At one time it’d be deemed unthinkable to part with a manager whilst in the midst of a fight for survival. Rather than simply chopping and changing at the first sign of things taking a turn for the worst, both solidity and stability on and off the pitch were largely favoured more so than the turbulence and uncertainty that can often come with changing managers mid-season. Nowadays however, given that in the last one hundred days alone a staggering 24% of clubs ranging from the Premier League to League 2 have changed their man at the helm, things are much different in the modern game. Clearly trends can quickly come and go in a game often dictated by who or what is well-hyped or popular and managers departing with only a matter of games or months remaining is most certainly a trend that can largely be found in the fabric of the modern game.
The number of club owners and chairmen up and down the country that are willing to put their own neck on the line by means of a ruthless and potentially damaging decision to remove a manager at what can often be the most crucial part of the season, appears to be increasing by the year. At one time swapping a manager after the January transfer window was viewed widely as a final throw of the dice had everything else failed. In search of a widely documented new manager boost often attributed to when a previously struggling side finally finds a rich vein of form following a new appointment at the top, you need only look at Sunderland in recent years to see that it clearly has its benefits. If a club ultimately gets the managerial appointment right, then for all the many millions it may save and consequently earn a Premier League team in avoiding relegation to the Championship, for a club’s fans it is priceless. Previous anguish and disappointment at saying bye to a former manager often in the most difficult of circumstances soon transforms into exultation and relief. Allegiances therefore may be vital in football, between the players, fans, staff you name it. But when it comes to a manager and the unavoidable fear of relegation, it’s amazing at just how quick of a turnaround fans relationships can change.
Claudio Ranieri’s departure from Leicester City was far from graceful and certainly wasn’t the fitting farewell that perhaps the enigmatic Italian deserved. An enthusiastic extrovert who captured the hearts and minds of a nation with his remarkable exploits last season, a departure clouded by rumours of player power not only killed Claudio’s personal Foxes dream but in the process probably extinguished any lasting belief that indeed that sentiment should and continued to take pride and place in the modern game. Only time will tell whether Leicester’s ruthless owners have ultimately made the right decision in taking a short-term tirade of abuse and ill-feeling from Foxes and wider football fans for a long term gain. Yet for a man who many said deserved a season in the sun, a world tour playing greatest hits and not really busting a gut after defying the odds last season with a statue outside the King Power Stadium to truly mark his unbelievable exploits, his sacking was all too typical of the increasing move towards leaving no stone unturned in the fight for survival and consequently swapping managers mid-season.
As each club has their own storyline and indeed their own text, as each game passes by you’re never quite sure who it’s going to be next. At Crystal Palace, as points appeared few under Pardew, the last throw of the dice was to appoint Allardyce. Bob Bradley’s short stint in English football went badly whilst Hull have also took the risk after getting the Phelan that perhaps Mike wasn’t the one to guarantee their top flight safety – but will there be a Silva lining at KCOM Stadium? Similarly in the Sky Bet Championship, one defeat too many for Norwich City proved to be the final nail in Alex Neills’s coffin. After Derby County began to slide town the Championship league table after re-appointing Steve McClaren, the club was not going to allow it, so then they appointed Gary Rowett. Local rivals Nottingham Forest have only recently turned to who many have described as the best thing since sliced in bread in managerial terms, Mark Warbuton in an attempt to avoid relegation to League One. Likewise as The Latics slid further down the table too like Forest, Wigan Athletic were ultimately left with no choice than to part company with Warren Joyce.
Inevitably every decision in football comes with risks but its accepting the things that you can’t change yet being mindful of the things that can altered and perhaps improved, which often makes for a winning or at least more prosperous and consistent formula going forward. In view of supporters and club management, from the usual physiological boost and refreshing feel-good factor around the club that often comes with a new managerial appointment, there is therefore reason to buy into the belief that changing manager can ultimately be seen as a good thing, or at least a much better option than the mess at present. However it doesn’t always go to plan and you’d be somewhat naive to fully ignore the inevitable risks that come with such a brave decision.
Time and time again you hear managers speak publicly of the extreme challenges in restructuring a sides morale, style of play, training schedule, mentality… you name it, all during a short space of time mid-season. Those who can assemble a club correctly perhaps then deserve the all the credit when it does pay off as success comes at a premium quite often nowadays.
Nonetheless when things don’t run as smoothly as expected, because of both the scarcity of time as well as sparse resources at a managers disposal, you can’t help but think that a knee-jerk sacking come the end of a season without giving a manager time to stamp his identity in and around a squad can be perhaps seen as unjust. In spite of the strength of feeling either in favour of or even against appointing a new manager, above all it is a club’s hierarchy that not only call the shots but are left to therefore face the consequences no matter the outcome. However with a growing trend of managers now being shown the door well before the end of a season, in the current climate you do wonder whether sacking a manager in hope of keeping a club through a new man in charge will eventually become counter-productive as it comes full circle?
Nobody knows for definite but if there ever comes a time where more than a third of the league are locked in a relegation battle and all change their managers as a result of their league situations, there’ll surely then be many left fighting for their jobs come the end of the season with short-term fixes favoured more so than long-term stability. Only time will tell but in looking ahead to the long-term future of the game, although the trend of welcoming managers before pushing them out the back door appears more popular than ever and looks set to grow even more in upcoming years, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see more clubs put their faith in current club managers, offering a greater degree of optimism, perseverance and ultimately trust as the flaws of the appointing a new manager mid-season become more and more exposed each season.