Andrew Warshaw: The Sack Race is on but are there really any winners?

It’s a familiar jibe at almost every game whenever a manager is under pressure to save his job. “Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning,” goes the refrain, belted out with gusto by fans of the opposing team as they taunt the manager in question.

The chant has become part of the fabric of the game in English football and it is around this time of year – in other words close to the mid-season transfer window – when the Sack Race, as it is known, picks up steam and takes on a life of its own.

England isn’t the only major league where impatient boards get rid of the manager, or coach, at the first sign of a crisis. Back in September, esteemed Italian World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso was shown the door by Palermo after just six games of the new Serie B season.

The frequency with which managers are deemed surplus to requirements has starkly illustrated the alarming extent to which football has become a game of short-termism with any semblance of loyalty – bar one or two examples – now a thing of the past.

So far this season, no fewer than five Premier League managers have lost their jobs, whether sacked or as a result of that somewhat euphemistic phrase “by mutual consent”. That’s a quarter of the top flight before the season has even reached the halfway stage, with another 15 shown the door in the three divisions below.

According to data available from England’s League Managers Association, the average duration a full-time top-flight head coach is now just 1.91 seasons. It would be far lower were it not for Arsene Wenger’s 17 years at Arsenal.

It’s a sobering statistic, highlighted by the most high-profile of this season’s departures, that of Andre Villas-Boas, the young Portuguese who exited Tottenham Hotspur after two seismic, humiliating defeats in the space of three weeks.

Yet when Villas-Boas was hired in succession to Harry Redknapp, an old-school manager who only a few seasons ago took Tottenham into the Champions League, the board made it clear that it wanted a “change of direction”.

The change of direction lasted exactly 19 months.

Villas-Boas’ critics point to the fact that he did not do the job that he was hired for in terms of results, tactics or style of play; that he was too limited, sterile and lacked imagination; that his scattergun approach to team selection had no logic; indeed that he should never have been appointed in the first place.

All of this may have some basis in truth, as does the argument that Tottenham’s record points haul last season was less as a result of the manager’s accomplishments and more down to exploits of the world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale, whose move to Real Madrid turned papered-over cracks at Spurs into gigantic holes.

But with seven newly signed players to somehow keep happy, team building was always going to take time. And time, as we know, is the one commodity rarely afforded by ambitious clubs.

Just ask Steve Clarke. Last season Clarke took West Bromwich Albion to eighth place in the top flight, their highest ever finish and a massive achievement for a club without the resources of the so-called big boys. Yet now he is no longer there, relieved of his duties after four straight defeats but with a huge amount of unfinished business.

Clearly a victim of his own success, Clarke’s departure stunned those around him but once again brought into sharp focus the short-term approach of clubs for whom immediate success has become paramount in order to preserve commercial sustainability and not get left behind.

According to the LMA, of the 20 managers to have left their job so far this season, only two resigned. The bottom line is that there is now an air of inevitability around a practise former England manager Graham Taylor describes as “part and parcel” of the game. With golden handshakes all round, sackings rarely, if ever, result in public slanging matches though in private who knows how heated terminal conversations actually are. By mutual consent? Don’t make me laugh.

Team building these days has to be done quickly and effectively, no more so than in the Premier League. It’s a sad indictment of the game but it’s the reality. And if truth be told, most fans have become conditioned to that reality.

It is a debate that is frequently aired on social networking sites and radio shows along with the issue of whether those who hire and fire with such regularity should publicly front up to supporters and openly explain decisions for which they are responsible. It’s a laudable idea but unlikely to happen. If referees are not forced to explain contentious decisions on the field, I guess we can’t possibly expect chairmen and directors to do likewise off it.

Having said that, there is one particular sacking trend that infuriates me. It’s the scenario of a manager doing what he is hired for and getting a club promoted, only to be fired when things start poorly in the higher division the following season. How do you explain that? Higher division surely means stronger opponents. It defies logic, therefore, to expect said promoted club automatically to achieve the same results, especially when the manager is given scant resources to improve his squad. It keeps happening and once again, it’s down to time – or lack of it. Once again, it’s down to the impatience of those who pull the purse strings throwing the toys out of the pram.

The latest victim-in-waiting is Cardiff City’s Malky Mackay – still in a job at the time of writing but only just. After several heartbreaking near-misses, Cardiff hired Mackay to reach the top flight for the first time in half a century. Yet now that he has managed it, it appears that he has fallen out with the club’s controversial Singaporean owner. Tension has been simmering for some time. Mackay refuses to walk but is reported to be on the verge of being fired.

You couldn’t make it up but it will never end. There is just too much at stake with so much money swirling around. Honeymoon period, period of transition, use whatever phrase you like. As managers themselves know only too well, the only certainty of the job is that one day you will get fired – with the rarest of exceptions.

Contact the writer of this story moc.l1713607633labto1713607633ofdlr1713607633owedi1713607633sni@w1713607633ahsra1713607633w.wer1713607633dna1713607633