Sunday, 25 November 2012

Vote of confidence

In a week where Premier League chairmen have been extremely busy hiring and firing it has led me to think what is the optimum amount of success a manager should have in their first season?
Let's take the two managers who have lost their jobs this week as examples; firstly Mark Hughes after coming in and doing a good job to keep QPR in the Premier League. Mark then went and embarked on a spending spree to strengthen his team with the aim to be an established Premier League squad in a comfortable mid table position. His wild policy of buying any decent players that would come to the club regardless of what position they play in reminded me of my early days playing championship manager 01/02 where I would often have 12 attacking central midfield players but no left back. His decision to bring in so many players appeared to have an effect on team cohesion and morale, the results and performances that followed really were poor. Home games against the 3 promoted teams and one of the perceived weakest teams in the division in Swansea yielded only 1 point, combined with the inability to pick up points on the road something which they struggled to do last season as well meant the board had no choice but to replace Mark Hughes. He had ran out of excuses in the end no longer could he blame last year’s squad, inheriting a losing team, tough early fixtures, or my favourite " we need time to gel" the only surprise was that the board gave him so many games.

Roberto di Matteo however seems somewhat unfortunate to lose his job, yes Chelsea were going through a sticky patch but they were hardly a team in decline, or a team where you simply couldn't see where the next win was going to come from. When RDM took over they were 5th in the Premier League, 5 points away from 4th place and virtually out of the of the champions league trailing Napoli 3-1. If you pretend he never won the FA cup and Champions League RDM has left Chelsea 3rd in the table 4 points off the top of the table. Admittedly their position in the Champions League is in the balance but progression is not impossible if Shakhtar can win their game. From a progress point of view you would say in the six months he has been in charge Chelsea's league position has improved and the squad has a younger fresher look to it with the introduction of some fantastic young players who will only get better. He has had to cope with the departure of the clubs best ever player and goal scorer depriving him of playing a direct style of football that can grind out results. Now if we stop pretending for a second and remind ourselves that he did win the FA Cup and Champions League it simply beggar’s belief that he could be sacked. Winning those trophies created a fault position where Chelsea’s fans and chairman now expect this success every season, which simply won't happen. If the Barcelona team of the last 4 years hasn’t managed to retain the Champions League then no one will.
My question to everyone then is if RDM hadn't won any trophies last season would he still have a job now? He isn't the first and won't be the last manager that has achieved plenty in their first season only to be judged on that success and then sacked. Living in Hampshire I have had the dis-pleasure of Southampton fans telling me how they want Nigel Atkins sacked and that he doesn't have a clue?? You suspect if they had finished just outside the play-offs last season and were currently 9th in the Championship his job would be completely safe?
I have had the great pleasure of managing a school U15 team in my job and in my first season won both the league and county cup which for a decent yet unspectacular team that hadn't won ever won anything was a great achievement. My second season resulted in us finishing third in the league and getting knocked out of the cup we won in the first round. In the football world I simply would be collecting my P45 and sending out my CV in the hope of a new job. Luckily I am not a judge on the success of the school football team.
So this brings me to my next question do the top managers try to get gradual success?
If we take Harry Redknapp for instance, he is always viewed as a manager that has an 'instant impact' but a closer look at Harry's first six games in charge of his last four jobs would suggest differently.
When taking over at Portsmouth in 2002 he managed no wins from his first five games, but subsequently won them the league the following season, he then joined Southampton in November 2004 and took eight games before he got his first win and narrowly missed out on saving them from relegation. His second spell in charge of Portsmouth started terribly with only two wins from his first thirteen games before going on to take the club into Europe and win the FA cup and although making a better impact when arriving at Spurs in October 2008 he still only managed five wins from the first fourteen games before taking them to the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Despite history showing us that Harry Redknapp doesn't have an instant impact, I wonder how many of you reading this will still be putting £5 on a QPR away win to Sunderland on Tuesday night? 
Sir Alex Ferguson was famously one game from the sack before guiding Manchester United to the FA Cup and subsequently multiple trophies but it would be unthinkable to suggest both Sir Alex and Harry believed a slow start may be better for them in the long run but it does beg the question in your first year of management how much success should you achieve?

Over the next few months I am going to watch very closely the changing attitude of the media and fans towards Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke and Paul Lambert. Predictions as to their success or lack of it are very welcome.


1 comment:

  1. I like this, think chelsea have been harsh on RDM and benitez is not the man for the job. If adkins gets kicked out from southampton i will not be happy, Hughes needed to go, with the team qpr have they should be mid table, not fighting for their first win