Norwich, West Ham and Fulham - Stick or Twist?

Chris Hughton

What lies ahead for managers at Norwich City, West Ham United and Fulham?

The current season is now well under way, and we can start to see some trends emerging. One thing that is noticeable is West Ham and Fulham struggling, as well as Norwich continuing their poor form from the end of last season.

So this means that directors of these clubs have a vital question to ask themselves - to stick or to twist?

Should they stand by their managers, in the hope that they are the best man to lead the club to safety, or should they sack them, as the threat of relegation is too much for them to bear?

If a chairman is to stick with his current manager, he is taking the gamble that they are the best man to steer the club out of trouble. After a bad start to the season however, there is a risk that they have lost the dressing room.

Chris Hughton’s team have been in bad form for while - has he lost the ability to influence his players? Do the players no longer have faith in his ability?

These are questions the Norwich board must ask themselves. Last season, Aston Villa displayed woeful form at times, including an 8-0 defeat to Chelsea, but owner Randy Lerner chose to stick with Paul Lambert and was vindicated when the side stayed up.

However Blackburn chose to stand by Steve Kean despite the fact he was obviously not up to the job, and are now in a terrible mess as a result. So this shows that choosing to stick can sometimes be worse than choosing to twist. Chairmen can also dither and only sack a manager when it is too late.

Wolves only sacked Mick McCarthy in the final months of the season, when it was too late to sign any new players, something a new manager would probably want, and when there was no obvious candidate to replace him. Two relegations in a row soon followed. So chairmen must take firm and well-thought-out decisions when deciding to sack their manager.

On the other hand, a board may feel that the time is now right for a change, that the current manager is out of ideas, and that they cannot risk their current form continuing.

They might also want to move for a particular manager before any rivals get there first. The television money for football keeps going up and up, so no club wants to miss out. They also know that their attendance will take a hit if they drop to the Championship.

So many will think they cannot take the risk. However, they have to judge what options there are to replace their current manager. A good candidate in former Stoke manager Tony Pulis has now been taken.

Chairmen would do well to learn the lesson of Wolves and be sure that there is a solid replacement lined up. They must also consider the effect of compensation on their club’s finances.

The best example of a club choosing to twist is Southampton last season. They sacked Nigel Adkins despite him getting them back-to-back promotions, and were widely criticised. However Mauricio Pochettino has taken the club to a new level which Adkins was probably not capable of. In comparison, Reading stuck by Brian McDermott for most of the season despite some woeful displays and ended up relegated.

There is no clear route for a chairman to take. He can stand by a manager and have faith they will turn it round. He can think that a new manager will simply destabilise the team.

Or he can hope for a bounce in results from a change of direction. He can accept that this manager has simply run out of ideas, or stand by what he saw in him to hire him in the first place.

My personal view is that Martin Jol will be sacked, Chris Hughton might be sacked and Sam Allardyce will not be- but I could be wrong.

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