Birmingham City have a bunch of left-field candidates to consider for manager job

Alex Neil is among the proven candidates Birmingham City are considering for their managerial vacancy – but there are several left-field names worth running the rule over.

Neil, now 42 with three promotions on his CV, was a relatively inexperienced punt for Norwich City back in 2015 and he led them to promotion to the Premier League at the first attempt. Kieran McKenna and John Mousinho have proved experience isn’t everything in recent years to guide Ipswich Town and Portsmouth, respectively, out of League One in their first full seasons in charge.

McKenna has, of course, gone one better and guided Ipswich into the Premier League with back-to-back promotions. The Ipswich story is one of the reasons why Blues are trying to consider every option available to them.

Whilst we probably won’t see the ‘no fear football’ slogan again, Knighthead want Blues to become a possession-based side and plan to use data to guide them in their appointments and signings. The manager will be expected to create a Blues team capable of dominating the ball and outscoring opponents in League One.

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Here are some of the left-field candidates who will no doubt pop up on Blues’ radar in their exhaustive search for a new manager…

Dave Challinor

There is a lot to like about Challinor’s managerial record. He has overseen Stockport’s rise from the National League to League One, where they will face Blues next season, with two promotions in three seasons.

In 2021/22 Stockport pipped Hollywood-backed Wrexham to the National League title and they repeated that feat last season to win League Two. They did it by playing high-energy, attacking football and scoring the most goals in the league (96).

Challinor’s Stockport averaged 56.8% possession and 13.5 shots per game last season. Interestingly, they were also the fourth most aerially dominant team in League Two which suggests Challinor is a coach with a Plan B.

Mike Williamson

If you brush over MK Dons’ 8-1 hammering by Crawley Town over two legs in the League Two play-offs, they actually had a very good season under rookie manager Williamson. Milton Keynes has been the breeding ground for Russell Martin and Liam Manning in recent years and Williamson guided Dons to a fourth-placed finish in his first season in charge.

Dons played an exciting brand of football under Williamson – a former Premier League defender with Newcastle United – and scored 83 goals in their 46 League Two matches. Dons averaged 57.5 percent possession per game, with a pass completion of 80.3 percent, and 14.6 shots per game. Williamson, 40, has shown signs that he could be the next quality manager off the MK Dons production line.

Williamson got the job after an impressive spell as manager of non-league side Gateshead whom he led to the National League North title before consolidating in the National League with a 14th-placed finish in 2022/23.

Scott Lindsey

It feels right that we mention Lindsey in the same breath as Williamson. Lindsey, 52, is the man who masterminded MK Dons’ downfall in the play-offs. His Crawley Town side eventually won promotion at Wembley by beating Crewe Alexandra 2-0.

Lindsey, who hails from Walsall and played for local non-league sides Stafford Rangers, Tamworth and Sutton Coldfield Town, has performed miracles at Crawley – and he’s done it in style.

Crawley were expected to get relegated at the start of the season but they outperformed every metric to finish inside the play-offs. They played the possession game, with an average of 57.1 percent of the ball, and scored 83 goals – a tally only bettered by five teams.

Michael Skubala

Moving into League One, it is difficult not to be impressed by the job former Leeds United caretaker boss Skubala has done at Lincoln City. Skubala replaced former Blues coach Mark Kennedy in the job in November and transformed the Imps’ season.

They finished seventh, narrowly missing out on the play-offs, and had the fifth best goal difference in the league. That goal difference was largely due to Lincoln having the second best defensive record in the league, thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Lukas Jensen.

However, Skubala’s Lincoln largely played counter-attacking football and had very little possession – averaging just 42.1 percent of the ball per game. Only six teams had fewer shots per game than Lincoln, too.

Ruben Selles

Anyone who can manage Reading effectively deserves a mention given the chaos that has ensued behind the scenes at the club in recent years. Selles kept the Royals in League One comfortably, despite six points being deducted from their tally.

He performed acceptably during a brief stint in charge of Southampton as they were relegated from the Premier League in 2022/23. Selles favours possession-based football and his Reading team were entertaining to watch last season, if a little consistent.

Should any of these names be in the frame? Have your say in the comments section HERE