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The extraordinary world of football management

If you want evidence of management ruthlessness, never mind Wall Street, the City or for that matter, politics, then check out the English Premier League. Scolari, the Gene Hackman lookalike who was once the manager of a World Cup winning side with Brazil, no less, has been sacked as manager of Chelsea by its Russian owner. Chelsea are only a few points adrift of Manchester United, the leaders. Tony Adams has been fired as manager of Portsmouth, which is near the bottom end of the table. A few weeks ago, Paul Ince, a former midfielder with Manchester United and West Ham, was sacked from his job. At Tottenham, they have been through about three managers in as many years. The same merry-go-round operates at such febrile clubs as Manchester City, Newcastle, Bolton or West Ham. In the latter case, you can bet the cries will go up that its current, relatively new manager, Zola, should be headed for Chelsea, where he is rightly adored as a legend. Against all this, it seems mildly incredible that Arsene Wenger has lasted so long at Arsenal, and of course that Sir Alex Ferguson has reigned for more than two decades at Manchester United.

It is as if the credit crunch has barely begun to make itself felt at the world of English football. Some time ago I wrote about the wrangles between players and clubs over contracts. As far as the sackings of managers go, the world of football looks more cut-throat than ever.

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12 comments to The extraordinary world of football management

  • I find the Portsmouth situation particularly amusing. When Redknapp left he was booed by fans, who called him a traitor for leaving in the middle of his contract (despite his having helped the club so much). And now the management have fired him. Such traitors.

  • Laird

    Hey, American football is no different. Of the 32 teams in the league, at least 10 will have new head coaches next season.

  • nostalgic

    The enormous sums of money at stake in the Premiership have led to this manager merry-go-round. A point won (or lost) can lead to 10s of millions of £ in or out of a club’s balance sheet.

    The mad scramble in the Championship is little different – its not for nothing that the play off final is called the richest game in the world.

  • criminal

    is it any different to the life of a city trader?

    only difference seems to be city traders have to work more than 1 day a week and don’t moan so much about how terrible their lot is.

  • It’s very like the world of a City trader, and football is very soon going to discover what the traders have found out recently – that the money has run out and the bubble is over.

    What I find amusing is that the Russian oligarch who apparently had money to burn was welcomed to English football as Santa Claus, whereas the American investors with extensive experience of owning sporting clubs who bought a club to run it as a business were reviled as if they were a sign of the apocalypse. It may still be that the debt gets Manchester United into trouble, but at this point things are looking reasonably good.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    criminal, not true. A city trader usually does not have his life in the public domain; does not get vilified in the press, or shouted at by thuggish football hooligans, or have to deal with foibles, arrogance and petulance of many of today’s football stars. The job of a Premiership football manager is about one of the most intense managerial jobs there is. Compared to a manager of a bank, I think the latter has a fairly easy time of it. A football manager does not just work on Saturdays, remember. A lot of time is spent on the road, away from family, etc. Of course there are compensations in the form of high pay and the love of the game, etc.

  • TomC

    The PL is probably now immune to the credit crunch, having just signed a massive record-breaking TV deal with Sky Sports.

    This has upped the financial ante for clubs in a relegation battle, such as, potentially, Portsmouth. By recruiting Adams, the directors arguably should have looked at the past history of what happens to clubs who promote assistants to replace leaving managers – Sammy Lee at Bolton? The club is for sale, and relegation would therefore create a big loss for the owner.

    In the case of Chelsea, the money spent on players and salaries means that the expectation is nothing less than being in contention for the league title. With Abramovitch as owner, they can arguably operate budget-free.

    As for Ferguson and Wenger, their performance has consistently been comensurate with the expectations of the directors and fans. The big difference here is that these clubs have to operate a budget. Arsenal may finish 5th and Wenger will probably get away with it. But don’t count on the same thing happening next year.

    Manchester City have now joined Chelsea on size of bank account. How long before they sack Hughes?

    I think the problem is that there are not many managers that consistently get 60% or more win ratios in the PL. Only the above two maybe? Rafa Benitez is maybe a third. Martin O’Neill is too new to tell. One can only imagine the salaries that the demand – supply discrepancy is generating. Mourinho was on 14 million at Chelsea.

  • TomC

    Actually, in retrospect I think this probably gets it about right.

  • Kim du Toit

    The problem with Chelsea is simple: the owner wants not only to win, but to win “prettily” — i.e. with excitement.

    Sadly, that’s not how the world of professional sport works, and most especially not how the EPL works.

    Mourinho knew how to win, but not how to win while playing attractive football. I bet the Chelsea supporters would take nine “boring” Mourinho-style 1-0 home wins right now: they’d be about ten points clear of the rest of the EPL.

    Oh, and Criminal: professional football players don’t just work one day a week. They work for six days a week, and have to maintain their skill and fitness day after day, without letup, against equally-skilled opponents, and in the public eye. It’s a physically-demanding regime which would kill most City traders.

    The top footballers are worth just as much as the top City traders — perhaps more, because their careers are shorter, and their post-career prospects are much more circumscribed.

  • Kim du Toit

    By the way, I’ve been a diehard Chelsea supporter for nearly forty years.

  • owinok

    In truth, this merry-go-round of football coaches in the premier league reminds me of the revolving door of public sector managers being sent around all departments after messing the last one.

    I would think that any owner of a business should be worried if he has to get new managers every six months or so and provide for the huge severance pay. His judgement, not that of the coach, is poor.

  • owinok

    In truth, this merry-go-round of football coaches in the premier league reminds me of the revolving door of public sector managers being sent around all departments after messing the last one.

    I would think that any owner of a business should be worried if he has to get new managers every six months or so and provide for the huge severance pay. His judgement, not that of the coach, is poor.