“Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are the longest-serving managers, and that’s no coincidence. When they had difficult times – and both did – they were given time to get it right and bed things down. Yet at other clubs, the manager leaves straight away, because he isn’t given any control.”
“I’ve been here six years, and that makes me the third longest-serving manager, and in a way, that’s some sort of success.”
— David Moyes, Everton manager (2002-present)
As things stand, 29 managers have been relieved of their duties already this season in the top four divisions — and it’s only January!
For some, past glories have meant precious little. Take the recent scandalous sacking of Martin Ling at Leyton Orient for instance. Yes, the O’s currently find themselves embroiled in a scrap at the foot of the table in League One, but are by no means cut adrift. But, after over five years of good service at Brisbane Road, including a successful promotion campaign in 2006, he was dispensed of as soon as the going got tough. The irony of the decision? Ling was linked with the Swindon Town job a matter of weeks ago, a club where he has strong links from his playing days. However, Ling, who was the sixth longest serving manager in the league, stayed loyal to his present employers and look where that got him.
And what about Aidy Boothroyd at Watford? He massively overachieved in his first season in charge by guiding his side to the Premiership. However, following relegation, he had a number of players sold under his nose and received no money for new signings in return, making progress a near impossible task. Working as well as he could with what he had, Boothroyd was also dismissed. How the Hornets could do with his fighting qualities now, with the club embroiled in a relegation battle at the bottom of the Championship.
Unreasonable expectations from the fans and board alike also appear to be a factor. Earlier in the season, Alan Curbishley walked out on West Ham citing a “breach of trust and confidence” as his reasons for leaving Upton Park. But in reality, he had one of the most thankless tasks in football. West Ham fans not only want success, but good, attacking football. A big ask in the Premier League these days without big resources. Curbishley never truly endeared himself to the West Ham faithful, and his departure was inevitable.
It’s the same in the lower leagues too. Danny Wilson was ridiculously sacked from his post at Hartlepool after seeing his side slip into the bottom half of the table in League One. Hardly a crisis, is it? But the Pools board certainly thought so, and the experienced Wilson was sent packing.
Some dismissals were warranted, however. The departures of Glenn Roeder at Norwich City and Alan Pardew at Charlton Athletic were more than justified, with both teams struggling for confidence and form. However, with both clubs appointing their replacements from within, it seems the cheap option is preferred as the two clubs strive to stay in the Championship.
There are exceptions to the rule, though. Despite Middlesborough’s precarious position in the Premier League, Gareth Southgate will be given plenty of time to turn things round at the Riverside Stadium. In Steve Gibson he has one of the most patient chairmen in football, and the emphasis on English youth has been refreshing to see at Boro.
Mick McCarthy at Wolves is another example of a manager being given time to turn things round. Last season saw McCarthy spend lots of money, only to see his Wolves side fail to make the play-offs. But, he was backed by his chairman, Steve Morgan, and his Wolves side are now reaping the rewards, sitting pretty at the top of the table and playing some fabulous football to boot.
Of course, football is a results business, and no more so than in today’s cut throat industry. The price of success and failure is all too much to bear these days. Managers have to learn from their mistakes, and those who have made mistakes must be given time to do so. Chopping and changing constantly is not the key to success, and a glance at the top of the longest serving managers list will tell you that.