Will relegation curse continue for ex-Liverpool and Aston Villa legend Dean Saunders?


Dean Saunders has been appointed Chesterfield manager but, after suffering relegation with his last three clubs, should the Spireites’ fans be worried?

Football is a game based around luck, where a match can turn on one moment of fortune or misfortune.

Yet, when it comes to former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Dean Saunders’ managerial career to date, the Welshman would struggle to call his record as a manager “unlucky” – it’s just been plain bad.

You only have to look at Saunders’ results over the last four seasons to see it – the 50-year-old has suffered relegation in three of his last four campaigns.

It had started so well at first club Wrexham, with the ex-Reds forward guiding the Welsh team to the Conference play-offs in the 2010-11 campaign and leaving them second in the division the following year when Doncaster came calling.

Saunders’ remit in Yorkshire was a simple one: avoid relegation.

Struggling at the wrong end of the division and in danger of ending a four-year stint in the second-tier, the Welshman pledged big signings in the January window.

What followed, instead, were a series of bizarre short-term deals for players, represented by Willie McKay, who were looking for moves elsewhere.

Habib Beye, El Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda all arrived but did little to stop the rot, with Doncaster relegated under Saunders.

The following season saw Donny start brightly in League One and with Wolves struggling back up in the Championship, Saunders leapt at the chance to save the Molineux giants.

It would prove to be his worst spell in management to date, with the 50-year-old winning just five of the 20 games he was in charge for.

Sacked after just four months, Saunders spell in charge is still the stuff of legend among Wolves fans, with the Welshman responsible for a series of David Brent-esque soundbites.

On the subject of the team’s lack of goals, he once told The Birmingham Mail: "You always have an eye for a goal but you can lose your eye of the tiger."

Meanwhile, a thread on the Wolves Forum entitled: "The Wit and Wisdom of Dean Saunders" offered up this gem on their potential drop down into League One: "I'm not worried about relegation. Ladbrokes say we're 16/1 and those boys know what they're talking about."

Having been sent packing by the Molineux club, he resurfaced as caretaker manager at Crawley Town, after John Gregory stepped down due to ill-health.

Appointed to the role back in December, he won just eight of his 24 games as manager, with the Reds relegated on the final day of the season.

After a third relegation in four years then, few expected Saunders to make an immediate return to the game.

But with Paul Cook departing to Portsmouth, Chesterfield have taken a gamble on the Welshman as their new manager.

"Taking over now gives me a full pre-season to make a fresh start, put my plans in place and work with the squad, which is a great position to be in," Saunders told The Spireites official website.

Whether that important period will give him the time required to shape the squad in his image remains to be seen, but it’s something worth considering.

At Doncaster, Wolves and Crawley, Saunders came in with the season already in full-swing and little in the way of time to make the wholesale changes he may have felt were required.

Chesterfield were just beaten in the play-offs, having impressed for long spells of the campaign, so there should be less in the way of building work required too.

When given time to build his team with Wrexham, Saunders largely impressed and while the demands of the Conference are wholly different to those of League One, it's not entirely impossible to see him thriving in this new challenge, keen to silence some of the many, many doubters.

It could therefore prove to be the making of the one-time Premier League striker, or it could prove to be the final chapter in his brief foray into management.

Either way, Chesterfield could be in for quite a season.

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