Safe or Not? The 08-09 Manager Sack Race

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


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


  1. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, I’d strongly disagree with some of your views.

    Paul Ince will be safe this season, if only because he will be given a chance to prove himself. The Blackburn board aren’t as rash as some, and having gone out on a limb to appoint a manager who is untried outside of Division 2, they will want to give him time.

    Equally Scolari isn’t safe. The expectation on him is immense. He is getting paid a lot of money to deliver, and if he is trophyless at the end of the season, he will be replaced. Abramovich has shown that reputation and sentiment have no place in his club.

    Phil Brown at Hull is also safe. Here is a guy saved the club from relegation the season before last and then led them into the Promised Land of the Premiership ahead of almost everyone’s expectations. Again, the chairman has shown that he doesn’t make rash decisions, and the manager has shown that he can take the club forward. I think you are being slightly hardsh on all concerned.

  2. Mowbray not safe – are you kidding? Probably the most talented English manager around at the moment, with Celtic looking to him as their next manager. The only way this guy will leave the Hawthorns is if he decides to leave!

  3. wow….scolari safe…..ask grant this question….i bet he’ll be sacked by january…..kevin keegan and hughes might resign themselves

  4. Phil Brown will be safe, he is taking the club in the right direction, I’d go as far as to say that if Hull were relegated he’d still be the manager, Kevin Keegan on the other hand, Newcastle still think they’re a big club (I’m not on about the support they’re second to non) but because of the disillutioned fans and chairman he will be one of the first to be sacked when they’ve played 5 lost 5!

  5. I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with you here. You seem to have just guessed at this, without considering the background.

    Phil Brown will not be sacked. Duffen has already as good as said so. I would be hugely surprised if Mowbray was also, the Baggies seem willing to give him the time to get things right.

    Just because previous promoted clubs have turned on their managers does not mean that the current crop will. Predictions on the sack race should be more about the stablility of the board rather than the predicted final place of the year.

  6. How can Ramos not be safe? Is that a typo or something? He already enjoys the adoration of the board and fans at Spurs, and has practically lost the best strike duo in the Premiership yet still strengthened the squad for a top four finish this season – is powelly a bitter Gooner per chance?

  7. Can’t see Spurs doing as well as everyone is expecting… look what happened last year, spent millions and weren’t even top half!! Same again this year, signed some decent players but also lost decent players!! To be honest, I think they will finish bottom half again, with Ramos sacked before May!

    Everton WILL break the top 4 this season….. WATCH THIS SPACE….

  8. ‘…and in Kaboul they’ve got good people in defence as well…’ can i have some of what you’re smoking?

    With regards to Wenger i think fan frustration will reach breaking point if we don’t win anything substantial this season. He’ll probably stay but expect a mass exodus of players.

  9. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and this is just a bit of fun, even if it does wind some fans up, but lets be fair the list posted is the biggest load of old bolloks i have ever read, since Achmeds last load of old crap that is, (what team do you support, honestly)if you are so sure have a bet in the bookies, or better still, be the bookie, ask us fans to bet you, you would end up very skint pal,

  10. Mowbray should be safe, as should Brown at Hull. The fans have reasonably realistic expectations. I also think Hodgson at Fulham will be a lot safer than people expect. I also can’t see Blackburn pulling the trigger on Ince too early either, plus Steve Gibson’s notoriously tolerant at Middlesborough.

    Curbishley, Megson and Hughes would be my tips for the sack race, and I definitely wouldn’t consider Scolari safe.

    I can also see Moyes heading to another club if the offer’s right.

  11. I think there is a considerable difference to this years Spurs transfers, and last years.

    Who did Spurs buy last year? Except from Bent, who really didn’t get the chance, the rest where all unproven. This year, all trasfers are top class!

    My conclusion is Ramos is definativly safe!

  12. Mad Max – £50M spent + poor results and league position could well = the sack. Sp*rs have spent a lot of money this summer and should the new players not gel (as well as former players i.e. Keane excel) then there will be immense pressure on Ramos.

  13. Well done the author of this article for correcting Ramos’s position, now just do the same with Mowbray, Brown, Pulis and Hodgson, yeah?
    Can some of you lot honestly see Ramos not doing a good job this season? Come on, the quickest of glances at his track record shows he’s been class wherever he’s been. My only worry is that he never seems to stay anywhere long, and if one of the big Spanish teams comes in for him, he will probably leave of his own accord . . .

  14. Some people need to calm down, most the predictions are sound and justified, I disagree with one or two but thats just opinion. For everyone defending Pulis, Mowbray etc, they may have done well but think about it this way, if a team is in relegation danger it presents an unfavourable position for a club and board, which in turn presents a need for change, and in most cases the biggest step is changing manager. Its logical that a team who are more likely to be relegated will have a less stable managers position.

  15. Ramos for spurs’s future.he bought a true player for future.i can see spurs’s glory under is guarantee spot for them this season.decisive season for spurs whether they can break top 4.dos santos and modric rules the spurs

  16. i think rafas gonna go after this season coz liverpool ain gona win a trophy and r gonna drop out of the big 4

  17. My top three – Curbishley, Megson, and Ince.

    I would think that the three promoted sides wouldn’t dump their managers, especially Hull. First go-round in the Premier League, sacking the man that led them there would seem to do a lot more harm than good, unless they could line up a stellar replacement.


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