Why Managers Should Be Wary of an Opening Day Horror Show

There is no shame in losing your opening fixture. Many teams have done so and have still gone on to be successful that same season. It is only one game after all, but to lose 4-0 at home to anyone is a cause for concern.

As Mark Robins packs up his belongings at the John Smith's Stadium and drowns his sorrows in a less aptly named alcoholic drink, he will inevitably be looking at his now former club Huddersfield's disastrous first game of the season and feel slightly bitter.

That being said, such a horrific showing in a season curtain raiser is perhaps a better reason than most to come to an agreement with your employers to part amicably. There is no shame in losing your opening fixture. Many teams have done so and have still gone on to be successful that same season. It is only one game after all, but to lose 4-0 at home to anyone is a cause for concern.

Regardless of the fact that the toothless Terriers were playing host to Bournemouth, a side who seem to be on a comparatively upwards trajectory, to put on a display, by Robins' own admission, devoid of direction or competence at the start of a new campaign usually spells trouble.

The opening day of the season, by nature, is loaded with fresh optimism and expectation, unless you're a Blackpool fan and is often the tone-setter for the season ahead. Put on a nightmarish first performance and you're usually left looking at a season of strife ahead. History shows us this. QPR under Mark Hughes, for example, began their 2012/2013 season with a 0-5 mauling at the hands of Swansea, they were subsequently relegated the following May.

It seems the Huddersfield hierarchy were wary of this. The home fans at the John Smith Stadium were quick to criticise their side's display and rightly so. After two months off and a pre-season programme designed to tweak tactics and build up fitness, the last thing a supporter expects is their team to go down without even a sniff of a fight. Some may view the decision to part with Robins to be rash, but if things are so obviously awry on the first game of the season, they are unlikely to have improved come the festive period when the games come as quick as Bournemouth's first goal last Saturday.

To see the team begin a season with such abjectness must be alarming for those in control, a bad start can have a trickle down effect on every aspect of a football club. The supporters immediately lose confidence in the players and manager, often creating a tense atmosphere around the ground, the on-the-fence fan opts to stay at home instead of paying through the nose for a ticket to the next game, prospective signings and transfer targets think again when considering a move to the club and suddenly the year ahead becomes that much harder to make successful.

The decision makers at Huddersfield may have used Norwich in 2009 as the benchmark for their actions. After the Canaries, then managed by club legend Brian Gunn, were crushed 7-1 at home to Paul Lambert's Colchester, Delia Smith and co quickly gave their former goalkeeper the chop and hired conqueror Lambert to the vacant hot seat. The East Anglia side went on to achieve consecutive promotions and grace the Premier League for the first time in six years. Hindsight has certainly given the board a reason to take action.

The keen observer will be keeping a trained eye on the upcoming fortunes of Leeds United, another team who started the season in underwhelming fashion with an uninspired 2-0 defeat at Millwall, though it's fair to say that, like Blackpool, off-the-field issues have certainly had an impact on the Yorkshire club. Huddersfield don't even have that excuse, given the stability they had over the summer in comparison to their neighbours.

There's no guarantee of success with changing a manager at this point, but acting fast at least gives the new man in charge every chance of being successful.

While everyone would love to set their season off with a convincing win, you only need to look at Bournemouth to see what that can do for confidence, perhaps the reason so many opening games of the season are cagey affairs are due to the fear of what starting with a defeat can do in terms of setting the tone. Cardiff for example, favourites to bounce straight back up, seemed to settle for a point at Blackburn at half-time. They barely saw the ball in the second half, but they left with a respectable point away at a team who haven't lost in thirteen games. A defeat, with all the expectation on them, would have gone down terribly.

With the new Premier League season due to commence, don't be surprised to see a similar result and perhaps, like Robins, a manager flying off into the wilderness.

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