Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew and Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers are joint (7/2) favorites for the League Manager’s Association (LMA) “Manager of the Year” award.
Many eyebrows were raised shortly before Christmas 2010 following the sacking of former Republic of Ireland international Chris Hughton as boss at the Toon. Many fans were seen outside (the then) Saint James’ Park with banners stating “All I want for Christmas is Hugh” and, upon his appointment as boss shortly afterwards, Pardew received a frosty reception from the home support. Having taken over with the Toon Army lying in 11th place in the Premier League (after Hughton had gotten the club promoted the previous season); Pardew led the club to an eventual 12th place finish last season.
This season has seen an improvement with Newcastle looking certain to finish in sixth place in the league at worst. Level on points with Chelsea (on a total of 50); Newcastle are eight points clear of seventh placed Liverpool with eight games to play.
Northern Ireland’s Brendan Rodgers has worked miracles at Swansea City. Having overseen the club’s promotion to the top flight via the play-offs last season; the first Welsh club ever to play in the English Premier League have been assured of Premier League survival with nearly one quarter of the season still to play. Operating on little more than a Championship budget (the club’s record signing is the £3.5million they paid for Daniel Graham with record transfer fee received being just £2million and the capacity of the Liberty Stadium is merely 20,000). Having won promotion for Swansea in his first season in charge and already copper fastening Premier League survival the following season (that is; this season); Rodgers has indeed worked wonders in Wales’ second city.
Another first time Premier League manager deserving of a mention is Norwich City boss Paul Lambert. Having taken over as manager in place of former club goalkeeper Brian Gunn following a 7-1 defeat to Colchester United on the opening day of the 2009-’10 League One season; Lambert got the club promoted as champions that season. He made it back-to-back promotions last season with a second placed Championship finish. Now standing on 39 Premier League points this season (the same tally as Swansea); the Canaries have long since secured Premier League survival and are currently sitting 11th in the table. Paul Lambert is priced at 5/1 to lift the LMA Award.
Perennially backed (and three time winner); Alex Ferguson comes in third favorite at 7/1 with fellow three time winner David Moyes of Everton quoted at 10′s. Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is 12/1 with the only Championship managers to be backed; Nigel Adkins (boss of leaders Southampton) and Reading (second place in the table) manager Brian McDermott can be backed at odds of 20/1.
Worthy of a mention also is the aforementioned former Ireland international Chris Hughton. At 1,000/1; he has not been backed to win the LMA Award. However; having had to clear out Birmingham’s biggest earners and star names when he took over the club following their relegation from the Premier League last season, Hughton has the cub pushing for a promotion play-off spot. Were he to get the club back into the Premier League at the end of the season; it would be one of the great achievements of the season.