by Liam McConville

So after a brief international break, the focus is firmly back on club football as the season really starts to gather pace. Even though we’re only in September, there have already been two managerial sackings in the football league with plenty more bosses already under pressure in all four English divisions. Even new managers only appointed this summer are already feeling the heat as football’s inherent short termism becomes apparent again.

In an age of football phone-ins and twenty-four hour news channels, the pressure is intense and can’t be escaped. The sack race becomes a big talking point as many keenly await the first major departure of the season. The phrase ‘managerial merry-go round’ is used to describe the chop/change nature at the top. However in reality many managers fall out of football, the scars of an abrupt sacking can be difficult to shake off. New bosses speak of their long-term aims and goals but in reality if they don’t deliver within months they know that their P45 will soon be making an appearance.

The demand for results can be overwhelming and lead to many premature sackings. Once certain sections of the media smell blood, the pressure on the manager intensifies as they are faced with waves of stories speculating about their future. It becomes a vicious circle that builds and builds and although there can be temporary releases; the chances are that once the rumours start, a sacking is near.

A good analogy to consider is that if there were twenty Sir Alex Ferguson’s in charge of the twenty Premier League clubs, three managers would still be relegated. Relegation doesn’t necessarily make you a bad manager but invariably it will get you the sack.

Take the case of Andre Villas-boas at Chelsea, Villas-Boas started off reasonably well, he spoke about his long-term project, about a dynasty at Stamford Bridge. Chairman Bruce Buck even stated that he felt the talented Portuguese manager could be at the helm ‘for fifteen years’. However problems started in October as Chelsea stuttered to a couple of damaging defeats in big London derbies.

From here it only got worse. Reports of player unrest coincided with more defeats as Chelsea struggled to an extent but still maintained their position in the top six. December’s game against Valencia was considered to be ‘make or break’; Villas-Boas answered his critics emphatically with a 3-0 win. This proved to be only a temporary release. More disappointing results followed in the New Year and the cycle continued until Villas-Boas was dismissed in March, a mere nine months after Chelsea paid millions in compensation to secure him from Porto.

Chelsea were of course vindicated in this situation, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo brought the old guard together and you all know what happened next. However the cycle is not over Di Matteo only got the job permanently after a lengthy period of consideration and after having his own fingers burned by a harsh sacking from West Brom; the Italian knows he can’t afford a slide in results, despite last season’s success.

Football is seemingly constantly on a knife edge. The financial implications of failure mean that chairman have got very twitchy fingers all season long. Whether it be missing out on the Champions League or slipping into the murky waters of relegation, there is simply no room for error for clubs often pushed to breaking point. Often is proves to be too much, whether a club is ‘living the dream’ or simply not budgeting for the drop, short-term planning often leads to financial difficulties and far too often, administration. The man who faces the flak for failure is often the manager, a quick dismissal can alleviate the pressure on the board and too often this is what happens.

So to this season and two managers seeking their first league win for their new clubs. Villas-Boas now at Spurs has had a tricky start, boos rang out at White Hart Lane after just his third game in charge. At Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has one point from three games and the Northern Irishman will be desperate to start winning soon. Both are exciting young managers with a handful of years’ experience, both appointments present somewhat of a risk for their respective clubs, but it is an exciting risk.

Villas-Boas and Rodgers have both spoke about their long-term ambitions and their projects. However both know the importance of results and the need to turn their bad runs around to avoid this campaign being given the dreaded term of a ‘transitional season’. Times have changed there is no room for error, according to the LMA; the average tenure for managers across all divisions is around eighteen months.

Both men are good managers with a lot of promise; however their most difficult challenge may well be their own survival in the job.