We’ve had five managers since 2000, let’s look at how the numbers from their reigns stack up at Championship level.
On Saturday, following our defeat to Crystal Palace, throwing away a two-goal lead, I saw a suggestion on Twitter that we should bring back Stan to shore up our defensive ranks as we “conceded less under him”. This got me to thinking, which managers have we conceded the least under in recent years? How many goals have we scored under them? It won’t necessarily show us the best manager but it will certainly be interesting to take a look. For the purposes of the study I will start with Stan Ternent’s reign, taking the GAA (goals against average), GFA (goals for average), GD (goal difference) and GDA (goal difference average). I will do it for each season the manager was in charge for, including part seasons as is the case for some of the managers, and for the whole period of their management of the club.
Let’s summarise the winners and losers before we delve deeper into the numbers for each manager. As it was what prompted the study in the first place I’ll start with GAA, unsurprisingly Steve Cotterill wins this one. His Clarets side had a GAA of just 1.07. Brian Laws was next best with 1.32, before Coyle (not known for defensive prowess) with 1.37. Eddie Howe had a 1.4 GAA with Stan Ternent last with a shocking 1.53.
GFA provides a shock winner with Brian Laws’ side topping the table. In his 22 games in charge at Championship level Burnley averaged 1.55 goals per game, Owen Coyle isn’t far behind with 1.44, Howe is third with 1.41, Stan Ternent is next with 1.33 goals per game and the tight ship of Steve Cotterill brings up the rear with an average of 1.03 goals scored per game.
Three of the five managers have maintained a positive goal difference with Laws and Coyle both on +5 and Eddie on +1. Steve Cotterill has a GD of -6 and Ternent has a horrible GD of -37. GDA shows the same picture but reflects Laws’ Burnley sides better scoring average over Coyle as he edges the top of that table with 0.23 to Coyle’s 0.06.
Win percentage is unlikely to shock many fans as Coyle’s Championship side are top with 42.3%. Ternent is second with 38.8%, Howe third with 37.5%, with Laws on 36.4% and Cotterill on 31.6%. What I find more interesting, however, is PPG (points per game) because, obviously, draws do count for something – unlike defeats. In this category Owen Coyle is the undisputed winner, topping the list with 1.51 PPG. More surprising is second place, Brian Laws with 1.45 PPG. Then we find Ternent on 1.39 PPG, Howe on 1.32 PPG and Cotterill on 1.25 PPG. This tells us that while Laws supported his win percentage with a good number of draws, allowing him to pick up more points per game played, Eddie didn’t – something that probably won’t surprise many considering the low number of draws we witnessed under his leadership.
Stan’s Championship reign set out well as the Clarets narrowly missed out on the play-offs in his first two seasons finishing 7th on both occasions. The numbers reflect this as his 21 wins in both seasons gave him a 45.65% win percentage for that period. In the first season his side were a tight unit, conceding a reasonable 54 goals but only scoring 50 themselves. This gave a low GFD of 1.09 compared with a GAA of 1.17. His side would improve their attacking prowess the following year though with 70 goals scored while they shipped 62, meaning a GFA and a GAA of 1.52 and 1.35 respectively. Only Owen Coyle and Brian Laws would top that GFA out of Burnley’s future managers.
For his final two seasons in charge Burnley would remain a scoring threat but would concede 89 and 77 goals giving shocking GAAs of 1.93 and 1.67, only Eddie Howe’s form this season is worse! Win percentage would also to drop to 32.6% and 28.26% meaning a tearful farewell to the man who took Burnley up to Championship level so fantastically.
Steve Cotterill may as well have been named Steady Steve. He righted the ship and in his first season Burnley would concede a meagre 39, they’d score even less though – just 38, for a GAA of 0.85 – Burnley’s best for a single season at this level under these five managers. Burnley’s poor scoring would hamper them meaning just a return to a win percentage of 32.6% in Cotterill’s first season but he was doing the job he was meant to and all from starting with just five players under contract. The Clarets would reach the dizzying heights of scoring an average of once per game the following season whilst shipping the most goals of SC’s Burnley reign with 54. Cotterill is the most consistent of Burnley managers winning 15, 14 and 15 games in his full seasons. If you were to break those seasons down further you would probably find they came in promising spells but January usually brought the sale of a star, or an injury in December ala Andy Gray, halting any of Steve’s progress. When money became available it seemed Cotterill wasn’t the man to spend it, he had done the job he was brought in to do and left by ‘mutual consent’ in November 2007.
God, Judas – depends when and who you asked! He continued where SC left off at first, conceding slightly more, scoring slightly less (GAA of 1.43 and GFA of 1.43 under Cotterill at the start of the season, 1.47 and 1.25 under Coyle.) However, he improved the win percentage providing less draws than the man he replaced. His first full season would see us promoted though. Our defence was definitely not watertight, conceding 1.3 goals per game but our offence was stunning. We scored 72 goals (our most in a season at this level) for a GFA of 1.57 and we won 45.7% of our fixtures.
Poor Brian, nobody loved him – especially not the fans – but his numbers in his short Championship reign were nothing to turn your nose up at. We scored 34 goals in just 22 games for a GFA of 1.55, just short of Coyle’s promotion season average, while conceding 29 for a GAA of 1.32. His win percentage was an unspectacular 36.4% but he had a reasonable PPG of 1.45.
Continuing where Laws left off, Eddie had a GAA of 1.33 for the rest of the season but GFA dropped to 1.29. A win percentage of 41.7% and PPG of 1.5 showed that he was an improvement results-wise though.
That first half of a season would see Eddie peak though. In his first full year in charge he’d managed a 37% win percentage and 1.35 PPG, though conceded less and scoring more with a GAA of 1.26 and a GFA of 1.33 – meaning an improvement in goal difference of 0.11 per game.
This season however has so far seen Eddie’s numbers well down after the first ten games. 30% win percentage, 1.1 PPG, 2.2 GAA but a surge in scoring for a GFA of 2.1. The GFA is the most impressive on this page but it can’t hide the fact that results aren’t coming and we are conceding more than we can score. We will now never know whether Eddie could turn the season around and get our GAA under control and likely achieve an increase in win percentage and PPG at the same time.
If we could merge managers?
If you could take two halves of our managers to make one, I would surely have to pick the defensive prowess of 2004’s Steve Cotterill with the ruthlessness in front of goal of 2012’s Eddie Howe.
When replacing Eddie what kind of manager would you like to see? Watertight like Cotterill or Stan in his first year in the Championship? Free scoring but a little leaky like Coyle? Or reasonably balanced like Laws in the Championship or Eddie prior to this season?
What managers would you combine to get the best results at Turf Moor and what style of manager would you pick to replace Eddie Howe, let us know in the comments.