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Another managerial casualty in the Championship. It’s getting a bit dull, all this chopping and changing.
Can’t those who make the decisions at the top just allow failing managers to see out their contracts in peace? They could take a step down from coaching the first team, let their No.2s get on with the job and go and make touchline shapes with the Academy first XI or something.
Until match day, that is, when they show up suited and booted in the dugout – business as usual. The casual observer would never know the difference. All of a sudden results would pick up, and hey presto before long that contract has petered out, teary goodbye’s have been exchanged, and there’s a ready made replacement already with his feet well and truly under the table.
Perfect. OK, unlikely. And a bit silly really.
Let’s get back to reality, sharpish. Gary Johnson has left Bristol City, the Robins' chairman Steve Landsdown pinpointing a season of disappointing results as the reason for this mutually consented departure.
"Mutual consent" is an overused and nearly always deliberately misleading phrase associated with managers being sacked from their jobs. But for once, judging by what’s been said in the Ashton Gate aftermath, it appears to be entirely appropriate. Johnson himself, in his parting statement, has elaborated a bit further than the standard "I’d like to thank all the fans and the players...".
To his credit he's conceded that it is probably the right time for him to move on, and that the club needs a fresh face. It's all strangely amicable. He even quipped: “You know when people stop laughing at your jokes, it’s time to leave.”
Said in jest it may have been, but Johnson could heed some recent advice from another Championship gaffer who's been where Johnson is now – in search of work.
Quizzed on the secrets of his overachieving success at Blackpool this season, Ian Holloway – another boss who might’ve been a stand-up comic in a different life – suggested that adopting the funny-man approach to management is ultimately limiting in terms of on-field gains.
Holloway opined that his No More Mr Nice Guy stance at Bloomfield Road has been a big factor in the club's upturn in fortunes on the pitch. On the advice of previous associates, he singled out his laugh-a-minute approach at Plymouth and Leicester as a major reason behind his failings at both clubs.
Johnson might take note, wherever he ends up. And realistically he shouldn't expect that somewhere to be below Championship level. For his time at Bristol City should be viewed, on the whole, as a success story.
The man who counts both Yeovil Town and the Latvian national team among his previous charges steered City to promotion from League One in his second full season in charge.
More impressively, the squad he assembled for the following campaign was more than a match for most of the Championship's biggest hitters. Arriving at the Gate were the likes of talented Australian international Nick Carle. Fitness concerns aside, Carle's game was the perfect blend of cultured and steely in the centre of the park. But he left prematurely, to Crystal Palace for £1million.
Similarly impressive was the addition of Marvin Elliot, whose energetic ball-winning midfield performances were key to the club's rise up the Championship in 2007/08 – a season in which, but for a stunning match-winning volley from Hull's Dean Windass in the play-off final, Johnson could well have steered the Wurzels to the promised land at his first attempt.
Yet without the benefit of being the league's unknown quantity, City have struggled to reach similar heights since. They stuttered to 10th place last time without really threatening to break into the play-offs and have had a poor time of it this time around. Currently they find themselves looking over their shoulders at the drop zone. That play-off final seems a long time ago.
Still, Johnson has added quality, from which his replacement (whoever that may be: Alan Curbishley and George Burley have been mentioned) should benefit. Shoot-on-sight striker Nicky Maynard should mature into a real powerhouse, while doughty former Celtic workhorse Paul Hartley – a rare shining light this season – has been another sound acquisition.
So, assuming there is no end-of-season capitulation, Johnson has succeeded in establishing Bristol City as a Championship club. When you consider he took over with them drifting in League One and throw in that near miss in the play-off final, his achievements there aren't really to be sniffed at.
He's moved them up a level at the very least. It seems that he's in agreement with the club's board that the next level is beyond him. No shame in that at all: a parting of the ways on good terms is all too rare in football nowadays.
It's quite nice when there's a bit of controversy, though. How long's Warnock been at QPR?
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