As we edge closer to the start of the new season, it’s time for another Championship list-style article. There are several topics that I have already covered including goalkeepers, defenders, attacking midfielders and strikers – as well as team focused content. Now is an appropriate time to look at those managers that might be making a big impression on the league in the coming season.
Of course, when it comes to this – we all have different opinions on who the best managers are. This article will remain consistent to my piece that predicts the top six of the league this season – so it is opinion based at its core. However, there will still be plenty of factual information and stats used to further back up my selections.
So, now we have that out of the way – let’s get stuck into my choices…
1. Steve Bruce (Aston Villa)
When it comes to the Championship there are few safer hands than the managerial talents of Steve Bruce. The 56-year-old has wealth of experience following his time in charge of Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, Sunderland, Hull City, and he is now in charge of Aston Villa. In total, Bruce has taken control of over 800 career games – so his experience is immense.
Some people may want to have a debate, at this point, whether or not experienced managers are the best or not. For me, it’s not about experience but more a matter of the quality within that experience.
For example, you can be a young manager with high-quality experience or an older manager with good quality experience. Equally, it can be of a lower quality depending on what has occurred with the clubs you have managed.
Aston Villa are a team I expect to sizzle in the Championship this season, and Bruce plays a big part in that; he now has the sort of squad that he wants and that goes a long way. Bruce has won promotion out of this league with both Hull and Birmingham City. The Premier League's promotion occurred twice with Hull and twice with Birmingham City. Clearly, he knows what he is doing and is one of the very best outside of the Premier League.
2. Daniel Farke (Norwich City)
Norwich City underperformed from what was expected of them last season as they fell short of a play-off place. This summer is all about refreshing the squad, so the same mistakes are not repeated next season. Alex Neil paid the price for a poor season with his job, which meant that the club needed someone new to come in.
Daniel Farke was the man that was chosen after an extensive search involving the best options from the UK market and abroad. Farke comes in after a successful spell with the Borussia Dortmund ll team, and his reputation is very exciting. Of course, let’s remember that this is the same path that was taken by Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner, which resulted in promotion to the Premier League for them.
Some people will argue that Farke doesn’t deserve a place in this list at the moment. However, we feel this 40-year-old is seriously exciting and will make an instant impact in the Championship. The fact that he improved David Wagner’s old team says an awful lot about him; Farke is such a connoisseur of possession and pressing football, meaning that his Norwich City team could be seriously exciting to watch next season.
3. Gary Rowett (Derby County)
It’s not difficult to understand the ambition at Derby County. The managerial changes they went through last season shows that they are desperate to win promotion to the Premier League. Of course, that statement could apply to around half the teams in the Championship, so the quality of the squad and the coaching staff can often be the deciding factor.
Things won’t be easy for the Rams this season, especially now they have lost star player Tom Ince. What Derby do have up their sleeve though is the managerial talents of Gary Rowett. It shocked a lot of people when Rowett was sacked as Birmingham City manager with his team sitting seventh in the league. The struggles that the Blues had since then says an awful lot about the work he was doing with that squad.
Rowett is now a very accomplished manager at Championship level and has learned a lot during his earlier spells with Burton Albion and Birmingham. The 43-year-old has also made a promising start to life as Derby manager with a 44% win ratio. If his club can finally get things right on the field then it’s clear that Rowett is an exciting manager to watch during the coming season.
4. Garry Monk (Middlesbrough)
Middlesbrough were one of the teams to go down last season and I personally think they are better equipped than Hull City or Sunderland to make an immediate return to the Premier League. The decision to sack Aitor Karanka last season was a risky one because he has a very good record in the Premier League.
However, the club got lucky with Garry Monk’s unexpected availability following his difficulties with Leeds United. Monk did an exceptional job at Leeds under very difficult circumstances; it was disappointing that they missed out on the play-offs but they ran it very close. I have personally been a big fan of Monk for some time and think he was desperately unlucky to lose his job as Swansea manager.
Middlesbrough are getting a manager that has vast experience of both the Premier League and the Championship. The fact that he managed a 47% win ratio at Leeds is some indication of the kind of damage he can do at Championship level. Middlesbrough suffered from a lack of firepower last season – but I’m confident they will be able to solve their problems before the new season begins.
5. Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham)
Fulham dominated all kinds of stats last season and were certainly one of the most exciting teams in the Championship to watch. In particular, they were the pass masters in the league – and I’m predicting them to do that again next season. Clearly, a team’s style usually comes from the manager and how he wants to play.
Therefore, it’s hard to praise the team without a focus on the man that is ultimately responsible for that style. Slavisa Jokanovic is certainly a very talented manager and the 48-year-old has already made quite an impression in English football. Fans probably know him best for his spell in charge of Watford where he successfully won promotion out of the Championship – but strangely lost his job soon after. The decision was even more puzzling considering he had a 58% win ratio with the Hornets.
Of course, Fulham gave him another opportunity and he is making quite an impression in West London as well. The Cottages were a surprise package last season by reaching the play-offs, and very nearly achieved their aim of promotion back to the Premier League. Jokanovic will surely continue to weave his magic in the Championship next season, and it would be a huge surprise if Fulham weren’t promotion contenders again.
6. Carlos Carvalhal (Sheffield Wednesday)
Sheffield Wednesday are another one of those teams that we expect to see up there next season. Of course, the club have reached the play-offs for the last two consecutive seasons – and will be looking to go one better in the coming season. Wednesday have one of the bigger budgets in the league – but Carlos Carvalhal still deserves a lot of credit for what he has been able to do with the club.
There was speculation after Sheffield Wednesday lost in the play-offs last season that Carvalhal would choose to move on. It was certainly a big boost to the club that a deal was reached for him to extend his stay. Wednesday themselves have dropped down the leagues in recent years, but they are now fighting their way back towards the Premier League.
The 51-year-old is vastly experienced with a lot of his managerial career taking place in Portugal. However, he is obviously keen to make an impression on both the Championship and the Premier League. In terms of his performance with Wednesday, he has a 46% win ratio and is certainly enjoying his time with the Sheffield club.
This completes the end of the content section for this article on the best managers outside the Premier League. So, who should have made the list that isn’t featured here?
The Championship is just around the corner and it will be fascinating to see how these managers/clubs will get on in the coming season. If you like content like this, keep an eye on my profile page for more of the same. Next up, I will be covering the best stadiums in the Championship.