Leeds United and Sheffield United set the pace in the race for change

Danny Wilson was sacked by both Sheffield United and Barnsley in the last 10 years.
Danny Wilson was sacked by both Sheffield United and Barnsley in the last 10 years.
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WHEN it comes to football, you learn not to be surprised by most things these days, somewhat sadly.

Especially when it comes to the rapid changing of the guard in dug-outs across the land, with the latest managerial/head coach departure arriving on Thursday evening when Stuart Gray was brutally sacked by Sheffield Wednesday.

Such changes turned into a morale-sapping procession in 2014-15.

Forty-seven dismissals arrived last season and a 48th came to pass when Gray was dispensed with for the perceived crime of finishing 13th in the Championship – and seemingly not having enough style points and being a marketing dream either.

The timing of Gray’s exit was a shock, but not a surprise in the greater scheme of things in a world where the management industry has never been as precarious and cut-throat.

Only last month, the League Managers Association revealed that the number of sackings in the top four divisions had reached its highest levels in 13 years, while the average tenure of axed managers during 2014-15 stood at 1.23 years, the shortest since 1992.

Stuart Gray is the latest head coach to lose his job.

Stuart Gray is the latest head coach to lose his job.

It will not be any consolation to Gray that his 18-month stint with the Owls exceeded that figure.

Security of tenure in the dug-out is a misnomer these days, with the transient nature of the management game seen starkly in Yorkshire last season – and before that.

Six Broad Acres clubs have now changed managerial ‘horses’ since August 2014, with Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino showing the door to three separate head coaches in that time-span.

David Hockaday lasted 70 days at the start of the season, but it was an eternity compared to his full-time successor Darko Milanic, axed after just 32 days in charge in the autumn.

Nigel Clough lost his job as Sheffield United manager last month.

Nigel Clough lost his job as Sheffield United manager last month.

The overall picture over the past decade in the county is not a particularly edifying one, albeit with some exceptions with Phil Parkinson, Steve Evans and Steve Bruce among just 11 serving managers who have been in their jobs for three years or longer.

In the past decade, no Yorkshire club has had fewer than five permanent managers/head coaches, with no club boasting an average tenure of over two years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Leeds – with ten bosses since June 2005 – lead the way thanks in no small part to the arrival on the scene of Cellino, complete with his Italian moniker of ‘mangiallenatori’ (manager-eater) from his time at Cagliari where he hired 36 managers in 22 years at Cagliari.

Sheffield United are not far behind with nine managers in the same time-frame, with it all being a world away from the late eighties and first half of the nineties when Dave Bassett and Howard Wilkinson, up the M1 at Leeds, were as safe-as-houses.

Bassett took charge of the Blades for almost nine years from January 1988 to December 1995.

Compare that with now, with Nigel Adkins recently named as the club’s eighth manager in the past eight years, as the Blades’ continue to attempt to escape from the straitjacket of League One football.

But in truth, when it comes to sticking or twisting in terms of replacing or keeping a manager in tough times, the default position of most clubs – not just in Yorkshire – is to get rid.

Even when it comes to dispensing with figures who have sampled glory in the not too distant past; think Simon Grayson at Leeds, Gary Mills at York City.

Patience is certainly thinner on the ground these days in boardrooms and in the stands. At every Yorkshire club in this past 10 years, one manager, for one reason or another has lasted just a year or less.

The names of David Flitcroft, Peter Jackson, Brian Flynn, Phil Parkinson, Stan Ternent, Hockaday and Milanic, Gordon Strachan, Andy Scott, David Weir, Alan Irvine and Colin Walker will not fill too many pages in the respective teams’ annals.

While Leeds and the Blades have seen a veritable plethora of different faces in the dug-out, the situation at Rotherham, Doncaster, Middlesbrough and Bradford has at least been a little less chaotic. The Millers have been on an upward curve for a fair few seasons, with just two managers sacked in the past decade; Andy Scott and Millers legend Ronnie Moore both paying the price for failing to clear a path to promotion from the bottom division.

Doncaster have also enjoyed a fair few champagne moments since 2005 and while they, like the Millers, have had reason to keep the sackings to a minimum, it did not stop Sean O’Driscoll – arguably the most successful and influential manager in Rovers’ history – being replaced in September 2011.

Over at Middlesbrough, chairman Steve Gibson is someone who has garnered that rare reputation for backing and supporting his man in the old-school traditions – with just two managers sacked in among five departures since the summer of 2005.

Although, try telling that to Gareth Southgate when he was told his services were no longer required after Boro’s 2-0 win over Derby on October 21, 2009, which put them fourth in the embryonic Championship table. He was sacked a few hours later.

Learn to expect the unexpected sometimes.