Football Managers Should Never Swap Rivals In Search Of Glory

There was much concern in Bristol in December, when Bristol Rovers opted to dispense with the services of manager Darrell Clarke.

Clarke was a victim of his own success, taking The Gas from the National League to League One and twice keeping them in the third tier despite a low budget. Sadly, four months of having a decent budget cost him his job.

The rumours circulating (The Bristol Post) the club were that Steve Cotterill was in the frame, a manager who had previously earned promotion from the division and managed at a higher level. It was widely unpopular, mainly because Cotterill’s success had been achieved with city rivals Bristol City.

He was later pictured watching The Robins, perhaps a defiant message to the Rovers’ owners that even he thought it a silly move, but he wouldn’t have been the first manager to cross a forbidden divide.

In The Championship, one man has made that jump this season.

Paul Lambert has been everywhere in football; the Premier League, Champions League and of course, Celtic. He’s managed Aston Villa, Stoke City and now Ipswich Town. He got the job at Portman Road after Paul Hurst’s short reign was deemed a failure, but what owner Marcus Evans might not have grasped is the task is far bigger for Lambert than any other manager he might have picked.

Why? Because he’s a former Norwich City manager.

The fierce East Anglian divide isn’t one a manager, nor player, should cross. The national media might not see the vitriol and hate with which it is contested, but it’s as passionate as any other clash you can name.

That’s why Lambert is on a hiding to nothing, just as Cotterill would have been. If he keeps Ipswich up, where does he go from there? They’re a small club in Championship terms and would struggle to kick on without investment, which is something the owner isn’t able to inject. Lambert is a stop gap, but he’ll never be welcomed at Ipswich as one of their own.

Ipswich are still favourites for the drop in the latest football betting, but even if he does pull off an escape, it will only be a temporary reprieve for him. It’s tough on Lambert because he might have the attributes to do well, but he’ll be given far less time by the fans because of his Canaries connections.

It isn’t always true of course, sometimes a manager can cross the forbidden line and do well. Brian Clough, for instance, was hugely popular at Derby County, winning the First Division title before a bust-up with their chairman at the time. When he left there in 1972, few would have thought it possible he could turn up at Nottingham Forest.

That is exactly what he did, again winning the First Division and then back-to-back European titles. He’s revered on both sides of the divide, so much so the road between the two cities is called Brian Clough way (via BBC).

Unless there’s a serious change in circumstance over the next six months, it’s unlikely the road between Norwich and Ipswich will be called anything other than the A140.

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