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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Sack Race

Gone already - Davey, Gunn, and Jackson have all lost their jobs

Just a month of the new season gone, and four Football League managers are out of work. It's already set a worrying trend for the remainder of the season.

So, as Stuart Gray leaves Northampton and the life-expectancy of a manager in League Two reaches the 14-month mark, the lads discuss the Managerial Sack Race.

I think it's now the usual in modern day football, sackings are just a regular feature of the first month of the season. Gone are the days where a manager is allowed to build his own team and squad.

Instead, they are expected to perform miracles and get instant results and if they don't, they soon find themselves out of work and looking at ways to earn money until another chairman will give them a whirl.

Nobes: The most worrying thing is nothing surprises us that much any more. I mean, managers seem to be under pressure before a ball is even kicked. There's no opportunity for a clean slate and a fresh start.

I don't understand is why managers are sacked at the start of their second or third season after a few games, when they've been allowed to strengthen in the summer.

If a new manager and team takes time to gel, and some boards understand this, surely if you're going to judge a manager properly you have to give him time for this season's team to gel properly and not judge him on previous years.

If not, then why keep him on in the first place if you're not going to give him a realistic opportunity in the new campaign?

You need to give a manager at least until the half-way stage. Up until then, you're not past the point of no return. Teams can turn around in a very short space of time. I recall Crystal Palace going from 22nd to top six within half a season.

And take Preston for example - Alan Irvine saved us just when we needed help the most.
I think Paul Simpson had just the right amount of time - and when it was clear which direction we were heading in and the thoughts of the players were spread in the media, he had to go.

Nobes: If we assess the three sackings so far then, starting with the first - Bryan Gunn at Norwich. Now, that seemed as premature as it did harsh, and no way to treat a club legend. Lost the first game 7-1, then won 4-0 in the next.

I think, in the long term, that it will prove to be the right decision, but it doesn't stop you having sympathy with the guy.

Turls: Well, he got off to a dreadful start and that was the perfect excuse for the newly appointed board to get rid of him. I think despite beating Yeovil, the sacking was inevitable due to the change in power in the corporate seating.

Was it harsh? Yes and no. In days of yore, it would be a disgrace but times have changed. Although he was sacked after only two games of the new season, it's easy to forget that Gunn was in charge for a hefty portion of last season as well and could do nothing to stop the Canaries slide into League One.

Given the time, he may very well have been able to turn around their fortunes, but a dreadful start against a local(ish) rival and a change in personnel at board level, and his sacking was understandable but not condonable.

Two Norwich fans invaded the pitch to show their unhappiness with Gunn

I thought all the sackings have been ridiculous. That isn't to say that they aren't all deserved, but why not depart with a manager when it matters - at the end of the season. It's just not on.

Turls: Simon Davey's sacking I was not surprised at one bit. A poor season last year coupled with a disappointing start this time gave the board very little choice.

Barnsley fans aren't expecting the club to reach the giddying heights of the Premier League again, but you can forgive them for being a little fed up with another relegation battle on the horizon.

Perhaps Davey may have been able to spare the club another relegation but the board are looking for more than survival.

Nobes: I certainly don't think you can criticise Barnsley for dismissing him. The owner there was very supportive of him, both in terms of time and money, and he hasn't delivered in terms of progressing away from relegation battles.

I think this sacking was understandable. You have to look at it in the context of his three years at the helm, not just the first five games of this season.

I think Davey had been fighting fires for a while there, and his time was always coming.

Nobes: As for Jackson, I actually couldn't believe it when I heard the news. You hear about managers under pressure, but you never expect it to happen so soon and so quickly. The fans only really began to call for his head last weekend, another defeat later, and he was gone.

Think the chairman is not universally popular there, and it might be a decision to try and appease unhappy supporters and boost his own standing. Can't help but think it's a big overreaction though, it's not long ago the fans were worshipping him for keeping them up.

Jackson is..... a strange one. Lincoln want to get out of the division but always seem to beat themselves up. A poor start wasn't what the Imps wanted but he has a good CV and the board should have backed his ability to turn it around.

A disgraceful decision that epitomises the current state of football management.

For Stuart Gray, the pressure was always going to be a massive strain on him. The club was clearly expecting immediate results but League Two has become a very difficult place these days.

Notts County have more money than Central Africa and with tough teams already in the division, you worry that the expectations were a little too high. The thing is he may very well have got them promoted but the board clearly panicked and were worried that the club was slipping.

I think to sack the manager just a few games into a season, after all of the pre-season prep work has been done and the players are used to playing in a certain way? That's ludicrous.

Nobes: He was always going to be a bad run away from getting the sack though. Losing to Burton and Barnet in successive games is not clever, and with the expectations so high there, they couldn't afford to slip further behind.

Lakes: The question has to be asked why this seems to be happening more and more. If anything, the inpouring of money into the game, and the reliance of clubs on those financial rewards, has made football a cut-throat and unpleasant environment.

Turls: The manager is the one who always takes the brunt of the blame and acknowledge this with every job they accept but surely the players are responsible as well?

Nobes: I definitely think players must take more responsibility. How often do we see a manager get the sack, a new guy come in, and suddenly the players start to play well and try their hardest to impress the new manager.

Of course, had they played with that kind of determination and effort for the former boss, he probably wouldn't have been sacked. I think managers seem to 'lose the dressing room' much more easily these days, and it's just another example of how the power in football has shifted towards the players.

And if the manager wasn't up to the job, then surely the board who hired him should be punished as well for making the original mistake? Ultimately, the manager is always the one to be held accountable.

Chairman have, in general, become far too trigger happy and need to look at Manchester United and Crewe as examples of what can happen with a long term appointment.

Chairmen think about managerial decisions purely in terms of: "What profit is this man going to generate for me?" and cut their losses like folding hands in games of poker.

Players become "assets", fans become "stakeholders", and beore you know it the whole game is revolving around finance. The problem with that is that the financial world has a notorious impatience.

Nobes: I think it's definitely about time these chairmen who appoint managers and fire them so frequently fall on their sword. They decide who they want to manage their club, they give him the big build-up, and then sack him a year down the line.

Well, at the end of the day, they sack a manager for making bad calls in tactics, players etc. Surely the decision to employ the guy in the first place was a mistake - but they are never held accountable for it.

Will we ever see another Dario Gradi (right) and Crewe though? You only have to look at Manchester United to see that continuity breeds success. I think a chairman should just come out and say, "He's my choice as manager, I'm going to give him x amount of years, and I won't sack him before that."

That seems to be what Adam Pearson has done with Nigel Clough at Derby, they are going to give him plenty of time to get things right. I'd like to see more of this in football, as well as what the Woking chairman did. He appointed three managers, all three didn't work out, and he left himself of his own accord.

The same can be said of fans. Sometimes, a crowd can expect too much from their club and should understand the nature of what is trying to be achieved.

The crowd need to show as much patience as possible but you can understand them venting their frustration when they are paying a hefty sum of money to watch a team full of dross.

Nobes: I think it's just a reflection of society in general. Nobody is willing to wait for anything anymore. It has to be instantaneous and there's a real lack of patience. Football's no different to that.

Some fans are calling for a manager's head before he's even appointed. To use the Barnsley example, I'm not sure some fans were ever happy with Davey being appointed. They had judged him before a ball had even been kicked. You have to give the guy a chance.

Fans don't help. There are a lot of fans out there who don't know anything about football and think managers can be discarded without a second thought when things are going against them.

For starters, there are financial implications to getting rid of a manager, which should prove a massive discouraging factor. And far too many fans refuse to blame the players when things go wrong.

Well let me say this now: some players are useless freeloading sacks. Just because they're employed by the manager doesn't mean it's not that player's responsibility to sort their attitude out. But the pressure tends to end up on the manager and from then onwards it's a downwards spiral.

Unhappy Barnsley fans had been calling for manager Simon Davey to leave

What about this idea of a 'managerial window that Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested?

A managerial window is nothing short of nonsense because it creates a dangerous situation of a manager being able to hold a club to ransom. It opens up the possibility of a manager demanding an increase in his pay else he will threaten to ruin the club on the pitch.

Although I'm sure something like this would never happen, it is a serious concern. On a more realistic point, it creates a problem because I think it would result in more sackings.

Clubs would realise they only have a certain period of time to sack and hire a manager and rather than risk waiting until another window opens up, they would be inclined to sack the current manager to desperately stop the rot.

Nobes: Well, I actually think a window for managers might be a good idea. If clubs know they're not going to be able to sack a manager until, say, two weeks at the start of December, then they'll have to try and back him.

And a manager who might previously have got off to a poor start and been axed could be able to turn things around and the club be in a healthier state come December. If not, then clubs could still sack him, get a new man in place, and have the January transfer window to bring players in to help them improve.

Lakes: It has the potential to be a good idea in principle, but only if it's managed well. Imagine being stuck with a manager who has fallen out with all of his players, the fans, and the chairman in February. That would leave a club in disarray for the most important months of the season.

I don't know, I'm divided over it. I partly dislike it because I don't think it should be neccessary. Managers should just be cut a bit more slack.

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