What Will The Imps Be Looking For in a New Head Coach?

Credit Graham Burrell

We’re recruiting a new manager or head coach, depending on how you wish to term it. Labels matter little – we’re after the man with whom responsibility for getting results on the field rests.

After all, football is a results business, but that’s not going to be the only driver here. A modern football club doesn’t sack a manager and then go back to the drawing board – our structure is in place, just as it has been at clubs like Brentford, whom we wish to emulate. That means we won’t be trawling a list of managers and plumping for a Neil Warnock or Sam Allardyce figure, a quick fix, or someone wanting to overhaul the squad and bring in a backroom team of their own.

Instead, we’ll have a clear idea of key criteria that a new figurehead must meet before he steps into the Sincil Bank dugout.

What are those criteria? Only Clive, Harvey, and the board know that, be we can certainly have a stab in the dark at what we believe to be the main attributes and skills required to come into the hotseat and assume the role as the 46th permanent manager/head coach of Lincoln City Football Club.

Develop Players

There’s no doubt that a new person at the helm will have to have a proven track record of working with players and developing them. The football club is currently geared towards bringing in players like Ethan Erhahon, Dylan Duffy, and Jack Moylan, making them better and selling for a profit. That can only be achieved if the new head coach can work with and develop players.

That rules out some faces, but it does mean people currently working in Under-21 football are not off the table. Think about Kieron McKenna at Ipswich – he came from nowhere in many people’s eyes, but his reputation had been building in the game for some time. He’s the sort of person I can see us going for – him or a manager who has done the same.

That’s the first time to bring up Stephen Bradley, and he’s the current favourite with some bookies. I think that’s just based on what the fans are saying, but Bradley has a track record – he’s brought through numerous young players at Shamrock, including Mandroiu, Sinclair Armstrong, Gavin Bazuna, and Liam Scales.

Credit Graham Burrell

More Entertaining Style of Football

To be honest, we’ve been served functional football for 18 months now. Since the 6-3 win at Bristol Rovers, there’s not been a whole lot of attacking intent, and whilst that has served us well in terms of getting over the post-Appleton bump, it isn’t great every week. If MK had a plan B, a method of beating Carlisle and Burton as well as stopping West Ham and Sheffield United, I’m not sure we’d be having this conversation so early.

Michael Hortin suggested the way our players accrue value is by playing a possession-based game, but we had that under Michael Appleton, and for the last 12 months, that wasn’t great as a product. In possession, out of possession, it doesn’t matter – what matters are chances. I keep referring to the Brentford model, and much of what they did was based on xG. If they lost four in a row, but the xG numbers were good, there was no panic. If they won four in a row, but xG was low, the head coach was asked why. Our xG numbers have been among the weakest in the division for 18 months now, and that’s what has got to change.

courtesy of Graham Burrell

Experience With Better Players

There’s been a few comments about us missing out on Mike Williamson, the new MK Dons head coach who has done wonders at Gateshead. Others have pointed to Dean Brennan at Barnet and wondered if he might be a good shout. Both of those have huge potential as a head coach, but I wonder if we might look for someone with experience of better players.

By that, I mean either someone who has managed at this level before or has coached elite youngsters in an academy. This fits in with developing players, and it’s almost the reverse of Chris Sutton. Sutton wanted to implement Premier League ideas with Division Four players, and it didn’t work, nor did just bringing in a load of elite young players work. It’s not that Sutton was necessarily bad (I mean, he was, but let’s assume not), but that you have to appoint based on who you are and what you have.

Now, we have a decent squad, and we’re an aspiring top-end League One team. I think the board will look to bring someone in with experience of working with players like Ethan Hamilton, who has been at Manchester United, and Danny Mandroiu, who has won titles in Ireland. Ian Evatt came out of the non-league scene, but he evolved with Bolton in the fourth tier, and I’m not sure I can recall a manager coming out of the National League straight into League One and smashing it, and I think that will be on the board’s mind. Step up one level? Sure. Two? I’m not so sure.

Credit Graham Burrell

Work As Part of a Wider Team

We’re not going to be looking for an overlord. This is not the reset button, modern football clubs are structured to a point where reliance on the head coach is as minimal as possible. Of course, there’s going to be some disruption; it would be naive to think otherwise, but how many times did you hear Mark Kennedy say, ‘That’s not my department’ or similar? Plenty and that’s because there is a framework in place for continuity.

That means anyone new coming in will be required to fit within that. Before I start hearing cries of ‘let them manage’ etc, this is a framework that has been built up over time, which has allowed us a top-half finish two seasons out of the last three. It is the sort of approach Brentford has made a success, and it’s how we operate now.