Sometimes, I think you’d have to be mad to be a football manager. The pressure, the constant hounding from the media, the fans on your back if the team goes through a bad run of form (or even as soon as you arrive at the club), and the millions upon millions of pounds. Ok, so the last part probably makes up for it somewhat, but, in some jobs the constant threat of the sack can lead a manager towards the road of madness.
Yesterday saw two managerial departures from the top European leagues, Reading FC released a statement announcing the departure of Brian McDermott and Palermo’s frankly bonkers president Maurizio Zamparini sacked coach Gian Piero Gasperini after only two games in charge.
Premier League Roundabout
In modern football, the managerial roundabout is a regular occurrence and sacking managers is so frequent in the Premier League that there are websites and betting markets entirely devoted to who will be next to get the sack. Tellingly, only 10 of the 20 clubs in the Premier League have a current manager who has been in the job for more than one year.
Football club owners rarely show restraint when it comes to dealing with under-performing managers, but, if you’re a rich businessman looking for a football club as a plaything, the least you should know is that sacking managers during the season rarely works, and unless you already have a candidate lined-up and ready to replace your out-going manager, can be disastrous. Of course, sometimes changes need to be made and Liverpool, Aston Villa, Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur all changed managers during the summer.
Since the start of the season though, 4 Premier League clubs have sacked their managers. The first manager to go was Chelsea’s Champions League winning manager Roberto Di Matteo who only lasted until 21st November 2012 and was sacked after losing away to Juventus in the Champions League. Di Matteo’s successor as interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez is currently the bookies favourite to get the sack next!
Only days later the next to go was Mark Hughes, who was sacked from Queens Park Rangers on the 23rd November 2012 with QPR sitting bottom of the Premier League after failing to register a win from 12 games. Hughes was replaced by Harry Redknapp who was given a huge budget in the January transfer window, and despite QPR still sitting bottom of the league, has since managed to get 4 wins on the board and get QPR closer to their relegation rivals.
While the management of QPR by the club’s chairman and majority owner Tony Fernandes has at times been laughably naive, a combination of the replacement of a hapless Mark Hughes along with having another manager lined up ready to replace him, could prove to be a decent decision at the end of the season.
Another club who sacked their manager but sensibly had a replacement already lined-up were Southampton. Previous Southampton manager Nigel Adkins joined the club in 2010 and took them from League One to the Premier League thanks to back-to-back promotions. Southampton were handed a tricky set of fixtures for their return to the Premier League and managed to pick up only 4 points from their first 8 games. However, when Adkins was sacked on 16th January 2013, Southampton had put together a better run of form and were 15th place in the league, 3 points away from the relegation places. Adkins was immediately replaced by Mauricio Pochettino and currently Southampton are 16th in the league, 4 points away from the relegation zone.
Brian McDermott sacked
Which brings us to the sacking of McDermott by Reading yesterday. McDermott had become Reading manager in December 2009, taking over from Brendan Rodgers. McDermott took Reading on some great cup runs from the Championship, knocking out some big Premier League opposition, and last season guided Reading to promotion to the Premier League.
It took Reading 11 games to get a Premier League win, but just a month ago, McDermott was named Premier League Manager of the Month for January, after Reading league victories over West Brom, Newcastle, a draw against Chelsea as well as a 4-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield United. However, recent form has not been good for Reading and they have not won since 2nd February 2013 when they beat Sunderland 2-1. Since the win against Sunderland, Reading have lost to Stoke, Wigan, Everton, Aston Villa (and Manchester United in the FA Cup). Reading currently sit 19th in the Premier League with 23 points.
Recent form excluded, there seems to be little reason for Reading to have sacked McDermott. With little investment in the club, he had taken a Championship level squad (which current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers took close to relegation to League One) to a Wembley play-off final, and last season, promotion to the Premier League. The current season is only the second season Reading have been in the top tier of English football in over 140 years and, with a paper-thin squad and limited resources, always looked like candidates for immediate relegation this season.
As it stands, Reading are in 19th but only 4 points away from Aston Villa in 17th. Reading have 9 games left to play and what available managers are there out there who would take on the task of keeping the club up and do a better job than McDermott? McDermott seemed to be looked up to by the players and there are no reports of him having ‘lost the dressing room’. It’s probably thanks to McDermott’s management that Reading are not adrift at the bottom of the league and possibly already relegated at this point of the season. It’s a decision that is baffling.
With 9 or 10 games remaining for Premier League clubs this season, common sense would seem to dictate that it is too late for teams to make managerial changes before the end of the season, but with the way things are going, who knows?