Bookies have John McGrath as favourite for vacant Brewers job

John McGrath, who attended Burton Albion’s match against Wigan Athletic on Tuesday night, emerged yesterday as the early bookies’ favourite for the vacant managerial job.

The former Brewers captain, now coming towards five years with Mickleover in the Northern Premier League, which they lead going into 2021, was as low as even money favourite yesterday with Bet Victor.

But the website thesackrace.com, which, as its name implies, exists only to pounce on managerial misfortune, has a picture of every one of the candidates on a ridiculously long list except the favourite.

His position at the top of the betting seems to have been based on nothing other than his attendance at the Wigan game and having previously played for the club.

This is a list so daft in places that it includes Phil Neville, James Beattie, who has not managed since leaving Accrington Stanley in 2014, and Robbie Fowler, currently listed as coaching East Bengal in the Indian Super League. Obviously, names towards the top of the list make more sense and here are some of the contenders:

JOHN McGRATH: Three-quarters of the 389 matches Irish midfielder McGrath played in his career were with Burton Albion, as part of the team which won promotion to the Football League and then became established in League Two. He was the natural successor to Darren Stride as captain when the club’s longest-serving player ended his career.

McGrath played briefly for Alfreton Town after his release from the Brewers in 2013 before being tasked with organising Mickleover’s academy and first team structure under chairman Don Amott.

Yes, he attended Tuesday’s night’s game at the Pirelli but that is hardly unusual. Amott and Ben Robinson go back a long way, there is a good relationship between the neighbouring clubs and loans between them are frequent. Even so, McGrath would seem an unlikely choice at this stage.

 

GRAHAM ALEXANDER: Alexander is second favourite in a list in which the prices fluctuate every few minutes. He can be abrasive as a manager and is remembered by many Burton fans for being utterly dismissive of the Brewers performance after they had hammered Fleetwood Town 4-0 away in 2013.

After a stint as caretaker manager at Preston North End, where he spent the bulk of his playing career, Alexander was in charge of Fleetwood, lifting them from League Two to League One, then Scunthorpe United for two years, followed by two more with the sideshow that is Salford City. Scunthorpe and Salford both dismissed him when fifth in their respective divisions, so his record is statistically undamaged.

JIMMY FLOYD HASSELBAINK: The “people’s choice”, if you will, still revered by many supporters for his charismatic 13 months in charge at the Pirelli Stadium, during which time he improved on a strong squad left behind by Gary Rowett to lead the club to the League Two title and then to the top of League One, before he left for Queens Park Rangers.

Things did not go so well for him with QPR – but he is hardly alone in that – nor in his subsequent seven months with Northampton Town. He is hardly alone in that, either.

The style of play Hasselbaink demanded of his teams was never as flamboyant as his own character or his own style of play as a striker but he got results, many of them 1-0, at Burton, where his win percentage will take some bettering. He and Ben Robinson still get on well but would he leave London again for a challenge like this?

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink celebrates the League Two title with Burton Albion in 2015.

DANNY COWLEY: Cowley’s stock remains high despite being sacked from the Hudderfield Town job after less than a year, the victim of one of the many trigger-happy chairmen in the Football Leaue.

That stock is based on one notable success, when he, with his brother, Nicky, as assistant, lifted Lincoln City back out of the National League into League Two, then, two seasons later, up into League One as champions. You would imagine that Cowley’s next job might be higher up the ladder and he was also high on the bookies’ list for the Sheffield Wednesday job yesterday.

SOL CAMPBELL: Does the management fire still burn in Campbell? Is he the joke figure worthy of lampooning that some see, given his propensity for self-publicity, or is he a potentially good manager waiting for the right opportunity.

Sol Campbell managing Southend United against Burton Albion last season.
Sol Campbell managing Southend United against Burton Albion last season.

So far, he has taken on two very difficult challenges. He kept Macclesfield Town in the Football League in the 2018-19 season after taking over when they were five points adrift of safety. Coincidentally, his goalkeeper then was Burton’s current number one, Kieran O’Hara.

He left when the club was imploding financially at the end of that season and took on an equally unlikely task in League One with Southend United last season. 

He could not keep them up and was unlikely to have done so even if the season had not ended prematurely but he did improve them and some of what he said in interviews at that time spoke of a growing understanding of football at a level a long way from his own playing days.

All of our Burton Albion news can be found here: www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/all-about/burton-albion



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