Which league is winning the sack race?

Question – Which English league has so far seen the most managerial sackings?

For those fans who live in the warm, safe environment of the Premier or Football League I don’t they will know the answer to hand.  For the record there have been eight managers leave their posts since the start of the season, although you could also bundle in the likes of Allardyce and Bruce who left their positions in the pre-season period.  The Championship actually leads the way with three manager’s fired so far this season – Nigel Pearson at Derby County, Paul Trollope at Cardiff City and Roberto Di Matteo at Aston Villa, with League One and Two only having two casualties apiece, whilst poor old Francesco Guidolin being the sole Premier League scalp so far.

However, take one step down from Football League Two and you will find possibly the most cut-throat managerial environment in England.  The National League Premier, aka The Conference Premier has so far seen seven of the twenty-four clubs lose their managers since the opening day of the season.  With almost a third of the season so far played, that number is ridiculous, but why is it over double that of any of the leagues above them?

26138079974_c44c4ab0bd_kThe clubs that have so far changed their managers on the whole would have expected to have been doing better than they had been at the time of the change:-

– Braintree Town – sacked Jamie Day in September.  After finishing in the Play-offs last season expectations would have been high but the loss of former manager Danny Cowley to Lincoln City was a big blow – borne out by the fact that Lincoln City are currently enjoying one of their best seasons in years, sitting in third place at the time of writing.  Day was fired with the club in 22nd place, one place lower that they are today.

– Eastleigh – sacked Chris Todd in August.  The season was only four games old when Eastleigh fired Todd after a shocking start had seen them bottom at the time.  Since appointing Ronnie Moore they have climbed up to 8th in the league, winning six and drawing three of their last ten games.

– Guiseley – sacked Mark Bower in August.  After surviving on the last day of the season with a win over Torquay United, it was somewhat of a surprise that the board at Guiseley decided to act so quickly, despite them being bottom of the league.  They are one of the smallest clubs in the league and keeping their head above water was always going to be a struggle with teams on significantly bigger budget.  Adam Lockwood was appointed as his replacement but they are still in the bottom four.

– Southport – sacked Andy Bishop in early September.  A similar situation to Guiseley where they have been just keeping their head above water for a while.  The former Football League club dispensed with Bishop’s services when the club were in 23rd spot.  He was replaced by Steve Burr and things are still not going to plan with the Sandgrounders currently propping up the rest of the league.

– Tranmere Rovers – sacked Gary Brabin in September, then replaced Interim manager Paul Carden in October.  It doesn’t seem that long ago since Tranmere Rovers were ripping up the Championship (or whatever it was called back then) and playing in a cup final at Wembley every year.  It must be hard being a Rovers fan today having those memories so vivid.  When they fell out of the league in 2015 they hoped to “do a Bristol Rovers” and bounce straight back up.  Under Brabin they finished last season in sixth place, missing out on the Play-offs by 2 points.  With the team in 5th place it seemed the decision to sack Brabin was harsh to say the least to an outsider.  Carden’s brief reign saw a win, a draw and a defeat before former Shrewsbury Town manager Mickey Mellon was appointed.

– Wrexham – sacked Gary Mills in October with the club in 15th place after defeat at Tranmere Rovers had left them in 15th place.  A subsequent home defeat in the FA Cup to Evostik First Division South Stamford, and a potential lucrative tie at Hartlepool United wouldn’t have particularly pleased the fans either.

– York City – Jackie McNamara “moved” upstairs in October.  There doesn’t appear to be much fun had supporting York City at the moment.  Earlier this week they crashed out of the FA Cup at Curzon Ashton, missing out on a tie against the lowest ranked side, Westfields, in the First Round Proper, whilst Chairman Jason McGill had to explain comments he made on national radio about the fans.  Whole situation with McNamara was bizarre to say the least.  He was given one game to essentially save his job, away at Braintree, which he drew and then appeared to have been sacked, only to them be appointed Chief Executive which begs the question why did they go public with the ultimatum in the first place.  Gary Mills, fresh from leaving Wrexham, was appointed this week as the new manager with York in 19th place.

So why has the National League Premier so far produced so much managerial upheaval?  Could it be that the Football League is due to decide next year on whether to completely revamp the structure of leagues, going from 3 divisions of 24 teams to 4 of 20, which would mean an additional 8 teams would join the professional game.  There had been some concern that the proposal may have been a back-door to try to sneak in Celtic and Rangers or some of the Premier League Development Squads, such as had happened in the failing and flailing Football League Trophy.  The “Whole Game Solution” was discussed at a meeting in September where it was agreed by a majority vote that it would NOT include the two previous options of the Old Firm and Premier League DS teams.  At that point the Non-League sides obviously started to rub their hands together, especially when a suggested was tabled for a 14 team expansion, making a Championship to twenty sides and then 22 in Leagues One, Two and Three.  If the Football League had any sense they would have already started down this route by allowing the National League sides to play in the laughable Football League Trophy rather than the Premier League DS sides but that’s another story for another day.

Consequently, clubs in the National League are eager to finish as high as possible to stand a chance to finish above whatever cut-off point is put in place.  Prize money, sponsorship money, TV revenues and so on are significantly higher in the Football League than the Non-Leagues and so clubs appear to be more prepared to make a change earlier in the season when things aren’t going their way (bar perhaps Tranmere who dispensed of Brabin when they were in 5th place).

With the proposals not now due to be discussed until June next year, the chance of any changes happening for the start of the 2017/18 season are very slim indeed.  However, that doesn’t appear to have stopped some teams where ambition may be significantly higher than reality in making managerial changes.  What some of the “traditional” Football League clubs may be missing is that some of the clubs now challenging in the National League are doing so from a stronger position both on and off the pitch.  Current leaders Forest Green Rovers have a multi-millionnaire owner who has invested in the infrastructure and squad over a number of years and it is only a matter of time before they reach the Football League either on their own merits or through the inevitable reorganisation.  Eastleigh and a wealthy backer who wants to deliver Football League status to the club, Maidstone United, Sutton United and Boreham Wood all have business models that have enabled them to build excellent facilities and continue to improve on the pitch.

Currently six points separates six former Football League sides in places 2 to 7 in the table.  Undoubtedly there will be more managerial merry-go-rounds before the year is out as boards of directors all across the league can almost touch the opportunity to play in the Football League (again).

Which manager is odds on to be next in the firing line??

Every season the Premier League sees a number of managers lose their jobs and each bookies will be able to tell you who their favourites are to next face the chop. The need for clubs to stay in such a lucrative league is so great, which ensures that betting and speculation about which managers will fall victim is greater than ever. In the pre-Premier League era, managers often stayed with the same clubs for many years and entire seasons would go by without anyone losing their job, but chairmen seem to be shuffling up their deck more than ever nowadays. Already, only a couple of months into the new season and a number of managers in the league would appear to be under some threat.

Football management has always been a risky occupation, but nowadays it seems the chopping and changing is more prevalent than ever. Head over to a bookies and you are likely to see odds on the wall for the next manager to get the axe – this in itself says a lot, managerial positions can be so dynamic and unpredictable that the bookies now see it as a big money maker. You’ve probably a similar chance of a big return on the online slots than in the bookies for this one, even your 40 season + season ticket holders will have trouble predicting who will be first to go.

Those in the hotseats in the Premier League are taking a big gamble themselves – managers are as handsomely rewarded as the players financially, but there is also a great deal of risk. Managers can control so much of the outcome – through tactics and man management – but once the players go out there on the pitch there are things beyond their control. Whether it is human error at a critical moment –by a player or an official – or simply a freak occurrence – a Premier League manager can do everything within their power and still lose their job. And of course the precedent of being sacked by a club will not help when going for the next job.

The managers most at risk often seem to be those either at the newly promoted clubs, or those who have recently come into large amounts of money. A manager at a team just promoted from the Championship often finds himself the victim of boardroom panic when the team makes a slow adjustment to the Premiership, while the manager of a team which has been taken over and enjoyed significant investment often suffers as a result of the club increasing its expectations and looking for a big name manager.

So, if you were thinking of heading over to the bookies and placing a bet on the next manager to go, maybe this article has sewn some doubts in your mind. Such a dynamic field can be hard to analyse well enough to make predictions and if you aren’t fully confident then there’s always the online slots option mentioned above. If you’d rather put your money into something that you have more influence over though, take a look at the poker tables found in Lucky Nugget. As a game of skill hopefully you will have more luck than some of the Premier League managers have had over the past 2 decades.

It does seem to be a tough issue to grasp, given that the 3 longest managers in English football, never mind the Premier league are unarguably 3 of the most successful relative to their clubs. Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful football manager we have ever seen after 25 years at United. Arsene Wenger is next in line, being the second most successful manager in English football after 16 years at Arsenal and he is closely followed by David Moyes at almost 11 years – who in that time has taken Everton out of annual relegation dogfights to cup finals and the top four.

Gamesmanship, tactical genius or just economics?

We often assume that football managers think strategically, know exactly what is going on and play to a set plan.  However, watching a number of teams both in the Premier League or nPower Championship where the only strategy is one of hit and hope I doubted this was the case.  I do not take the same view of games as experts such as Michael Cox or Jonathan Wilson, but I do have a casual glance once in a while along the line, or the formation at corners.  I have also been in the “inner sanctum” of the Lewes FC coaches room (aka the old boardroom/office/kitchen/kit room) and seen the tactical maps drawn up by the management there.  So there seems to be some intent there, if not the delivery.

However, last Sunday whilst watching the Super Bowl I was made aware of exactly how tactical the game can be.  Picture the scene.  This is the biggest game in American Football, second biggest game in the world behind the World Cup final.  The TV audience in the US alone is over 100 million people.  There is 59 seconds left on the clock.  The New York Giants are at the Patriots six yard line.  The Giants are down by two points.  Now in every other sport there would be an urgency to get on with the game and score.  A touchdown would give them 6 points (plus an almost guaranteed one extra point from the kick); a Field Goal from this distance would give them an almost certain three points.  Either way they take the lead.  BUT by doing so they give the ball to the Patriots who would have a chance to go down the other end of the pitch and score themselves. Continue reading

Bruce wins the sack race – who is next?

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

Matchdays with Mercer

Can you imagine a player today travelling to the ground on the bus on a match day, walking down the road with fans, happy to chat about having the “best job in the world”. The thought of that happening today is about as possible as Sepp Blatter admitting, well, anything. The last person in football who admitted using public transport to get to a game was laughed out of town as crazy. Whilst Christian Gross may have thought the way to warm to the Spurs fans and media was to produce his travel card at the press conference announcing his arrival back in 1997, most saw that the guy really didn’t get English football.

But back in the Seventies it was common practice not only for players, but also for managers to use public transport, or even their own bike to get to home games. One man who believed it was humbling to travel in such a way was Joe Mercer.  Whilst manager of Manchester City in 1971 Joe gave an interview to Football World magazine explaining his match day routine.

“Home game Saturdays mean I can sleep in late, with the wife bringing me a cup of tea around 9.30am before I get up and have breakfast. Like my players I can eat what I want when we have a home game so I usually have a large English. Then if it is nice I will do some work in the garden. As I only live two miles from Maine Road I can hop outside at lunchtime and catch the bus if I do not feel like driving. Continue reading