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Archived News from October 2007

10th October 2007 11:26

The killing fields: Managers last less than two years
By MATT BARLOW, Daily Mail, 10 Oct 2007

The crazed man pacing restlessly in the technical area, yelling, pointing, kicking at water bottles and cursing the referee is a football manager.

He suffers from soaring blood pressure, greying hair, sleepless nights and paranoia that someone is out to stab him in the back and steal his job.

In all likelihood, he will be out of work in less than two years and his wife will nag him to try something else but he will ignore her and return to the game at the first opportunity. Is he mad? Yes, he probably is.

Peter Grant was shown the door by Norwich last night, and Peter Taylor and Willie Donachie were fired from Crystal Palace and Millwall respectively earlier this week, taking the number of managers sacked to nine in the first two months of the season.

Carlisle's Neil McDonald lost his job one game into the new campaign. Others, such as Martin Jol (Tottenham) and Steve Bruce (Birmingham) concede they are vulnerable, albeit for different reasons.

Grant, for whom a run of five defeats was interrupted only by a 0-0 draw with Scunthorpe, admitted after Norwich lost at QPR on Monday: "I have to assess if it's the right job for me to do because I want to grow old and I don't want to be old at 42."

Last season, the figures from the League Managers' Association put managerial changes at 48, starting with Glenn Hoddle's exit from Wolves on July 1, 2006 and ending with Dario Gradi's at Crewe on June 30, 2007.

This figure includes the resignations of Gradi, Neil Warnock (Sheffield United) and Sam Allardyce (Bolton) but does not take into account caretakers such as Nigel Worthington at Leicester or Terry Westley at Derby. Nor does it include the farce at relegated Torquay, when Leroy Rosenior took over from Keith Curle, only to be axed 10 minutes later, when the club was sold.

LMA chief executive John Barnwell begs for stability and good sense but in the Championship only four of 24 clubs — Watford, Bristol City, Burnley and Cardiff — have the manager they had two years ago.

The longest serving manager is Steve Cotterill, who has been at Burnley for three years, during which time Leicester have had seven managers!

Barnwell said: "It is escalating. And the only clear reason can be the increase in desire and need for clubs to succeed because of the massive rewards."

Dr Sue Bridgewater at the Warwick Business School has monitored managerial movement since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.

She describes it as "aggressive musical chairs". Her studies show the average tenure of a departing manager has fallen from more than three years to less than two in 2005-06.

The exits of long-serving bosses Gradi, Allardyce and Warnock distorted last season's figure to a high of just under two years nine months.

Transfer windows have made life less secure for managers. If the team are struggling and the window is shut, the club cannot simply buy new players so the simplest fix for the board is to change the manager, with agents quick to suggest available alternatives from their client lists.

CLUB owners crave the riches that success brings and supporters want glory.

With fanzines, phone-ins and internet message boards, there have never been so many vehicles for venting fury.

LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson said: "A pressure point is reached where there has to be a sacking to release the valve, then the crowd subside. The king is dead, long live the king and away they go."

Joe Royle, who managed Oldham, Everton, Manchester City and Ipswich, believes the play-offs have turned the pressure up a notch on the bosses, giving everyone a glimpse of a miracle promotion.

This sacking culture prevails despite studies across Europe showing a clear correlation between managerial stability and success.

Seven of the bottom eight Premier League clubs parted company with their managers last season, with Charlton going through four in eight months after Alan Curbishley stepped down.

As Jose Mourinho's case shows, Premier League managers are usually well compensated for the dangers, with big wages and bigger pay-offs, but further down the ladder the rewards do not mirror the insecurity.

A League Two manager can expect to earn between £35,000 and £60,000 a year. An average League One club might pay £100,000, although there are extremes everywhere.

Ambitious Championship clubs might pay a seven-figure salary, as Sunderland did last season, which dwarfs the wages paid by clubs such as Colchester, where Geraint Williams earns £150,000, and Scunthorpe in the second tier of English football.

For assistants and coaches, the pay is less but increasingly they are exposed to the same vulnerability.

Wilkinson believes English football does not help its managers with its lax approach to qualifications.

The Premier League state managers must have the UEFA Pro Licence or the FA coaching diploma but Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough and Chelsea's Avram Grant have neither.

The Football League demand no specific qualifications, leaving the door open for clubs to put veteran players with no managerial experience in charge.

Dr Bridgewater's research shows that 49 per cent of new managers are not given another chance at the job.

Wilkinson said: "Mandatory qualifications is one answer because it will reduce the pool of labour and immediately put some people off because you have to make a commitment before you go into the job.

"It's like wanting to become a doctor until you realise you have to study for seven years.

"Fabio Capello once said that if you want to be a bus driver you have to pass the test. The idea of coaching a club without qualifications just does not hold water abroad."


PETER SHIRTLIFF Mansfield 05-06

"I knew what to expect when I took the job but an ongoing problem between owner and supporters totally distracted from the football.

"We were getting decent crowds of about 4,000 but they dwindled because of their disenchantment with the club and our chances of success diminished.

"Lack of resources meant we were always asking for favours. We trained at a rugby club on an artificial pitch, we went to a gym for weights and a leisure centre for a grass pitch. Before that we were at a school. We were allowed only one overnight stop each season, at Torquay, and my assistant would worry about whether we would get to the game on time and whether we could have a pre-match meal.

"There was no reserve side for financial reasons and we'd have to arrange friendlies for the lads not getting a game, to keep their match fitness up.

"You're always forward planning, going to watch players you might or might not end up taking in on loan, just in case.

"Mansfield are probably one of the poorest clubs in League Two and if we went for the same player as Peterborough we'd have no chance. We just couldn't compete with the money they'd offer."

LEROY ROSENIOR Torquay 02-06, Brentford 06, Torquay 06 (10 mins)

"People say there's pressure at the top but some managers can take a six-month sabbatical. Further down the leagues, people have their mortgages and livelihoods to worry about.

"People think the rewards are bigger than they are because they compare everything to the Premier League. Clubs come out and say they have a five-year plan to reach the Premier League when it's just not possible.

"Wigan did it because they had a bit of money and Wimbledon did it a long time ago. People have to get real, choose their manager, trust their criteria for choosing him and stick by him because those clubs who stand by their managers have a better record of success.

"When I went to Brentford, they had just missed out on promotion and Martin Allen resigned because there was no money.

"They sold the best players, brought in five talented boys from the youth team — some of them had not even played for the reserves — and expected to get into the play-offs again. Are expectations too high?

"Miles too high. People think we're idiotic and they might be right. My partner tells me to get a normal job but to me this is normal. It's the best and the worst job in the world. We keep coming back for the buzz. We're all addicted to it."

STUART MURDOCH Wimbledon/MK Dons 02-04, Bournemouth 06

"I don't think any club has gone through what we did at Milton Keynes, with administration, the move and the hate from the Wimbledon people, which I totally understood. One season we were almost in the play-offs, the next we started in administration.

"We had to sell players, lost five games in a row and were told the rest would follow. We were five minutes away from going under. Some people would say Wimbledon DID go under because it was a total change of identity. Very sad.

"It wasn't until three or four weeks after I'd got the sack that it hit me. I was exhausted. I'm not afraid of hard graft but because of the trauma I wasn't sure I wanted it again. You're not going to walk into a club where it's all rosy.

"I applied for lots of jobs and sometimes didn't even get the courtesy of a reply. I've got every coaching badge apart from the Pro Licence. After 18 months I got a chance at Bournemouth but when that didn't work out I decided to build up the business, which my wife started, framing shirts and souvenirs for players.

"It's going well but I'd love another chance. I'd make a good assistant as I know what managers go through and I'm not looking to take anybody else's job."

JOHN TAYLOR Cambridge Utd 01-04

"It's very difficult to make an impact unless you're a massive face or you're lucky enough to have success at the start of your career. I was on a management course with Southend manager Steve Tilson when he couldn't sign a player to save his life. Then he is promoted two years on the spin. I know he was relegated last season but if he wants another job he'll get one.

"If you're not successful first time round, then the chance of being given another go by a Football League chairman is remote. I had a good testimonial at Cambridge but when I left I couldn't afford to sit around.

"The phone that would ring 50 times when I was a manager has rung about 10 times in three years since I left pro football. I had to look at different career paths. I sold insurance and mobile phone packages and I was really good at it.

"When you first leave the job, the bricks lift from your shoulders. You think: 'Thank goodness,' but a year down the line and you miss the pressure. I've come back to football at Newmarket Town and I run my own soccer coaching company, going into schools coaching kids. I'm putting something back and I'm out in the fresh air getting a golfer's tan. I'd love another chance but I'm a realist."

JOE ROYLE Oldham 82-94, Everton 94-97, Man City 98-01, Ipswich 02-06

"Two of the most successful clubs are Man United and Arsenal but chairmen don't seem to learn that stability is the answer. They make decisions to employ managers and then immediately doubt their own wisdom.

"Perhaps they should do more research and look for a manager who has a good win ratio and has won trophies.

"It's nice to see Watford sticking with Aidy Boothroyd. He got them promoted on very little spending. But what he's done at Watford and what Colchester have done on no budget means everyone looks for a miracle. I'm not the biggest fan of the play-offs. I know they're here to stay but everyone starts the season with the play-offs as a target and it is unrealistic for a lot of clubs.

"Managers keep coming back because they love it. I've had a nice year off but I'd come back for the right job. I've had five strong queries because people remember I've got a decent record.

"We're all addicts and we all love the business. Why is Sir Alex still doing it at his age? It can't be for the money. It's because you still can't beat that Saturday night fever when you've got three points and you're sat at home with the missus and a glass of wine."


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