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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Managing Expectations

With plenty of new managers in place for the start of the 2010/11 campaign, Nobes looks at why some of them shouldn't get too comfortable in their new job.

New Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers endured a short lived reign at Reading

The appointment of Brendan Rodgers as Swansea's new boss confirmed the managerial teams of all 72 Football League clubs ahead of the new campaign.

For the 37-year-old Northern Irishman it's the second summer in a row he's been appointed into a new job. Twelve months ago he was swapping Watford for Reading - only for his tenure with the Royals to be over by Christmas.

Unfortunately, the tale of his time at the Madejski is a familiar one and, if such trends continue in 2010/11, you can expect many of the managers appointed at clubs this summer to not last the whole season.

Swansea are one of seven Championship clubs who are beginning the season with new managers. Bristol City have hired the experienced Steve Coppell, George Burley has taken over at Crystal Palace and the new man at Coventry is Aidy Boothroyd.

Two relegated clubs - Hull and Portsmouth have new managers, too - in the shape of Nigel Pearson and Steve Cotterill respectively. Pearson's replacement at Leicester is Paulo Sousa - who Rodgers replaces at Swansea.

In League One, five clubs are beginning with a clean slate. John Ward has stepped up from assistant to top dog at Colchester and the experienced Peter Reid is back in the game at Plymouth.

There are also managerial debuts in the Football League from Milton Keynes's Karl Robinson, Oldham's Paul Dickov, and Craig Short at Notts County.

This is also the first season in a new job for a quarter of the managers in League Two. Andy Hessenthaler begins his second spell at Gllingham and the man he replaced, Mark Stimson, is now at Barnet.

Simon Davey has made the move to Hereford, whose former boss Graham Turner is back at old club Shrewsbury. Pauls Sturrock and Simpson - at Southend and Stockport respectively - complete the line-up of new basement division gaffers.

That's a total of 18 new managers - three more than at the start of 2009/10. However, of those 15 managers who were starting afresh with clubs 12 months ago - seven of them didn't see the season out with their new employers.

Even more striking are the figures of how many managers are beginning this season with the same club they were at this time last year.

Of the 72 Football League clubs, just 31 are starting 2010/11 with the same man at the helm. That's 42 clubs who have changed manager at least once in the past year - sometimes by their own volition, sometimes not.

How can that kind of stability or continuity be any good, however? In truth, it is a shameful record that illustrates everything that is wrong with the unrealistic demands and impatience rife in our game.

While 72 clubs may begin the season hoping for glory, the reality is that only ten will actually end the season by winning promotion. Nine of them, on the other hand, will definitely suffer the pain of relegation.

None of the nine clubs relegated in 2009/10 are starting the season with the same manager from 12 months ago. Clearly the manager was to blame in every case.

Colchester's John Ward is one of 18 new managers at the start of the season

However, it is also telling that just two of last season's ten promoted clubs swapped managers during the last campaign.

Only Norwich, who made a change after the opening game, and Notts County ended a season where they wielded the axe by cracking open the champagne.

It is a lesson in patience paying off. Did Millwall panic when they started the season slowly in League One after being beaten in the 2009 play off final? No, and they were rewarded as Kenny Jackett led the Lions to promotion as play off winners.

Too many of last season's sackings had a ring of panic and desperation about them though. Middlesbrough's farcical dismissal of Gareth Southgate when the Teessiders sat just a point off the Championship summit was the worst of a bad bunch.

Lincoln City's decision to replace Peter Jackson with Chris Sutton in order to boost their play off bid - only to celebrate survival last term as an achievement - was also derisory.

It is hard to argue, too, that clubs like Preston and QPR enjoyed improved seasons after making managerial changes midway through.

It's doubtful, too, whether clubs such as Oldham or Coventry are positioned to do any better at the start of this season than last after their managerial switches.

Perhaps the most worrying statistic is just how many clubs fail to learn - and will sack their manager after just a few months.

Nine managers had already been sacked from their job before November last season. Another three had left their club to take on one of those jobs made available by a sacking.

That figure of nine sackings was almost double the five of 2008/9 over the same period, but one fewer than the astonishing ten managers who were sacked in the first three months of the 2007/8 season.

Of those 24 clubs who replaced managers in the first three months of the past three seasons, only the aforementioned duo of Notts County and Norwich were promoted.

Four of them, on the other hand, went on to be relegated in the same season as their early switch - proving their changes to have been completely pointless.

In some cases, they were sackings which were almost hung-over from the previous season - giving managers one last chance to redeem themselves with a positive start to the new campaign.

However, in the case of Rodgers, he must now be given the proper time and backing at Swansea. It is absolutely unforgivable for the men in charge at clubs to hang their hat on a new manager, only to turn around and fire him so quickly.

How can somebody who was so right for a job just a few months back, suddenly be the wrong person when the results aren't coming? After all, new managers can notoriously take time to get going and find their way at a club.

Instead, sacking a new manager should not be seen as proof of that person's incompetence. Rather, it is evidence of the flawed and failed character of the men who gave him the job in the first place.

It is a failure to show some loyalty and patience and give the manager time to do his job properly. It is also a sign of a flawed selection policy though.

If a manager turns out to be the wrong person for the job - then it is time to look at who hired him in the first place. These unaccountable individuals who seem incapable of making the right appointment yet their own job is never called into question.

As the managerial sacking race of the new season begins to take its victims, it is those men, rather than the manager himself, where fans should really focus their blame on.

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