Twenty-six seasons have passed since Martin O’Neill’s stymied attempt in 1995/96 to get us promoted straight back into the top division (for details see file marked ‘Chase, R – The Windass Affair’).
Eighteen Norwich City managers since have spent 19 seasons in the second tier attempting the same thing. Many have failed and only four have succeeded – Worthington, Lambert, Neil, and Farke. It’s a tough, tough division to get out of. Upwards that is.
Out of interest I’ve squeezed and prodded the data and come up with the following four charts. They show the top five managers out of eighteen in each category listed. All league and cup games during their second tier tenure are included. (NB. Data from 2020/21 is excluded.)
Chart 1 – Most games won
Winning 52% of his 66 games in charge of the second tier means Alex Neil tops this one. Surprising? Maybe not. He’s a winner, and had a storming promotion season in 2014/15. Alan Irvine also shows well winning exactly half his games during his limited reign. Farke is placed fourth out of eighteen so is right up there, but still with room to improve.
Chart 2 – Fewest games lost
The other side of the coin. Farke again does well, but Martin O’Neill takes the chequered flag losing fewer than one game in five. Paul Lambert is close up behind losing exactly one in five, impressively too with a side newly promoted from League One in 2010/11. Alex Neil and Alan Irvine are again in the mix.
Chart 3 – Most goals scored
Who liked hitting the net most? The most fundamental part of the game. Lambert? Farke? No – third and fifth respectively. Top of the shop, almost under the radar, was temporary boss Alan Irvine with 2.40 goals a game in 2016/17. Alex Neil is a strong second with 1.86 and a slightly under-appreciated Neil Adams in fourth with 1.74. Farke is at 1.60.
Chart 4 – Fewest goals conceded
So, who was the most parsimonious pinchfist when it came to giving away goals? Neither Lambert nor Farke, you’d think? Both expansive but leaky. You’d be half right as Farke squeaks in fifth (out of eighteen, so still pretty darned good). Both the Neils (Alex and Adams) conceded fewer than five goals every four games. Nigel Worthington sits obstinately in second with an impressive shut-out rate of 1.17 a game. But the best of all was the mercurial Irishman, Martin O’Neill, who barely gave a goal a game away during his 1995/96 spell at 1.12. That has to be the target this year.
In summary, statistics never tell the whole story, but they do reserve the right to spring a surprise now and again.
These figures don’t include data from any games from this season as yet, but it might be interesting to revisit them in a few months and check out how Daniel Farke is getting on. Prospering wonderfully would be nice.