Thursday, October 22, 2020

Mid season sackings: Bad For Football

Football’s a hard way to meka a living. With Leicester City sacking manager Claude Puel on Sunday following their 4-1 loss to Crystal Palace, it marked the 31st managerial change in the top four leagues of English football this season. While this is nothing new in the world of football, year on year we’re seeing records broken for the number of managerial sackings in a season. Last year, there were 15 managerial changes in the Premier League alone.

It’s a tactic that clubs have been employing for a long time now, something that Sunderland worked to their advantage to keep the club in the Premier League for a number of years before their relegation. Bringing in a new manager often provides a boost, as the players work that little but harder to prove themselves to the new boss.

The starters are aware that they have to prove why they have that place, and the fringe players are looking to earn their chance. It can often provide a bit of a morale boost, as players begin to lose faith in their managers during prolonged dry periods, bringing in a new coach with a different philosophy can often rejuvenate a squad.

While there is no disputing that a mid season managerial sacking can sometimes change the fortunes of a struggling side, headed for relegation, we’re now starting to see mid table teams change managers mid season. That makes absolutely no sense at all.

For a side like Leicester City, who currently sit 12th in the Premier League table, just four points away from 9th place, it makes little sense to sack Claude Puel. The side has been struggling in the new year, still waiting for their first win, however there is nothing to be gained from this change. Leicester are not going to challenge for the Europa League spots this season, and they aren’t going to face relegation? So what is there to gain from replacing their manager? TV revenue.

Football managers get little leeway

With the club set to announce, or having announced, Brendan Rodgers as their new manager, it baffles me as to why this move would make sense for either party mid season. Rodgers isn’t going to life them into Europa League contention, and he leaves behind a team that is on the way to yet another league title.

It’s also not giving the manager a chance. Puel, who led Leicester to an impressive 9th placed finish last season, has proven to be a reliable pair of hands in the Premier League. While the club have gone through a rough patch in the new year, he likely deserved the chance to try and turn fortunes around before the end of the season.

Football manager

Clubs can often use a poor run of form as an excuse for a mid season sacking. It is seen time after time. As with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, the poor run of form the club suffered through before his departure was merely an excuse to fire the manager. The real reasons in this case were obvious, with the club having to choose between Mourinho and Pogba, as well as the fans dislike of his defensive style of football. The decisions are made to save face for the brand, not with the best interests of football at heart.

What we seem to forget, is that football managers are people too. While it is seen as ‘part of the territory’, we often call for these people to lose their jobs on a regular basis. They face intense scrutiny in the public eye, intense criticism from both fans and pundits. Yet often we don’t give them a real chance to prove themselves.

While mid season sackings do, unfortunately, have a place in the modern game (for teams facing relegation, as a last gasp tactic), they certainly shouldn’t be accepted as commonplace for mid table sides with no chance of reaching Europe or sinking down towards relegation.

Show patience, stick with the manager, give them a chance. Do not just throw them to the side. If that applied to star players, imagine how different the footballing landscape would look.

This is one of the few times we should take a look at American sports, to perhaps follow by example, where the vast majority of coaching changes are made outside of the season. It just makes the entire process so much easier, and pleasant to follow. Rather than the lynch mob mentality that a lot of English football fans can have.

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