Being a manager of a football club may seem to some like the prefect job, we’ve all sat down to play various managerial simulators and had great fun. Be it making big money transfer signings, coaching young stars to the top of their game, or of course making that all important half time team talk in the cup final, the virtual world rewards us with hours of entertainment. However, in real life it seems as though being a football manager is not as easy as it looks, it seems as though English football is having a managerial sacking crisis.
Since the premier league began in 1992, an average of eight top flight teams change the man at the helm per season and with Norwich’s recent sacking of Chris Hughton, wether you agree with it or not, is the ninth one this season, so are these dismissals an accurate and valid judgment of a clubs form and poor results, or is being a football manager just the toughest job in the world?
Lets take a look at a few of this seasons examples, some of which are undeniably unjustified while some have the stats to back up multimillionaire owners choices:
The first man down was Paolo Di Canio, just five games into the season, this is a seemingly unjust and ruthless decision, five games into a new season, hardly enough time to breathe let alone settle down at a premier league football club. This came after keeping the Black cats from relegation with a notable win against Newcastle in the previous season, however, to be fair to those in charge at the stadium of light, Sunderland fans hadn’t exactly warmed to the quirky Italian and his methods as well as having conceded a fair few goals – so perhaps not as ridiculous a conclusion as it first seemed.
Another sacking that was, and remains, pretty unsurprising was that of Martin Jol for Fulham in December. While putting together a decent side, the former Spurs coach couldn’t get any sort of form for the London club having lost five games in a row leaving themselves in the relegation zone just before Christmas.
One of the more harsh sackings of the season came with West Bromwich Albion’s Steve Clarke, it appears especially unjust after Clarke, who took over from Roy Hodgson in June 2012, lead the Baggies to eighth place the previous year – their best ever premier league finish. The high expectations may leave the Englishman feeling very unlucky who, even with a slow start to the season, was building a formidable team with the likes of Stéphane Sessègnon and Victor Anichebe added to their squad.
Cardiff City’s Malky Mackay was given the axe in what looked to be a particularly messy and unfair debacle at the Welsh club. Cardiff are a newly promoted club to the top flight this season and while they were just one place above the relegation zone, it was late December with a promising transfer window to follow, a future with much potential under the very popular Scotsman. However, there was a quite public row with owner Vincent Tan (who, in my opinion, should be nowhere near the running of a football club), a man with already controversial decisions by changing the team colours from blue to red. Tan had sparked the tension by replacing the director of recruitment with a friend of the owners son.
I suppose the real questions are of the effect sackings actually have on teams and the motives behind them. Motives such as ones behind the sackings of Di Canio and Jol are perfectly understandable, while for Mackay and Clarke the reasons for their departure are, to some, ludicrous. The effect that a sacking can have, according to statistics, isn’t particularly positive either. In the last five seasons, 11 teams stuck in relegation battles have exchanged managers and only four of those clubs improved on their league position at the end. While there is a honey moon period of better results, history has shown us that form will still deteriorate further with a host of examples across the premiership years.
What can we conclude from this? Managing a football club, at any level, is a task for those with a huge amount of patience, but whats more concerning is the real figures behind these changes – the owners. People with a lot of money, yet in too many cases, a clear lack of footballing knowledge and ignorance of the game, not to mention statistics that are simply brushed aside. The one thing I am sure of is that as a supporter of the beautiful game it saddens me to see men, like Vincent Tan, causing so much trouble for loyal fans. What I can see here is a fundamental problem with modern football that comes with people trying to turn our sport into a business, and quite honestly I’m unsure of how to solve it, perhaps the way forward is to follow in the footsteps of Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid with teams run by fans, or at least a governing body. Many managers deserve a lot more time and respect than they are usually given, and as a Chelsea fan, I know exactly what it’s like to see decent, talented, and young managers tossed away.
Check out http://www.thesackrace.com to have a look at some of the remarkable stats surrounding managerial sackings in English football.