Thomas Rooney gives us his thoughts on the Premier League Sack Race.
The fact that we nearly made it to December until the first sacking of the Premier League season was quite remarkable. There are usually at least a couple of changes by this stage. However, the sacking of Steve Bruce last night will perhaps start a trend at other clubs.
Football betting pundits note how Bruce was given his marching orders at Sunderland after a poor run of form saw his team fall to 16th in the table, just two points clear of the relegation zone. It seems like the defeat at home to Wigan was the final straw for the Black Cats board and they wanted to make a change before things got even worse.
In a way, Bruce can consider himself slightly unlucky if the sacking was based purely on recent form. Yes, the defeat to Wigan was extremely disappointing, but in the previous six games they only lost twice, narrowly to Arsenal and Manchester United.
Things could certainly have been a lot different. They went down to a Wes Brown own goal at Old Trafford, while they were the victims of the Robin Van Persie show at the Emirates. Then, they showed excellent spirit to secure 2-2 draws against West Brom and Aston Villa after trailing in both games.
It isn’t just about the last few weeks though. Bruce has been managing an expectancy for quite some time and a club that has promised to kick on hasn’t quite done so. Money has been spent, targets have been set and Bruce has fallen short. The fans finally lost patience with Bruce’s two-year spell at the club though and his time was up.
Bruce’s demise can perhaps be taken back to the sale of Darren Bent in January. In truth, the club never recovered from this. However, the former Sunderland boss will be back in management soon and the Black Cats will have their new man in place before long.
With a busy fixture list coming up though and the January transfer window around the corner, will more clubs follow Sunderland’s lead and make a change before it is too late?
The success of the newly promoted clubs means that there are several clubs in Sunderland’s position. By this I mean, they are lower in the league than they would like, they should be pushing on after being in the top flight for a few years and they have a fan base growing more and more frustrated.
Combine all of this with the fact that owners will not want to give a manager they aren’t fully behind the funds to spend in January and the next sacking could be just around the corner.
In terms of managers in danger, the obvious one is of course Steve Kean. Blackburn are an established Premier League club, they are rock bottom of the table and have only won once all season. Throw this together with the fact that the fans have been protesting for weeks now, Kean is surely the favourite to be given his marching orders next?
Martin Jol has to be careful at Fulham too. This may be slightly harsh, but there is no doubt that they need to string a couple of wins together. Owen Coyle needs results too. He isn’t under pressure at the moment, but if it gets to the middle of January and Wanderers are still in the bottom three, this will grow with every day that passes.
Mick McCarthy is in the same boat in terms of needing a good run of form. This is Wolves’ second successive season in the Premier League and they will be desperate not to drop into the Championship again.
They want to push on and although they will back McCarthy to do the business, it will be interesting to see how the fans react if a lack of spending in January is mixed with some poor results. The same applies to Alex McLeish who hasn’t exactly won over the Aston Villa fans this season.
Of course, as far as the bookies are concerned, Andre Villas-Boas is the second favourite (behind Kean) to get the boot next and it has to be said that a couple more negative results in December will get Roman Abramovich thinking.
Overall, Kean is the man in the most danger and everyone else – with the exception of the inexperienced Villas-Boas perhaps – will consider themselves relatively safe.
However, Bruce was positive when he signed a new deal in February and even when his team won at Bolton in October. His sacking shows how quickly the tide can turn in football with expectation higher than ever for Premier League clubs