Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Race that never ends

EPL news.
Chris Hughton's dismissal from Norwich City yesterday was the ninth sacking  in the Premier League this season.

Eight of the twenty teams have fired their managers since the campaign began last August, Fulham have pulled the trigger twice (on Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen) and the result is a tableau of carnage with only six clubs employing the same coach they had in 2012.

Three of the top ten longest-serving managers currently working in the top flight were appointed as recently as last summer: Mark Hughes, Roberto Martinez and Jose Mourinho.

It is unlikely any more heads will roll before the end of the season, but expect another round of blood-letting in the summer. Last year five new Premier League bosses were appointed during the close season.

Despite the incessant opprobrium heaped upon Arsene Wenger, Spurs' Tim Sherwood is the bookies' favourite to be pushed next, followed by West Brom's Pepe Mel and Newcastle's Alan Pardew.

The merry-go-round is revolving so fast, the rewards of top-flight survival so high and the desperation of directors to avoid relegation so painful that at least half of the coaching roles on offer must be, as Graham Taylor said of England, impossible jobs.

If Michael Laudrup could bring Swansea their first major trophy and a host of admiring suitors but then be shown the door less than a year later following one win in ten, nobody is safe.

A fear of relegation is of course not the only reason for dismissal: Andre Vilas-Boas was booted out by Spurs with the team in seventh and having won eight out of sixteen matches.

A lust for short-term success militates against the sort of long-term planning the best teams have benefited from, leaving the hapless managers in Catch-22 positions, with no job security and an ever-present fear of the boot after a run of duff scorelines. Forget that new youth policy, the psychologist, advanced conditioning and new playing style you had in mind when you took the job, we need to get the ball into the box or I am out of a job on Monday.

Give him time is the perennial mayday call for managers in trouble, but since no-one can specify how long is enough, directors tend to plump for the fear factor, shift the blame and wield the knife. If Fulham go down this season, the owners can always blame it on Martin Jol instead of the mid-season upheaval his abrupt departure and the hasty appointing of his inexperienced assistant brought.

As of today, the bottom seven teams in the Premier League have all fired their managers this season, which makes Norwich's move with five games to go look like a clueless card, a last-ditch throw of the dice, or what they aptly call in American Football, a 'Hail Mary.'

God help us indeed.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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