Managers under fire as owners panic
The first half of the English football season saw a record number of managers being sacked. Managers act as figureheads of their clubs, but how much difference can they really make?
‘It is in the best interests of both parties to go our separate ways.’ ‘The club would like to place on record its thanks to Tim for all his efforts.’ ‘We wish him well for the future.’ The strangely distant, formulaic language of football clubs’ statements after sacking their managers has been more widespread than ever before in English football this season.
Twenty-nine managers in England’s top four divisions have lost their jobs since the start of the season. Only 41 clubs out of those 92 have had their current manager for more than a year. This season Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers and three others have all lost their job at Premier League clubs.
Richard Bevan of the League Managers’ Association thinks a ‘hire-and-fire’ culture makes it hard for managers to ‘learn their trade and learn from their mistakes.’ Around half of first-time managers never take another job after their first sacking. It is an unpredictable, perilous world.
The longest serving manager in England is Arsène Wenger, who has been at Arsenal for 19 years. In that time he has been able to completely change the club: before the Frenchman arrived Arsenal were known for physical, pragmatic football; now their style is seen by many as the most attractive in the country. Many feel that a club loses any identity if the man in charge of the team changes all the time.
Sackings in English football have been increasing gradually over the last 40 years, but the system is still nothing like as ruthless as in other countries. In Brazil 19 out of the 20 clubs in the top division changed their managers during the 2015 season. The team who didn’t were Corinthians — they won the league.
The question chairmen and fans need to answer is ‘how much difference does a manager really make?’ Managers are often sacked because their team has been under-performing. The replacement may start well. But any upturn in form could easily have occurred if the sacking had not happened. It is in the nature of sport that teams go through good and bad spells.
There are so many variables in football, such as money, injuries and pure luck, that pinning all the blame on managers makes no sense. But in an era where instant success is expected, they act as easy targets for criticism. The manager may pick the team, but ultimately a team full of bad players will do badly, and good players will do well.
But every footballer around would argue that the manager is important. He sets the mood of the team and he decides how they will play. The impact of Arsène Wenger on Arsenal cannot be called ‘unimportant’. He, and many other geniuses like him, are proof that the manager is the most important person at a club.
- How different would football be if no teams had managers?
- What is the ideal length of time you would want to spend in a job?
- Imagine if your head-teacher left tomorrow. How different do you think your school would be?
- Research one person who has gone on to become successful after experiencing early humiliations.
Some People Say...
“Short-term thinking is the greatest enemy of good government.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Does this matter if I don’t like football?
- Absolutely. This is essentially about the risks of short-term thinking, which apply to anything in life. This is a dilemma that you are bound to face in your working life: does making a change for short-term gain work, or are you better off sticking with the current course in the hope that it comes good in the end and to lasting effect?
- Okay, give me some examples.
- Amazing as it may sound, Steve Jobs was actually fired by Apple despite being a co-founder of the technology giant. He was sacked in the 1980s while the company went through some of its least successful years. Apple’s resurgence coincided with the return of Jobs.
- England’s top four divisions
- The Premier League and the three divisions of the Football League (Championship, League One and League Two) are the four highest leagues in England. Below that is the Conference which is a mixture of professional and semi-professional clubs. Below the Conference the vast majority of clubs are either semi-professional or amateur.
- Three others
- They are Garry Monk at Swansea City, Dick Advocaat at Sunderland and Tim Sherwood at Aston Villa.
- League Managers’ Association
- The trade union for Premier League, Football League and national team managers in English football.
- Longest serving manager
- After Wenger is Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale, who has been at the Devon club for just over nine years — almost exactly half as long as Wenger. Alex Ferguson, who was Manchester United’s manager for 23 years, holds the record.
- From São Paulo, Corinthians are one of Brazil’s biggest clubs. They take their name from English non-league club Corinthian Casuals, from Surrey, who toured Brazil in 1910.