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The worrisome trend of sacking in football

CONTRIBUTOR
934   //    21 Jan 2013, 21:19 IST

Southampton v Chelsea - FA Cup Third Round

What’s the commonality between Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton? These clubs are in the hands of long serving managers who epitomize the club in every sense that some clubs don’t.

Stories of mangers getting to know about their sacking from televisions rather than from their owners do invoke sympathies. While some of these stories can be dismissed as the handiwork of the media, managers do get a rough deal every now and then. The sack stats reads as follows. Three managers sacked in Premier League and six in the Championship. However, the situation in EPL is comparatively better than the Italian Serie A where there were six casualties. The Italian league is notoriously known for sacking its managers, having set a record 14 dismissals in the 2011-2012 season. The count for Spanish La liga stands at 3 and for the German Bundesliga it is 2.

There used to be a time when stability at a club could be intrinsically linked to the continued trust owners had in their managers. But that situation is fast changing. Though Alex Ferguson doesn’t need to watch his back every time his side slips, he has constantly set his high standards, for they have to perform or risk losing their impressive aura. David Moyes has every reason to be proud of his achievements at Goodison Park. Restricted by a tight purse, Moyes has steered the ship with a safe pair of hands such that it is impossible to think of the Merseyside club without him. Arsenal though has recently seen turbulent times. Having been at the helm for more than 16 years now, Wenger is facing a battle to overcome certain sections of fans who are disillusioned by the club’s performance coupled with sales of star players. But then you just can’t sack a manager who has put in 16 years of service to make the team what it is now. It is highly hypocritical.

Perhaps a certain Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge knows a lot on this subject. The present manager Rafael Benitez is his 9th appointment during his nearly ten year ownership.  Ask Roberto Di Matteo. Only six months had passed since he delivered the Holy Grail (Champions League) to his owner, but as things turned out, that was not enough. They say once you taste success, you want it repeatedly and more. The Russian tycoon is the perfect example of that. One side of the argument is that his investment now totalling nearly £1 billion warrants a better return than present; however, no manager can claim to have an instant magic wand that conjures up results every time. The average span of a manager under him is eight months and that is not long enough to see the progress on his investment. Chelsea had eight managers in their first 70 years from 1905 to 1975; they now have a ninth since the club was brought by the oil tycoon in 2003 for nearly £140 million. Pep Guardiola, who until recently was courted by him, would definitely have thought long and hard about Roman’s approaches. In the end, he made a sensible move to German giants Bayern Munich. By doing so, he chose a less volatile side with a more traditional pedigree.

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League

There are two scenarios which confront owners. Reposing confidence in the current manager and sticking with him, or dismiss him and try to salvage the situation. Most clubs with a view to secure long term ambitions cut short the manager and his past achievements. It is unfair on most occasions. How else could you explain the departure of Nigel Adkins who achieved back to back promotions from League one to the Premier League with Southampton? A recent upsurge in the team’s fortunes notwithstanding, Adkins was relieved of his duties by executive chairman Nicola Cortese and replaced with a little known foreign import.

When to sack a manager? The question rings in the ears of team owners every time their team endures a poor run of form. Fans’ turning on their manager singing, “You don’t know what you are doing” or “you are getting the sack tomorrow” doesn’t help either! Take the case of Steve Kean who left Blackburn late September after enduring the worst response from the fans. It was clearly evident that they didn’t want him at the club. Months of protests by supporters had made his position untenable, despite keeping his side in the promotion playoffs. But then the same case can’t be applied in every instance.

Low player morale and subdued fan turnout cannot help the situation either. When former Tottenham Manager Harry Redknapp was chosen for the mission impossible task at Loftus Road, the upsurge in the team’s fortunes (they are unbeaten in 2013) can be due to Redknapp’s man-management skills. In fact, the sacking of Mark Hughes can be attributed to the poor performance of his players. When a new manager comes in, there is a sudden buzz which sometimes leads to the rejuvenation of the side. However, that may not be the case always. Henning Berg, who replaced Kean at Ewood Park, lasted just 57 days.

There are instances when a change in ownership forces out an incumbent manager. Watford, taken over by the Pozzo family of Italy who also own Grenada FC (Spain) and Udinese FC (Italy), brought in another Italian Gianfranco Zola after dismissing Sean Dyche to match the ambitions of the new owners.

A manager at the end is only as good as his team his. Agreed, it is his responsibility for the team’s performance but that being said, dismissing him while you can still give him a chance is an option to be considered.

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