Has football’s sacking culture gone too far?

by Back Page Football

Having just guided Middlesbrough back to the Premier League, Aitor Karanka will be all too aware of the attention and pressure that will be on him come the start of next season.

The Spaniard stated earlier in the season that:

In Spain, it is normal for managers to change. Everybody knows that in September or October, some managers will be sacked. I think things are changing here (in the UK) and you are starting to see that too.

 

There are much more foreign owners and managers than there were five or ten years ago, and the culture is changing. It is bad for the managers because you always want to have a chance to work in a calm situation, but that is football.

As recently as March, Karanka missed Boro’s game at Charlton as rumours circulated he was set to leave the Riverside but, ten games later, the side clinched a return to the Premier League after seven years in the Championship.

However, that achievement could count for nothing if Middlesbrough don’t show signs of survival in the top flight, of which, Karanka is seemingly all too aware of.

 

English football has always prided itself on its loyalty and patience, but with the growth of the monster that is the Premier League, these ideals have been replaced by a more continental approach, which has seen stability and continuity abandoned in the search success and the subsequent financial rewards.

Modern Football’s reliance on sponsorship, and TV money, means there is simply no time for gradual success, owners demand instant results or managers face being shown the door.

While the Premier League hasn’t reached the absurdity of other leagues around Europe, Palermo for instance, has had seven different managers this season alone!

The rise of foreign ownership in the Premier League has certainly seen the abandonment of more traditional practices, with the likes of Roman Abramovich wielding the axe on a regular basis.

‘Ruthless Roman’ has certainly garnered a reputation as one of the league’s most ruthless owners, with Chelsea having had 14 managers during the Russian’s 14-year tenure, and is somewhat symbolic of what is wrong with the modern game.

Carlo Ancelotti represents one of the game’s finest managerial talents, but even Chelsea sacked him, just one year after delivering the Premier League title and FA Cup.

After the 2014/2015 season, the League Manager’s Association calculated that the average tenure for a manager in England was just 1.23 years, and with 63 managers (and counting) departing during the 15/16 campaign, that average will have shortened further.

It is a clear issue, and it is difficult to see any club enjoying a lengthy period of success without it being addressed.

Sir Alex Fergusson remains the benchmark for what can be achieved with sustained  continuity and patience, but in this era of social media, and quick fix targets, it is likely he himself would have struggled in the current climate.

Questions have to be asked whether this culture of sacking even brings about better results, with arguably the majority of clubs achieving similar, or worse levels in the aftermath.

This season has seen nine managerial departures in the Premier League, alone, with only Dick Advocaat of those nine, leaving on his own accord.

Aston Villa has suffered through one of the worst seasons in their history, but they fared no better after Tim Sherwood’s sacking.

Sherwood was sacked only eight months into the role after six straight defeats had left Villa in 19th place, but it is completely unfair to hold him solely accountable for their failings.

Remi Garde was then brought in to resurrect their season, but the turmoil which had already been created in the wake of so much upheaval, meant that his task was almost impossible.

Garde was sacked after only 147 days, and again, Villa fans had a scapegoat, but like in the majority of sackings, the owner was absolved of blame.

 

It is easy to forget that Sherwood had done well to keep Villa up the season before, guiding them to the FA Cup final in the process, and it cannot be understated the impact of losing a player of Benteke’s standing had on Villa’s chances of survival.

Benteke may have had a torrid time at Liverpool, but Villa had built a whole style of play around him, and to expect them to adapt to this as quickly as the first few weeks of the season, is unrealistic.

This is where owners like Randy Lerner must take responsibility. Had lerner shown more faith in Sherwood, it is likely Villa would have had a better fight at survival, as things would have stabilised much quicker without the upheaval caused by managerial change.

Owners expectations must be tempered, with clubs far too quick to pull the trigger on managers who have already shown great potential.

Take the recent sacking of Quique Sánchez Flores.

Flores guided newly promoted Watford to mid-table in the Premier League, while also taking them to the FA Cup Semi-Finals, but even that was not enough to keep him in a job.

Surely the aim for a newly promoted side from the Fotball League to the Premier League, is to stay in the division, and what Flores has achieved this season would have to be seen as a resounding success, but not in the eyes of Watford’s unforgiving Itlaian owners.

To have expected any better from Flores is nothing short of delusional, and rather than having a settled framework in which to head into the new campaign, Watford will be heading in a new uncertain direction.

Flores is not the only victim, Gary Monk has long been talked about as a rare breed of young emerging British managerial talent, someone who had done much to take Swansea forward, but as soon as his side hit a rough patch of form, he was disposed with.

Even Roberto Martinez was harshly dealt with by Everton, as it was only last season when fans and pundits were singing his praises, and lauding his style of play which had seen Everton head into a direction not seen under the Moyes era.

 

Clubs are far too quick to seek change, often neglecting the talent which is already at the helm.

Even Jose Mourinho, undoubtedly one of the greatest managers of his generation, was let go by Chelsea after a poor start to season, just a few months after delivering Chelsea their first league title in four seasons.

In many ways, Mourinho’s sacking shows just how clubs are choosing to operate in modern football.

The whole of Chelsea’s squad must take collective responsibility for the clubs failings, but it is Mourinho who the board decided to root out, not the individuals who so badly let him down.

Instead of longevity and continuity, it is revenues and player power which cause boardrooms to act.

Of course, not all managers should be exempt from the sack, and their have been cases this season where there can be little complaint.

Brendon Rodgers had been at Liverpool for four years, and was well supported financially by the board, having a net spend over £127 million.

Rodgers fell just short of delivering the much coveted Premier League title in 2014, but the following campaign he could only deliver a  thoroughly disappointing sixth placed finish.

He started this season in a similar vain, and with Liverpool well off the pace, it was quite clearly apparent that they were moving backwards.

Rodgers had squandered much money on thoroughly average players, and their was little he could argue for his continuation, especially when a manager of the standing of Jürgen Klopp was available.

Likewise, Steve McClaren could have little to complain about when he was let go by Newcastle.

Like Rodgers, McClaren had brought in many average players who had done little to improve the squad, spending £73 million for the privilege, and with Newcastle in the midst of a relegation battle, and the players not responding to his methods, sacking him was the right option.

This summer, their will once more be much change in the dugouts up and down the Football League, as clubs continue to chop and change in the pursuit of quick glory, but while this culture of sacking persists, it is difficult to see the majority of clubs finding a winning formula on the pitch.

With the current culture, English football risks losing the identity that has made it so special.

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