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It’s been just over a week since League 1 Huddersfield Town sacked their manager Lee Clark. A young, up and coming manager, Clark had built a promotion chasing team at the Galpharm stadium; a team that included much sought after striker Jordan Rhodes, a man with 27 league goals to his name already this season. At the time of the sacking, Huddersfield were 4th in the league, 4 points from automatic promotion. Not only that but Clark had presided over the most successful period in Huddersfield’s history, a record unbeaten run of 43 games. This run meant that a week after losing his job, Lee Clark was nominated for the League 1 manager of the year award. Employment as a football manager has never been a job with much security, but why did the Huddersfield board make what appears to be a hasty decision?
It could certainly be the case that the board at Huddersfield had their heads turned by the availability of other managers. Former manager Neil Warnock had recently lost his job at QPR, Warnock had lead Huddersfield to promotion in 1995, and has a history of achieving promotion throughout his career; a record-equalling 7 times. Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle made it clear that promotion was the only option this season, after falling at the final hurdle and losing out in the Play-Off final to Peterborough last season. It appears that Hoyle had lost faith in Clark and didn’t think he could make the final step of promotion to the Championship from a difficult League 1 division which includes Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and Charlton; all former Premier League clubs. The chairman needed someone with a track record of promotions, someone like Warnock, and Clark just didn’t have that.
Another manager’s availability was eventually the one that made the difference. Just down the road from the Galpharm Stadium, Leeds United manager Simon Grayson was relieved of his duties by chairman Ken Bates. This wasn’t a particular popular move with the Leeds United fans but it meant that a manager with a proven history of promotion from League 1 was now free and available. Not only had Grayson taken Leeds from the third tier of English football after Dennis Wise and Gary McAllister had failed but he had also been promoted with Blackpool a few seasons before. It was a perfect fit for Huddersfield, a young manager who already lived in and understood the area and what the fans would expect with previous promotions on his CV. Hoyle didn’t waste any time in getting his man, Grayson was appointed Huddersfield manager 5 days after announcing the departure of Lee Clark.
The Huddersfield board may also have felt that Lee Clark’s head had been turned. There’d been a lot of talk of Clark making a move up divisions to manage and at one point was the bookies favourite to take the vacant Leeds United managers position (which coincidently ended up going to Neil Warnock). In fact when the news of Clark departure broke, it was initially thought that he had left to take the managerial role at Elland Road, rather than being sacked. It could have been the case that the Huddersfield board felt that Clark’s head may not have fully been on the job in hand following his name being linked to several jobs, although this wouldn’t appear to match Lee Clark’s character.
It remains to be seen if the decision to sack Lee Clark and appoint Simon Grayson will work out for Huddersfield. Lee Clark will undoubtedly go on to get another managerial job sooner or later and could very well manage in the Premier League one day. What is clear however is that it will be a long time until another manager gets sacked and nominated for manager of the year within 7 days.