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The Three Frontrunners In The Managerial Sack Race

A ball has not even been kicked yet in the Premier League and already the whispers about who will win (or should that be lose) the managerial sack race this season are starting to get louder. Therefore I’m not going to help matters by pouring fuel on the fire and looking at the three candidates who are most likely to be shown the exit door first.

Mark Hughes

Stoke are notoriously slow starters in the Premier League with last season being no different, at the start of the campaign they were losing 4-0 almost every week as former Republic Of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given cut a forlorn figure in between the sticks.

Thankfully though after the arrival of Lee Grant on loan things did improve for Mark Hughes’ men but not at the same level of the three previous seasons. That spell saw them record three successive 9th place finishes but last time around they could only manage 13th.

And it is that finish that has heaped some pressure on the former Wales boss as questions that were being asked towards the end of last season begin to be asked again and that is whether or not Hughes has taken Stoke as far as he can.

The one thing the ex Manchester United striker cannot afford is another poor start to the season as the knives will begin to be sharpened by the Bet365 although in fairness it will be more by the fans then the owner Peter Coates who does not have a history of sacking the people at the helm of his club.

But with the departure of Marko Arnautovic to West Ham, Stoke may well struggle to adapt from his departure and just when it looked like Hughes had managed to soften the clubs playing style and form a new identity they seem to be returning to type.

Obvioulsy if they can get some early wins under their belt then it will show that life goes on after Arnautovic but don’t forget they’ve also lost the industry of Jonathan Walters also so you do wonder exactly just where the goals and more importantly points are going to come from.

Craig Shakespeare

The former Leicester City interim boss has now been given the manager’s job on a full time basis and after his efforts in the final few months of the previous campaign where he steered Leicester away from the danger of relegation you would have to say that he deserves to be given a proper crack at the task in hand.

But this season will be the acid test as to just how good a manager Craig Shakespeare will be, not only for what he can get his group of players to do on the pitch but also just how astute a person he is when it comes to signing players in the transfer market.

After being appointed Leicester manager until the end of the season, the task that Shakespeare had was simple make use of the players you have got and keep the club in the top flight. Something he did with relative ease in the end but he will have now lost a key tool in his arsenal.

In those final few months it was all about galvanising a group of players who had seemingly downed tools and were copping a lot of flak from the press because of it. The talent was there it was all about getting the application of it back in place.

But now starting at a point of zero and losing that “us against the world” factor you do wonder just how effective Shakespeare can be when in charge of The Foxes. Not only that but he will also be measured by the performance of his signings. Kelechi Iheanacho looks an inspired capture but he cannot do things all on his own.

The club owners will have obviously felt a debt of gratitude to Shakespeare for keeping them in the Premier League last season but they have already showed that they have a ruthless streak after binning off Claudio Ranieri, do not be surprised if they show it again early on in the season.

Chris Hughton

Now this one could by association be extended to either Rafa Benitez or David Wagner with the link between the three being that they all earned promotion from the EFL Championship last season. That in itself is cause for celebration but it does come with a caveat.

That being that once club chairman from the second tier get into the top flight they want to stay there and we will do whatever is deemed necessary to stay there. Ultimately that means if one of these three clubs get off to a shaky start and are hovering nervously around the bottom then it might get a bit nervy for this trio of managers.

In fairness there is more conjecture with this third choice then the two above but it is symptomatic of getting a club promoted in that you have to leave those achievements at the door come August as everyone you have done to get to the promised land is forgotten.

It is a very rare sight when a club gets relegated and then stays with their manager in the hope that they then bounce back at the first opportunity, we have seen it with Burnley and Sean Dyche in recent years but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

If either Brighton, Huddersfield or Newcastle do get off to a bad start then it is going to be a real test for their respective club owners. They are going to have to ask themselves the all important question just what price do you put on loyalty?

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