The managerial merry-go-round and the myth of ‘Premier League experience’

On November 20th last year, West Bromwich Albion sacked Tony Pulis after two-and-a-half seasons in charge of the club.

The decision polarised football viewers with the so-called experts pointing to Pulis’ record of never being relegated and believed he would have kept them up had he stayed.

However, many people, mostly Albion fans saw that two wins in 21 matches was unacceptable and a u-turn in form was highly unlikely.

The Welshman enjoyed two good full seasons at The Hawthorns, achieving back-to-back mid-table finishes after comfortably saving them from relegation in 2015, when he took over from Alan Irvine. This season though, the Pulis factor truly had left the team and the side were unable to grind out wins or defend like they used to.

His philosophy had evidently broken and a 1-0 loss away to Huddersfield at the beginning of November stands out as the nail in the coffin.

In a game that West Brom should expect no less than three points, Pulis played an incredibly defensive 5-3-2 formation while Chris Brunt, James McClean, Nacer Chadli, Matt Phillips and Salomon Rondon all watched from the bench.

Huddersfield even went down to ten men with half-an-hour to go but West Brom still couldn’t capitalise.

So no, there was no mistake in sacking a manager who was bringing no life whatsoever to his side. The bigger decision for the West Brom board was who was going to steer the club away from their relegation fears and take the club forward.

There were plenty of names being linked to the job including Slaven Bilic, Sam Allardyce, Nigel Pearson and Martin O’Neill. Albion could easily have gone with a bold, outside choice like Derek McInnes, Michael O’Neill or Chris Wilder too.

One could even have made a case for caretaker manager Gary Megson to get the job after being unbeaten his two games in charge. One being an impressive 1-1 draw against Spurs at Wembley with plenty of positives to take from the performance.

However, West Brom wanted to play it safe and appoint a manager with Premier League experience. So they landed on former Charlton, West Ham, Newcastle and Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew.

There are, without a doubt impressive achievements on Pardew’s C.V. Reaching two FA Cup finals with West Ham and Crystal Palace shouldn’t go unnoticed. As well, Newcastle came 5th place in the Premier League under Pardew’s management and earned him a Manager of the Season award.

Nevertheless, recent memories of Pardew were getting sacked from Crystal Palace after winning just six league matches from 36 in 2016 but John Williams, the Albion chairman was confident the 56-year-old would have enough of a new manager bounce to keep the team up.

Four turgid months later at The Hawthorns, Pardew was sacked with six games remaining in the Premier League.

Not only did he not have any impact on the team or bring West Brom down to the bottom of the table and ten points off safety, but Pardew brought a terrible attitude to the club.

The glaringly obvious controversy was Albion’s training trip to Barcelona in which they actually trained for three whole hours and senior players Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill all stole a taxi outside a McDonald’s.

Disgraceful behaviour from such experienced players, but Pardew himself created the atmosphere by going out the night before culminating with him losing his phone, wallet and jacket.

In some of the worst man-management in recent footballing history, Pardew had public rifts with Chris Brunt, Claudio Yacob and Grzegorz Krychowiak respectively, while disrespecting Matt Phillips and youngsters Oliver Burke and Sam Field for various reasons.

Pardew finished up with no authority, plenty of enemies and one league win from 18 games. So much for ‘knowing the league’.

It’s a shame, considering how many young and hungry managers that are bursting for a chance to take charge of a Premier League team, Pardew is a waste of an appointment.

How many people can we safely say would have done a better job at Albion than Pardew’s disastrous reign? Even novice manager and club favourite Darren Moore could install a bit of pride in the team for the final six games as he manages the team on a temporary basis.

However, it’s not just Alan Pardew that’s the problem, it’s the same pool of coaches getting Premier League jobs known as ‘the managerial merry-go-round’.

Above West Brom in 19th place are Stoke City, who were forced to sack manager Mark Hughes after just five wins in 22 Premier League games. The Potters struggled to appoint a manager before they went down their list to appoint Paul Lambert. An underwhelming appointment to say the least.

The Scot enjoyed a decent few years getting promoted to the Premier League and staying in it with Norwich before replacing Alex McLeish at Aston Villa, where he achieved back-to-back 15th place finishes.

After getting sacked for dragging Villa into the relegation zone, Lambert had spells in the Championship with Blackburn Rovers and Wolves, where he finished 15th on both occasions.

No matter how much you sugar-coat it, Stoke appointed a manager who found his level in the bottom-half of the Championship table based on managing in the Premier League more than three years ago.

As people would have expected, Lambert has failed to give Stoke a lift and has just won one game since arriving.

Above Stoke sit Southampton, who should have a squad capable of fighting for the top-half of the league but their harsh sacking of Claude Puel lead to a poor appointment of Mauricio Pellegrino.

When the Saints’ board ran out of patience with Pellegrino, they turned to the Premier League experience of Mark Hughes after him leaving Stoke in 19th position a few weeks before.

There’s not much to say he won’t get them out of trouble, but going to a struggling West Ham and getting hammered 3-0 isn’t the best start.

Above the relegation zone lie more members of the managerial merry-go-round as both David Moyes and Roy Hodgson are also in danger of bringing their respective clubs – West Ham or Crystal Palace – down.

Both managers have done incredibly well to give their teams a fighting chance, Roy Hodgson took over a goalless Palace side with no points at the bottom of the table and they now sit at 17th place.

Moyes has done enough to drag West Ham out of the relegation zone after Slaven Bilic’s sacking with an impressive turnaround.

However, both Hodgson and Moyes can still go down due to going off the boil during the season, which highlights the lack of consistency these managers have.

Sam Allardyce has also confirmed his reputation as a firefighter as he looked happy to tiptoe his way to the magic forty-point mark but Everton fans will surely look for a more ambitious boss to take charge in the summer.  

Ambition is the problem with this crop of managers, the lack of it gives a predictability to their teams. If they’re not getting relegated they will be more than happy to marginally stay up and settle for letting their teams simply exist.

The Premier League has become so used to the likes of Allardyce, Moyes, Hodgson, Hughes, Lambert, Pardew and Championship promotion-chasers Steve Bruce and Tony Pulis, who could well be back next year, swapping jobs with one another but there’s clear examples that prove going against the norm works.

Carlos Carvalhal and David Wagner haven’t needed to have been in the league before to have their teams poised to survive. Burnley and Bournemouth have had their faith in hungry coaches Sean Dyche and Eddie Howe well repaid this year.

Southampton in past years introduced Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel in three ambitious appointments that paid off.

One saving attribute all these Premier League veterans have is charisma. They have a certain know-how about them when facing the media and clearly seem to charm their employers into getting these jobs.

Take Pardew for example, who brainwashed Albion fans for a long time into thinking that he was the right man for the job. He complimented the team, calling it an attractive job before he even joined.

In his first press conference, he talked a great deal about wanting to take the club forward, winning games by playing on the front foot, wanting to finish in the top ten and even bringing silverware to the club.

Pardew said all the right things, but ultimately none of the talking was done on the pitch and he became West Brom’s worst ever manager of all-time.

It’s hard to see Pardew getting Premier League work again as a result and hopefully it’s the beginning of the end for appointments based on managers knowing the league, which realistically doesn’t matter.

The Author

Colm Brosnan

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