The Premier League’s growing craze for managerial hiring and firing

Di Canio

Sunderland's hiring of Paolo di Canio was a classic case of a Premier League club seeking to be ruthless for short-term gain, just like Chelsea with Roberto di Matteo last year and this. But what will the effect of the trend be long-term?

I know what you’re thinking, whatever happened to a time when there was a bit of patience shown towards the manager? Truth be told, such an era has never existed in entirety.

Yes perhaps in times gone by there were more clubs that were prepared to invest a degree of faith in the candidate they had hand picked to handle the reigns, but we now live in a world of football not only driven by multiple financial motivators, but is also more susceptible than ever to manipulation of the media, whether traditional or social, so an idea however ill conceived, now catches fire faster than ever. 

However, these factors only really take effect because fans and chairmen alike get absorbed into the idea of short-term success over long term ambitions, a balancing act which Manchester United have managed to perfect during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at the club.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for the majority of the football league, as reflected by the fact that every football league club (except Arsenal) has changed their manager since Wenger last won a trophy.

Some would suggest that fact actually indicates that perhaps Arsenal should consider a change themselves, a point to which I disagree. The level of stability Wenger has sustained during the transition to a new stadium (and the financial burden this comes with) is nothing short of remarkable, but with that being said he must kick on in the coming season now that Arsenal are able to spend freely once again. 

Arsenal aside you only have to reflect on the managerial changes in the premier league this season to note just how fickle the key decision makers have been. First and foremost there is Chelsea.

There was always a sense that Abramovich never intended to keep Di Matteo full time but had his hand forced given the overwhelming success he achieved in such a short time.

Most managers wont win an FA Cup and a Champions League in their careers, yet Di Matteo managed to do so in less than a season as Chelsea’s manager. You would think that doing so would earn some respect, but in Roman’s eyes Di Matteo was expendable. The main excuse provided was his performance in the Champions League in what was proving to be a tricky group. 

In an ideal world, Di Matteo should have at least been afforded the opportunity to take his Champions League winning side to the World Club Cup, but alas, it wasn’t to be. In his place came Rafa Benitez, a figure that was somewhat hated by the Chelsea faithful, thus making the whole decision even more baffling.

That being said Rafa had the best opportunity to win the fans over as they were still in the hunt for the title, the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, the World Club Cup and the Europa League. 

Safe to say that if a manager was stepping into any situation, that would be the perfect one. The squad was amongst the best in the league and winning at least one trophy was pretty much a given (Benitez won 1, the Europa League). Sadly for the unemployed managers out there, not all jobs would be as enticing, as demonstrated by the 2nd managerial sacking of the season. 

The man to go this time was Mark Hughes and there isn’t a person out there that could say his sacking wasn’t deserved. Although he helped QPR avoid relegation the season before, his substantial summer spending and horrific record in the 2012-13 season was sufficient to make anyone tell him to take a hike.

He left with a win percentage of 0% this season, thus meaning the incumbent had a very tough job on their hands to try and help QPR survive another season in the Prermier League. 

Given that QPR was willing to spend to achieve survival, and that Harry Redknapp was picked to be Hughes’ successor, fans could have been forgiven for thinking there may be hope. In reality, there was anything but. The money spent only increased the number of overpaid players on the books and with relegation Redknapp must find a way to get their significantly oversized squad in order. 

Keen to avoid the same fate, Southampton then got rid of Nigel Adkins half way through the January transfer window. This was a decision that was especially harsh, to say the least. Adkins had achieved back-to-back promotions with the Saints and was just coming off a great result against Chelsea when he was handed his p45.

A man with his achievements deserved to have a full season in the Premier League, especially as they were by no means certainties to go down. 

However, the chairman felt that a change was a must and was soon vindicated. Pochettino stewarded Southampton to safety, which I am sure was a relief to the Saints fans as it is quite rare that such a mid-season change yields results. 

The Royals faithful could point to their own side as an example of this. However, the timing of their managerial change was even more illogical. Having come up as one of the favourites to go straight back down, Brian McDermott was doing the best job possible with the resources available, having achieved a miraculous promotion the season before.

So when he was sacked in early march many were left bemused as it did not allow McDermott to have the full opportunity his achievements merited nor did it allow the new manager (which coincidentally was outgoing Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins) to utilise the January transfer window to help turn their fortunes around.

The only justification I can find for such a bizarre move is that Reading felt that Adkins was the better candidate to lead them in future seasons and they feared that the longer he remained in the open market the greater the chance they would lose out on their man. Other than that, the move can only be seen as truly bonkers.

 Sunderland pulled a similar stunt with the sacking of Martin O’Neill at the end of March, when perhaps he should have gone in the January transfer window. Fortunately for the Black Cats the situation wasn’t as dire and Paolo Di Canio had the kind of uninhibited passion that the players needed to achieve the results necessary to survive (most notably against their local rivals).

It was undoubtedly a knee-jerk reaction to ensure their season was saved but time will tell whether a long-term view was actually considered when the hiring of the capricious character that is Paolo Di Canio was made.

The last two managerial sackings came at the end of the season, but that did not make them any less surprising. First came the firing of Mancini just days after City’s cup final loss to Wigan.

It seemed that irrespective of that result, his job was under threat and rumours were rumbling on with the club’s blessing, all while Mancini was none the wiser. Some would say that given this season’s performance that he could have no complaints.

However, having delivered the silverware that had eluded City for so long, you would think earned the opportunity to win the title back from United, but this season has shown enough evidence to suggest that one bad season is sufficient to show a manager the door.

That perhaps doesn’t apply to the summer’s second and most recent managerial dismissal. The man in question is Tony Pulis. In his seven years at the club he oversaw the club’s rise to the Premiership and despite his usage of an oft-criticised style of play, he has established Stoke as a regular member of the premier league. So why was he let go?

It seems that Stoke are at the crossroads that Charlton found themselves at several years ago. They feel that their style of play has not progressed and that things have become rather stagnant.

However, they will be hoping that Pulis hadn’t taken them as far as they could go in a similar fashion to Curbishley with Charlton. They will soon find out however if this is true or not as they have appointed Hughes as his replacement. This change guarantees that a new style will be enforced and they will hope his abysmal record with QPR was nothing but an anomaly on his CV. 

All considered, this season has supported the claim Sir Alex has always made: that if he started his time at United today, there is no way he would have lasted as long, as his first few years would have pretty much guaranteed that he was sacked.

While the amount of time he was afforded should not be given to all, it should serve as a sign to some chairmen as to what can be achieved if a bit of faith is shown towards their managerial appointments.

Now, Roman Abramovich could challenge this by mentioning the level of success Chelsea have attained while being one of the regular participants at the managerial carousel, but my feeling is that this success is despite the changes rather than because of it.

That being said, their situation is somewhat unique (the model of ‘sugar daddy’s’ taking over clubs is now on the rise) and the amount of money they have spent on a year-by-year basis has helped them continue to move forward. Bearing that in mind, one can only wonder how much success they could have had if they had stood by people like Mourinho or Ancelotti.

Irrespective of this hypothetical quandary, I think it would be fair to say that continuity is far more conducive for success than regular change. You only have to reflect on the clubs that have made changes this season as proof for this.

image: © infollatus

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