If the case of Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson doesn’t serve as a warning to trigger-happy football club owners and chief executives, nothing ever will.
Three trophy-less years into Alex Ferguson’s reign as Manchester United manager the fans were restless.
But the board stuck by him in those dark days of 1989.
24 years and a record 38 trophies later – including 13 Premier League titles – it’s just about safe to say Ferguson repaid the club’s faith.
And those who suspect filling his boots will be an impossible job should also recognise the back story of the man chosen to fill them.
David Moyes COULD have been sacked at Everton early in his decade at Goodison Park with relegation a real threat – but Bill Kenwright displayed judgment and cool thinking that contradicts his theatrical melodramatic side. The audience should applaud Kenwright, for those who underestimate the job Moyes has done at Everton have clearly not studied the budgets, or watched his team punch above their weight again and again. There is no rich billionaire at Everton, the club isn’t in the top tier, the job he has done should stand indisputably as a wonderful piece of work.
So the message is – don’t pull the trigger unless you absolutely have to. Or you’ll end up like poor Wolverhampton Wanderers, five managers in just over a year, two relegations. the fans wanted Mick McCarthy out, the board wanted him out. Be careful what you wish for, unless you are sure what’s coming is better.
Around half of the managers of England’s 92 league clubs have changed manager. It’s an incredible rate and not all the fault of the people in charge. When the League Managers Association gets understandably worked up about the treatment of its members, often ignored is those that have sought new challenges when they should have, well, stayed.
Dean Saunders for example cannot be condemned for swapping modest Doncaster for sleeping giant Wolves in the league above (sorry to have to bring them up again). So to end up seeing Wolves relegated with promoted Doncaster replacing them was almost cruel. But he made his own bed.
Create stability, create trust and in the longer term you have a better chance of succeeding. Not in every case, but it’s worth a shot.
Did Bayern Munich panic after the Champions League final heartbreak last year – well Jupp Heynckes has stayed and taken them towards a treble playing magnificent football. Then Pep Guardiola will calmly step in. It’s not been perfectly handled, certainly from Heynckes’ point of view, but compare it to clubs who change managers with no time to build.
Look at Palermo in Serie A, staring relegation in the face. Gasperini sacked twice in the same season, Malesani sacked after 19 days, Sannino back in charge after being sacked three days into the season. I’d never heard of such a one-club managerial merry-go-round before. Where would they be if Sannino had been given a sensible amount of time to deliver results?
I do have sympathy for Sunderland’s American owner Ellis Short. Martin O’Neill for all his talent looked like a man who’d lost his way. The situation was perilous, time running out, inspiration needed. THAT’s the time to change manager – in this case Di Canio. And if he doesn’t keep them up, they won’t die wondering.
A fascinating aspect of long-serving managers – that great rarity in football – is that you never quite know what a club would have achieved without them. But would Auxerre really have achieved more without Guy Roux at the helm between 1961 and 2005, just the 44 years. take that Fergie!
Would Arsenal have won trophies in the last seven years with a new man in the manager’s seat. Yes say many of the fans, finally exasperated with the influential Frenchman. But if anyone has deserved slack it’s the man who arrived in 1996 and completely transformed a club, changing the face of English football in the process with his methods and techniques.
The reign of Ferguson’s predecessor Ron Atkinson feels every bit as long ago as 27 years. ‘Big Ron’ was to become one of the 39 managerial casualties of one of the most notorious Presidents in club football history.
Jesus Gil sacked him from Atletico Madrid after three months due to a clash of personalities.
Even the peerless Alex Ferguson may not have lasted under Gil.
But under Gill (David the departing Chief Executive) and the Manchester United board just look what a bit of old-fashioned patience has achieved.