Safe or Not? The 08-09 Manager Sack Race

Last season the manager sack race got a bit ridiculous with many managers under severe pressure and some getting fired despite being backed in the transfer window and a few dismissed without being given a full season to show what they could do at the club.

New owners and heightened expectations (both a product of more money pouring into football) make it more likely for a manager to be fired – which is why the likes of Ferguson and Wenger are rare exceptions.

The 08/09 season will see a few managers get sacked before May 09 and many others come under pressure (we’re seeing it start right now with Curbs, Ince, Hughes, Hodgson and Moyes already under speculation). To paint an accurate picture (and part of our season preview) we’ve rated the 20 Premier League managers on how likely they are to get the sack this season.

We’re using a simple system for rating job security for managers – either they’re safe (it’s not happening this season) or not safe (the need to match/exceed expectations to survive). No silly 1 to 10 ratings, just safe or not safe.

Let’s get started:

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

For better or for worse, Arsene Wenger IS Arsenal. He’s responsible for building a brand more powerful than any other English club (emphasis on the word ‘brand’) and while he’s not irreplaceable, he’s certainly not going anywhere.

Job Security: Safe

Martin O’Neill (Aston Villa)

A good finish last season coupled by significant investments in the squad this summer means MoN is now slowly getting the team he needs/wants to make a crack at the Champions League spots. He will be given the whole season and possibly the next season as well.

Job Security: Safe

Paul Ince (Blackburn Rovers)

Whisper it, but with the current squad and investment levels Mark Hughes knew he had taken the club as far as he could have. Paul Ince will have his work cut out, especially with Bentley and Friedel gone, and not a lot will be expected of him, barring keeping Blackburn out of the relegation stakes.

Job Security: Not Safe

Gary Megson (Bolton Wanderers)

Bolton are like Blackburn with one important distinction – Megson will not get the leeway at Reebok that Ince will get at Ewood Park. Bolton will need to improve their performances massively to get out of the expected relegation battles and if they’re going down, I don’t see Megson in place.

Job Security: Not Safe

Luiz Felipe Scolari (Chelsea)

Scolari will get his chance – at least 2 seasons – to make a mark on English football. Since he’s got such a great group of players under him it’s hard to imagine Chelsea failing to win something in the next 2 years and I peg him at the same level as Ferguson and Wenger at the moment.

Job Security: Safe

David Moyes (Everton)

Everton have stuck by Moyes in tough times before and they will stick by him again if things get rough. The bigger question here is if Moyes wants to stay, especially if the investment isn’t coming. And if his heart’s not in it, the board could let him go earlier than waiting for him to end his term.

Job Security: Safe

Roy Hodgson (Fulham)

I’d expect Hodgson to be given the whole season, especially if Fulham play well in the first few months. Not convinced that he can take them to a top-10 finish but if he can keep them out of relegation then that’s stability for you.

Job Security: Not Safe

Phil Brown (Hull City)

Expect Phil Brown to be out if Hull are bottom around Christmas with relegation a dead certainty. It would be a shame though, as changing a manager at that point hardly helps (ask Charlton and Derby).

Job Security: Not Safe

Rafael Benitez (Liverpool)

There’s false pressure on Rafael Benitez – everyone expects Liverpool to either win the title (finally) or fire the manager and get in someone better to do the job. Rafa’s position at Liverpool is secure long-term unless he decides to leave or Liverpool fall behind Tottenham in the league stakes.

Job Security: Safe

Mark Hughes (Manchester City)

Thaksin’s ‘situation’ has created a lot of rumours about Sparky, but the City manager is likely to stick things out at the start of the season. Sven’s departure, on the surface, points to a trigger-happy board but smart money is on Hughes being the City manager at the end of the 08/09 season as long as he keeps them in the top-10 and challenging for Europe.

Come to think of it, qualification for Europe may be considered a minimum.

Job Security: Not Safe

Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

Back-to-back league titles, Champions League winners, responsible for keeping the best player in the squad onside, the architect of the most successful era in Manchester United’s history spanning almost 2 decades. You could go on for days just listing his accomplishments and not get to the post-2000 years.

Job Security: Safe

Gareth Southgate (Middlesbrough)

Afonso Alves will decide how Boro fare this season – if he and Downing hit it off they will be aiming for a top-10 finish. If they bomb, Boro will be looking at a relegation scrap and regardless of how valued Southgate is, I don’t think he can survive relegation.

Job Security: Not Safe

Kevin Keegan (Newcastle United)

New guy, local hero, loved by players, etc etc. He’ll get the full season and while we said the same about Big Sam, Keegan is not so easy to dismiss, nor are Newcastle going to be that bad.

Job Security: Safe

Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth)

FA Cup winning manager, really, this shouldn’t even be a question. They’ve got the strikers and in Kaboul they’ve got good people in defence as well. He won’t get them relegated and he won’t be fired under any other scenario.

Job Security: Safe

Tony Pulis (Stoke City)

Pretty much in the same boat as Phil Brown at Hull.

Job Security: Not Safe

Roy Keane (Sunderland)

He’s a managerial star in the making, the players love him and the board are backing him to the hilt. He’s not going anywhere unless things get really bad, and even then it’s more likely that Keane will walk away rather than get fired.

Job Security: Safe

Juande Ramos (Tottenham)

With the money they’re spending (although they’re making it back too with outgoing players) the Spurs board would have to be insane to fire the manager, right? Right?

Job Security: Safe

Alan Curbishley (West Ham)

People want him out, and he’s hardly a manager capable of getting West Ham to the Champions League so it’s going to be touch and go for him. Top-10 sees him stay, bottom 5 sees him go.

Job Security: Not Safe

Tony Mowbray (West Brom)

Hopefully West Brom will take a leaf out of Reading’s playbook and keep Mowbray onside regardless of what happens. West Brom are the most likely to survive out of the 3 promoted clubs but there’s always someone in the board itching for a change.

Job Security: Not Safe

Steve Bruce (Wigan)

If they get relegated (or get sucked into a relegation battle), his job will definitely be on the line. Unfortunately for Bruce, Wigan don’t look equipped to be safe from the relegation race.

Job Security: Not Safe

Total:

Safe: 10 (Wenger, O’Neill, Scolari, Moyes, Benitez, Ferguson, Keegan, Redknapp, Keane, Ramos)
Not Safe: 10 (Ince, Megson, Hodgson, Brown, Hughes, Southgate, Pulis, Curbishley, Mowbray, Bruce)

Let us know your picks in the comments below.

I realise that some of these picks may be harsh – here’s the reasoning once again – if the 10 managers listed as ‘Not Safe’ underperform, their positions will be under pressure where as the 10 managers listed as ‘Safe’ either have good enough teams to save them or have the leeway of getting with under-par results for at least one season.

Will everyone at Chelsea get 5-year, 130k / week deals?
Transfer Rumors (14 August 08): United and Tottenham still hammering out Berba deal, Spurs make final Arshavin bid and could go for an old boy, Aston Villa make bid for Newcastle's Milner, and more

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