A WEEK ago, Carlos Carvalhal and Garry Monk were feeling the heat. Now, it is the turn of Leonid Slutsky and Thomas Christiansen.
Life as a Championship manager is rarely a straightforward affair. Not only are the majority of teams well matched in the second tier but the games come so thick and fast – and particularly at this time of year – that fortunes can swing dramatically.
What had seemed to be a club on the up can quickly descend into talk of crisis, Leeds United just the latest team to suffer such a fall courtesy of a shocking run that has seen six of their last eight games lost.
It is a slump in form that has taken the Elland Road outfit from top spot to outside the play-off places with a host of sides snapping at their heels.
Thomas Christiansen’s standing has taken a similar nosedive with the Dane’s future, rightly or wrongly, the subject of intense speculation among frustrated supporters in the wake of the loss to Derby County.
Owner Andrea Radrizzani, for his part, moved quickly to back the United head coach on social media after what the Italian had considered to be an unjust result on Tuesday night. “We are building a solid project,” he tweeted. “I believe in my team.”
Life as a Championship manager is rarely a straightforward affair. Not only are the majority of teams well matched in the second tier but the games come so thick and fast – and particularly at this time of year – that fortunes can swing dramatically.The YP’s Richard Sutcliffe
Such support will, no doubt, be appreciated by Christiansen. Nevertheless, the former Barcelona striker has already admitted his side “need the win” from Saturday’s tea-time trip to Brentford.
“It cannot go on like this,” he added for good measure, ensuring there will be plenty of rubber-necking interest from fans of rivals club tuning in to watch the Griffin Park clash on Sky.
Another Yorkshire manager in need of a positive result this weekend is Hull City’s Slutsky. Back-to-back home defeats inside four days have swept away any positivity engendered by the trio of games either side of last month’s international break yielding seven points.
Never a man capable of disguising his feelings at the best of times, Slutsky cut a forlorn figure both on the touchline during the latter stages of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Middlesbrough and then afterwards when facing the media.
As well as using the phrase ‘very difficult’ no less than 15 times in a little under a dozen minutes, the Russian was asked whether he feared for his job. Most in his position would have straight-batted the question, and insisted his only focus was on turning things round.
Instead, while making clear that he hoped to be given more time, Slutsky admitted he would understand if the Allam family wanted to make a change.
“In this situation I will agree with the owner’s decision,” he said.
“For me, 15 matches is a normal time for a decision. The decision about me, I will agree. No problem.”
Pressed on whether the owners were putting him under any additional pressure, Slutsky denied this was the case before adding: “The biggest pressure is on myself. I don’t need extra pressure. Really, I always evaluate the situation and I am not satisfied with my level now. The most serious analysis is by myself. I never say: ‘It is not my fault’.
“I will agree with each owner decision. If he lets me continue to work then I will continue to try and change the situation.”
Slutsky, it has to be said, would make a terrible poker player. The City chief’s expression invariably betrays exactly what he is thinking, good or bad, and the picture painted on Tuesday night was not a pretty one.
The former CSKA and Russian national team manager even went so far as to admit the Hull job was proving his most difficult.
It is hard not to feel sympathy for the Russian, as last summer’s troubles in the transfer market have left his side lightweight in certain areas. Leeds, too, have a squad lacking a recognised left back, while Kyle Bartley has not been adequately replaced at centre half.
As with Christiansen, Slutsky needs a lift this weekend against Sheffield United similar to the one handed to Caravalhal, another of the county’s managers to come under pressure amid a recent poor run, by a long overdue midweek win over Millwall.
The Portuguese continues to benefit from the steadfast backing of Owls chairman, Dejphon Chansiri, in the face of discontent from the stands.
Other owners would not have been anywhere near as patient, as Sunderland proved by sacking Simon Grayson after Tuesday night’s 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers.
He became the second Championship manager to lose his job this term, Harry Redknapp having earlier been shown the door by Birmingham City.
More will, of course, follow in the coming weeks and months. Whether that includes any of the White Rose contingent in the second tier remains to be seen but if Christiansen and Slutsky are feeling anxious over their respective futures right now then comfort should come in the form of Monk.
This time last week, Boro were in the bottom half of the table and their manager was coming in for plenty of flack with his expensively-assembled side booed off in each of the last three games.
Now, though, following back-to-back wins at Reading and Hull, Monk’s stock has risen markedly and his side are knocking on the door of the play-offs.
Christiansen and Slutsky need a similar helping hand from their respective players – and fast.