Football never fails to surprise. We’re only in early October and already we’ve witnessed about a dozen managerial departures. The game has long had an obsession with the chopping and changing of personnel, but even so it does beg the question, how long does a manager have before he is shown the door? It seems most are a few bad matches away from the sack.
You only have to glance at the list of current tenures in the Premier League to know that, after Arsene Wenger who recently celebrated his eighteenth anniversary in charge of Arsenal, Alan Pardew is the next longest serving manager in the top flight of English football with Newcastle United, having taken charge in December 2010. His reign though has been plunged into serious doubt over the last few weeks due to adverse form on the pitch, and considerable unrest from the supporters off it.
It would seem that there is a genuine impatience among owners and chairman who demand success, and immediately, irrespective of the level of the pyramid in question. In the upper echelons of the game, there is an even finer line between success and failure, and with football dominated by money and an insatiable desire for the maximum revenue possible, the strain on managers is only going to increase.
There are times however when a manager simply has to go, particularly is he has been deemed to have lost the dressing room, if the team is underperforming, headed for the relegation trap-door or if relations with the board have soured. However, it would seem a lot of the time clubs change manager through sheer panic, without first giving him the chance to turn things around.
In many respects, this is more of a pressing issue in the Premier League, where finishing one place higher greatly affects the amount of money sides are awarded, or if European qualification is at stake. Moreover, the shortfall clubs have to come to terms with following relegation from the top table is getting larger every year, and increasingly has the potential to cripple teams financially.
Yet, it is also prevalent in the Football League with the current longest serving manager being Exeter City’s Paul Tisdale who took over at St James’ Park in 2006.
This season has already witnessed the departure of the likes of Tony Pulis from Crystal Palace, Ole Gunnar Solskjær from Cardiff City and Felix Magath from Fulham, while Watford are already onto manager number four.
Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers are two examples of clubs who had continuous instability with regards to their number of managers in recent times, but Watford this season, despite sitting in the top six, have also had uncertainty too in that they’re on their fourth manager in just thirty-seven days.
As touched upon earlier, if a manager is becoming detrimental to a team’s chances, or indeed if the players are no longer playing for him then his position is effectively untenable. This was the case with Beppe Sannino who resigned in late August.
The Hornets situation is a rather unfortunate one to some extent. Sannino’s replacement, Oscar Garcia, departed merely a few weeks later for (unforeseen) health reasons having been admitted to hospital, which was of course not the clubs fault.
Nonetheless, the handling of the Billy McKinlay situation seems rather bemusing as the Scot, handed his first manager’s position on 29 September, was replaced just eight days later by Slavisa Jokanovic. Now obviously we don’t yet have the full story on the reasoning behind the sudden change, after all McKinlay never actually signed a contract at Vicarage Road, but it does however seem to epitomise worrying aspects of the state of modern football.
It’s doubtful whether stability is even a priority anymore for football clubs. The intense pressures financially on teams to balance their books dictates, to a large extent, their footballing decisions with regards to the staff.
In an age of astonishing transfer fees and inflated agents fees, it seems there is even more precedence placed on not only being successful, but to do it now, rather than two years down the line.
Furthermore, it would seem that a manager’s tenure is not solely based on results on the field, but more so on meeting, or exceeding, the expectations of the board. It is not an exaggeration to state that, as football becomes increasingly dominated by sickening amounts of money, sponsorship and television revenues, expectations from the top are going to become increasingly unrealistic.
It is not just this however, in the case of the Premier League, it’s becoming even more difficult for about half of the twenty teams to stave off relegation and with that comes added pressure on winning and winning now.
From League 2 to the top division, the culture of sacking managers, sometimes multiple times a season, isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. In fact, it’s only liable to get worse and become more frequent.
The stats do not lie. The longevity of Wenger’s tenure is remarkable, and like a certain Sir Alex Ferguson before him, the like of these reigns are unlikely to be witnessed again.