Former Bristol City manager takes charge of Championship rival after manager sacking

Stoke City, the Championship rivals of Bristol City have appointed a former Robins head coach to steady the ship after Michael O’Neill’s departure.

Michael O’Neill has become the first Championship manager to be sacked this season after being axed by Stoke City.

The Potters have parted company with the former Northern Ireland manager after just six games into the season. His last act was overseeing a 1-0 defeat to Sunderland last Saturday.

Stoke have won just one of their five Championship fixtures this season, placing them just outside of the relegation zone, despite being early season favourites.

In a club statement, Chairman John Coates said: “Michael joined us in November 2019 when the Club was in a difficult situation and the job he did in stabilising our position in the Championship should not be underestimated.

“Michael has worked tirelessly and with extreme professionalism, in particular in reshaping our squad and developing young players, but we feel the time is right to move in a different direction. I would like to thank him for his efforts and wish him every success for the future.”

City do not entertain Stoke at Ashton Gate until December 17, which means the new appointment will already be fully in the post by then.

The Midlands club have a game against Blackburn Rovers this coming weekend and have moved quickly to prepare for that match by naming a short-term successor.

Former Bristol City boss Dean Holden, who was at Ashton Gate last Sunday as a pundit for the Severnside Derby clash with Cardiff, will oversee first-team affairs until a permanent appointment is found.

Holden was a long-serving assistant to Lee Johnson, before being given the first-team reins when he was sacked in the summer of 2020. Holden only managed the club until February 2021 before he was sacked, despite the club being placed 13th in the Championship table.

Two months after his departure, he was named as assistant to Michael O’Neill, a role he has worked at ever since whilst overseeing caretaker duties on occasions when O’Neill had been absent through surgeries. During his time at City, Holden had a 43.9% win ratio, winning and losing 18 games whilst also overseeing five draws.

O’Neill’s sacking could also have an effect on City’s inter-city rivals Bristol Rovers as they had Connor Taylor from the Potters last season, helping them to promotion.

The 20-year-old has been ever present for Stoke this season, making a breakthrough at second tier level, which is two steps up from where he was playing last season.

Interim boss Holden is aware of his strengths and weaknesses having overseen his development but a new manager could prioritise his own new signings, which could potentially open the door for a return. His prominence in the starting XI and the duration left on the transfer window though means a departure is unlikely.

Gas boss Joey Barton had a positive relationship with O’Neill, having lent him a number of young players during his time at the bet365 Stadium.