One of the most unedifying aspects of modern-day football appears to be on the wane. The managerial merry-go-round has noticeably slowed down in recent times, a welcome development that hints at common sense perhaps finally poking its head around the boardroom door.
In truth it was all getting rather ridiculous. A slump in form or even a poor start to a campaign and the knives were immediately sharpened for the unfortunate gaffer who was given no time to rectify the problems that might only have been superficial.
So far this season only two heads have rolled in the top flight (Bruce at Sunderland and Warnock last week at QPR) with thankfully no further sackings on the horizon despite the ongoing soap opera at Blackburn and Wigan and Bolton implanted firmly in the relegation mire.
Admittedly the Venkys’ continued faith in Kean is somewhat of a mystery considering that his relationship with the supporters appears to be irrevocable but the latter two’s avoidance of a P45 points to lessons belatedly being learnt in the echelons of power. Both are bright coaches who favour attractive decent football and – after a couple of seasons apiece of moulding a team to play in this fashion – it is hard to imagine how either the Latics or Trotters could improve their lot by affectively starting from scratch.
Last season a Premier League record was set for the lowest number of managerial dismissals throughout the whole campaign – just four in total – and as clubs brace themselves for the post-Christmas run-in it is difficult to envisage that amount being exceeded in 2011/12.
Contrast that with years gone by when some unfortunate soul would be given the chop following a poor pre-season and barely a handful of league games, an impetuous decision based upon panic and the nascent stirrings of a tabloid witch-hunt. Soon after – once the league placings had settled and it became clear exactly who were under-achieving – there would be a slew of sackings with quite often one fired manager replacing another. A macabre industry was formed in the gambling world determining the odds on who would be next to experience the dreaded ‘gardening leave’.
Of the two who have fallen this term you would find few people who believed that the switching of Bruce for O’Neill hasn’t greatly benefitted Sunderland while Warnock’s recent dismissal has less to do with his managerial acumen and more to do with new investors at a club preferring to install their own man.
In general it is surely a welcome improvement on the previous trigger-happy way of thinking.
This new ethos based upon stability is not always a good thing – it could be argued that if West Ham had dispensed with the services of the morose Avram Grant earlier than May of last year and brought in a short-term motivator then perhaps the Hammers would still be in the top flight – but in general it is surely a welcome improvement on the previous trigger-happy way of thinking.
The reasoning behind the recent strategy of sticking by your man however is not entirely based upon common sense. Unsurprisingly money is also a factor.
Managers these days are hired for such breath-taking sums that to terminate their contracts would make their sacking a false economy. When the additional cost of placating the new gaffer with some fresh signings is factored in – and the inevitable culling of unwanted players, usually on the cheap – replacing the man in the dug-out has now become an extremely expensive affair.
Whatever the rationale behind it though this recent trend for giving the man in charge time to overcome temporary setbacks and see their visions through to the end should be applauded.
For one thing it might result in coaches being more amenable to the idea of investing in the long-term and encouraging through talented kids.
For another it means that the white-haired guys in suits can happily take part in their off-spring’s sports day sack race without feeling jittery as hell.