was both refreshing and encouraging.

Smith’s attractive brand of football, along with an ability to balance the books in a transfer market, almost make him a perfect candidate for higher-level clubs seeking success under tight financial restraints.

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Eddie Howe
Burton Albion
Wigan Athletic

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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