Sack race goes into extra time

Sack race goes into extra time
Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers watches his players during a training session at Anfield in Liverpool.

It is the race no one wants to win.

The surprising element is that so far this season, no one has crossed the line.

The sack race is ongoing but, for the first time since 1995, the English Premier League is set to reach Christmas without a manager losing his job.

Yet this seems a temporary impasse before the sacking season starts in earnest.

Perhaps Leicester's slide will cost Nigel Pearson his job.

Maybe the perennially trigger-happy West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace will fire Alan Irvine.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Brendan Rodgers will be dismissed even though he is the reigning Manager of the Year.

The days when England could survey the culture of hiring and firing in Italian Serie A with an air of snootiness are over.

In the inaugural Premier League season, 1992/93, only one manager - Chelsea's Ian Porterfield - was axed.

Now the average lifespan for a manager in the division is 2.48 years.

Take away Arsene Wenger's 18-year reign at Arsenal and it leaves his counterparts with about 18 months apiece. It is still better than the Championship where, ridiculously, managers last an average of about 11 months.

Nevertheless, it is a swift decrease in the divisional mean, which used to be propped up by the extraordinary longevity of Wenger, Alex Ferguson and David Moyes when he was at Everton.

Now Moyes, sacked nine months into a six-year contract at Manchester United, highlights the changing times.

His failure to qualify for the Champions League cost United a minimum of 50 million pounds (S$103 million) in television revenue and gate receipts (and, indirectly, still more to a commercial powerhouse).

Money talks. It is ever more eloquent as the gulf between the haves and have nots becomes greater.

Managers who finish on the wrong side of either of the two great divides often become unemployed.

The first, as Moyes discovered, is the dotted line separating fourth and fifth places.

Champions League football is so lucrative that managers are sacrificed when clubs either miss out or fear they will.

Tottenham, with their high turnover of head coaches, are a case in point.

They parted company with both Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood last season.

Yet the greater threat of financial apocalypse comes with relegation.

Those in danger of the drop are quickest to chop and change in their search for a saviour and swopping managers is infinitely cheaper than signing several footballers.

It often doesn't work - Fulham sacked both Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen last season and still went down - but whereas transfer windows limit when clubs can recruit new players, they can appoint a manager at any point.

Norwich sacked Chris Hughton with five games to go last season. His successor, Neil Adams, took only one point.

It was a desperate gamble.

It didn't pay off.

And as relegation grows more probable for the strugglers, decisions are fast-tracked.

It is why mid-season has joined close season as a time for managerial change.

Consider last year: four were dismissed in December, two more fired in February.

The glut of new managers may explain why no one has been sacked yet.

Even by football's extreme standards, few have actually proved they have failed yet.

But, while recent years have brought a newer breed of impatient owners, perhaps sport is just reflecting a society where short-termism has become institutionalised.

Look at Wenger.

He has recorded 18 consecutive top-four finishes, qualifying from the Champions League's first group stage in the last 15 seasons, and a substantial number of Arsenal fans want him to go.

His job is safe.

Others' aren't.

Chairmen and chief executives may be guilty of acting like supporters, of assuming the alternative is always better.

It isn't, but they would rather try something than do nothing.


This article was first published on December 25, 2014.
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