A question that many football club owners and chief executive’s find themselves thinking about when things start to go wrong.
This sacking culture in football continues to grow, with no fewer than seven of the 20 Premier League teams changing manager already this season, in the case of Fulham, twice. There are other frightening stats too. Only 26 of the 92 Premier League and Football League managers have been in their post since the start of the 2012/13 season, and 29 clubs have changed management this season. Absolutely staggering, yet hardly surprising figures.
In the Premier Leauge, five out of the bottom six have all changed their managers, so is it time to ask, is there any real value to sacking your manager, unless you are 100% sure that you have a replacement lined up who can do a much better job. This stat is a bit harsh on new managers though. It has to be said that Gus Poyet and Tony Pulis have lead some sort of mini-revivals at Sunderland and Crystal Palace respectively. Both teams looked dead and buried when the two took over in late 2013.
An example of where things continue to go wrong however, is Fulham. Not a day goes by at the moment where a member of staff has to clarify whether they still have a job at the club, what job they have at the club and whether they even know if they are still at the club. Rene Meulensteen was hired to help Martin Jol, who was then sacked, Meulensteen took over, only for the club to appoint Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins only then for Mr Meulensteen to be sacked and Felix Magath to be appointed and the other two, Curbishley and Wilkins, to leave the club and Meulensteen being told he still has a future at the club. Does anyone understand that?
All joking aside, the fact of the matter is that Fulham haven’t improved, if anything, their situation has got worse. To put it into context, when Martin Jol was sacked, Fulham were, 18th three points adrift with 13 games gone. Now with just twelve games to go, they are bottom and four points adrift. Yes it could then be said that Fulham did need to make this latest change, but their side we’re beginning to show signs of improvement. A 2-2 draw away at Old Trafford, followed by a very narrow, late 3-2 defeat at home to Liverpool saw Fulham pick up a lot of praise.
Following on from this, Meulensteen hadn’t even had the chance to field his big January transfer window signing, the 25-year-old Greek striker, Kostas Mitroglou, who has the quality to help keep Fulham up this season.
On the flip side of the coin, the only side in the bottom six to have not sacked their manager is Norwich City, who currently lie in 16th place, with 25 points on the board – one point above the relegation zone. Make no mistake about it, the form of the Norfolk club is absolutely miserable, having won just one game since early December, a run that stretches 13 matches in all competitions, and are right in the relegation dog-fight that is beginning to develop.
Manager Chris Hughton has come under serious pressure from the fans, who have been calling for his head since pre-Christmas and before, with the club suffering some heavy defeats on the road and failing to win at Carrow Road. Chief Executive David McNally has even come out and said that Norwich do need to improve, soon, or Hughton will come under pressure, having recently described relegation as a feat worse than death.
But even if Norwich were to sack Hughton in a few games time, or now, would it be too late? The January window has now passed and there will at most be 11 games for another man to come in and change the fortunes. Has the window of opportunity for managerial sackings been and gone? Another factor that needs to be looked at is the fact that Norwich face Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in their last four games of the season, a tough run for anyone, especially when it looks increasingly likely they will need to pick up points in order to survive.
As mentioned before earlier or, sackings, like at Sunderland and Crystal Palace can provide an immediate boost, however, on the other side of that coin, you just have to look at Cardiff and West Brom. Solskjaer has won just one of his first six Premier League games at Cardiff, losing four, and Pepe Mel is yet to experience a win in his first four matches as the manager of West Brom.
Have Fulham made too much change? Have Norwich made enough change? We’re Cardiff, Sunderland, Palace or West Brom right to sack their managers? Who are we to judge with twelve games of the season to go. The answer will only be revealed when the final whistles are blown up and down the country on Sunday May 11th. One thing is for sure though, the relegation race is going down to the wire.