Walking the Managerial Tightrope

Andy Boyde

Andy Boyde

John Hartson was quoted recently that his manager whilst at Celtic Martin O’Neill had said that even the best managers are only three or four games away from the sack.

There has been a growing trend that has seen Malky Mackay, Steve Clarke and most recently Brian Laudrup lose their positions as managers of Cardiff City, West Bromich Albion and Swansea City respectively from off field intervention. In the 2012-13 season there were 63 managerial changes in English Football, 43 sackings and 20 resignations. In real money, that equates to over 2/3rds of the 92 clubs changing their manager during the season.

Gary Neville has advocated a Manager Transfer Window which would replicate that which is in place for players. If a club appoints a manager at the start of preseason in the summer then they will have done that because they believe him to be the right man for the job. Why then should they sack the manager less than 10 games into his tenure. Alex Ferguson is perhaps the best example of why a club should stand by a manager. Ferguson is arguably the most successful manager in British football and in the current climate at any other club he would be out of a job based upon the start he made at Manchester United.

Where the system would not work is if we look at the case of Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland where he had publicly criticised players and ultimately had lost the dressing room. Once the players have made their minds up they can’t play for a manager an intervention has to be made to stop the rot, the club could not wait until January to alter their fortunes. In the case of Sunderland that change was to bring in Gus Poyet to replace Di Canio and Sunderland now find themselves in 14th place in the league albeit just 2 points off the relegation zone.

The manager that must feel most aggrieved following recent events is Leeds United’s Brian McDermott. It was rumoured that would be buyer of Leeds United, Italian Massimo Cellino, had requested that McDermott include a bench spot for Gianluca Festa, the former Middlesbrough defender, to sit and observe the midweek game against Ipswich Town. The request was denied by Brian McDermott who most probably felt undermined at an obvious successor in the wings being sat behind him breathing down his neck. McDermott was relieved of his duties as manager on the Friday preceding the Whites 5-1 victory over local rivals Huddersfield Town and reinstated less than 24 hours later by Bahrain owners GFH Capital.

McDermott spoke up regarding his sacking stating:

Whether it [his sacking] was illegal or not, I don’t know. But whoever sacked the manager has to own the football club

The situation begs the question why do players get protection in the form of 4 to 5 year contracts and never endure the threat of dismissal for poor performance where this is the norm for a manager?

Andy Boyde
Trainee Solicitor
Sports Law Department
0113 207 0000

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