Michael Skubala Nominated For Manager of the Month – Should We Be Wary?

The Manager of the Month nominees for February have been announced, and it’s no surprise our own head coach, Michael Skubala, is among those listed.

He should be a shoo-in, given that we picked up more points than any of the other League One sides in February, but I guess you never really know. The announcement will be made on Friday, meaning if he wins, he’ll likely be given the award on Saturday as we travel to Barnsley.

You know what that means….

You know we love debunking a myth here at the Stacey West, so let’s try now? Is there a curse around the Manager of the Month award, or is it a fallacy?

I think there are two elements here – the Lincoln City element and the wider award curse. Let’s start with it in general. I have gone back two-and-a-half seasons in League One as a sample. Granted, to get a full picture, we’d need to look at every award across every division, but frankly, I don’t have the time. Still, this feels like a decent section to assess.

League One Manager of the Month

There have been 24 awards given over my chosen time period, starting with Lee Johnson for August in September 2021 and finishing with Richie Wellens for January, announced on February 9th. The evidence actually suggests there is a curse of sorts! I know, I can’t believe it either. However, these are the facts.

In 2021/22 two managers lost the game immediately after their award. One was Liam Manning, the September winner, and the other was Gareth Ainsworth. Painfully for Sir Gareth, the game he lost was the play-off final! Only two managers were able to win the game after their award – Danny Cowley in December after getting the November award and Ryan Lowe the month before with Plymouth. The other winners, Lee Johnson (twice), Liam Manning, Paul Warne, and Steven Schumacher all drew the game after winning the award. Johnson’s draw in September was the only game in eight his side did not win, and it came against Fleetwood, hardly a powerhouse of the division.

Credit Graham Burrell

In 2022/23, the results are equally as mixed. Michael Duff (November and February) and Steven Schumacher (September) were the only managers to win after receiving their award. Duff (again) lost his first game after picking up the December award, but in fairness he had also lost the two previous before being nominated. Paul Warne (January) also lost after getting the award. Danny Cowley (August), Steven Schumacher (October) and Kieran McKenna (March and April) all drew their next games. The two draws for McKenna were the only two games they failed to win in 15, pointing absolutely to a curse! After winning the October award, Schumacher’s draw in November was against us.

This season, the ‘curse’ has not been as evident. There have been six winners, and four have won their next game – Liam Manning, John Mousinho, Ian Evatt and Paul Warne. Only Ian Evatt and Richie Wellens have won the award and have not won their next game, meaning the percentage is quite a bit higher.

Overall, since the start of the 21/22 season, after winning Manager of the Month, 37% of managers have won their next game, 25% have lost, and 37% have drawn. Or, to put it another way, 62% of manager have failed to win their next game. Is that a curse? If you consider they’ve been awarded the accolade for winning games the previous month, it does seem quite a high number.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Lincoln City Managers

I am absolutely astounded that Michael Appleton did not win a Manager of the Month award during his stupendously good 2020/21 season. He was nominated several times, but I find it astounding that he didn’t pick up the award. That was my first takeaway.

My second? We do not want Michael Skubala to win if we believe in curses because the Manager of the Month has not been good to Lincoln City managers. Looking back as far as 1999, we have had the award on eight occasions and only once won the next game. Even then, it came amidst a really tough spell.

Starting in October 1999 with John Reames, there’s evidence of a curse on Lincoln managers. He picked up five wins and a draw just before the turn of the century, including a 3-2 win at Orient and a 4-1 mauling of Chester City, with Barry Richardson saving a penalty. Starting November 2nd, we won once in the next 11. It’s possible the award was given before the 5-2 defeat against Mansfield Town, but it may have been before the 4-2 win against York City, our only home win between Welling (October 30th) and Hull (Jan 15th, 2000).

The first winner of this century award was Keith Alexander in November 2004. We only played four games, three in the league, but we won all three – Northampton (3-2), Darlington (3-0) and Yeovil (3-1). We didn’t win again in 2004, losing in December against Macclesfield (2-1) and Wycombe (1-0) – both of those games saw the opposition score last-minute goals. We drew the other two matches 0-0, producing a single goal in 360 minutes of football.

Keith Alexander won the award again in February 2006, having won four games (Stockport 3-2, Torquay 2-0, Barnet 3-2 and Notts County 2-1) and drawn one (Macclesfield 1-1). After a break of 14 days, we drew 2-2 with Rushden before winning just one of the next seven. The one we won was 5-0 against Grimsby, though.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Next up for the award was Schoey in October 2006. We all remember this month, thrashing Barnet 5-0 away and putting seven past Rochdale as the highlights. There isn’t an exact date the award was given out, but we finished October by winning 1-0 at Swindon to go top of the table. We lost the next four, three in the league and one in the FA Cup. Another case of the curse?

Peter Jackson won the award twice. A cheeky little run in February 2008 saw us win five from six, pulling away from the foot of the table. It’s not 100% clear when the award was given, but I’m assuming it was around the 10th, meaning we won the next game, the 11th, against Notts County. However, we won three and lost four of the next seven. I never realised this, but after drawing 1-1 with Bury on New Year’s Day 2008, we didn’t draw another game all season.

Jacko was back among the winners in October 2008, winning five and drawing one of these six games featuring some of the Magnificent Seven. Highlights included beating Chesterfield 3-1 despite having ten men for the second half and winning 1-0 at Bournemouth. That set November up nicely; we lost five of the next seven, drawing the other two. One of those draws was against Mark Cooper’s Kettering in the FA Cup, one of the defeats against the same opponent. In fact, after winning the award, we won two of the next 14 matches. Ouch.

Peter Jackson (courtesy Graham Burrell)

The next time we had a manager in the EFL Manager of the Month reckoning was December 2017, when King Cowley picked up the award. Five wins from six matches, including a 2-0 win at Yeovil and the 2-1 win against Forest Green when Rheady bagged a diving header, made Danny the obvious choice. On January 12th, he got his award, and on January 13th, we drew 2-2 with Notts County. We drew the next game as well, 1-1 at Barnet.

Finally (and criminally, in my opinion), the last time a Lincoln City manager won the award was in August 2018. It was Danny again after we got off to a blistering start in our title-winning season. We played five league games, won four, and drew one. I’m not sure whether crushing Swindon 4-1 or Notts County 3-1 was the best result, but it was a great run. Danny found out he’d won the award on September 7th, and on the eighth, we lost our first league match of the season against Crawley Town.

Credit Graham Burrell


Of course, there’s no curse. There’s no such thing as curses. However, it is nice to think that if Michael Skubala does win it, whatever the outcome of the game on Saturday, he will be the first Imps manager since 2018 to take the award.

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