The Great Sack Race
Modern football has become something akin to modern politics. In the mid 1960s, the average soundbite from a politician featured on the evening news was 37 seconds. At the turn of the millennium, news programmes granted an average of 6 seconds to politicians speaking in the House of Commons in their coverage. People are less patient nowadays, hungry for quick answers, nay soundbites. Knife crime is the hot topic of the day, I've lived in South London most of my life and knife crime has always been prominient. But the media didn't care five years ago or fifty years ago when the Teddy Boys were wielding blades. Now there is a moral panic and people want quick fix answers. Military service! Prison! Hanging!
Football is no different, a look over at websites such as Le Grove (who remove every post that disagrees with the featured article) confirms the microwave culture is alive and well. Now, with the recent trend for rich sugar daddy benefactors, managers are given shorter shrift than ever to return instant success. Newcastle supporters were calling for Allardyce's head two months into his stint, supporters and chairmen alike have become more rabid for instant success and the shelf life of the average manager is shorter than ever. Seven managers were replaced during the course of last season, whilst Man City's most successful manager for close to half a century and a manager who was the width of a post away from winning the European Cup have been sacked in the aftermath. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at each manager's prospects for the coming season.
ARSENE WENGER- Quite simply, unless Arsenal endure a relegation scrap whilst Wenger is simultaneouly caught diddling Mrs. Hill Wood, I cannot see Mr. Wenger's job being anything other than assured. Signed a new deal just under a year ago, has bust commissioned for him, never breaks a contract. Will still be here next summer for sure.
MARTIN O'NEIL- Another who looks very safe to me. Is overseeing a big improvement in a Villa side who are exciting supporters again after a decade in mid table obscurity, exciting young players and an owner who appears to have his head screwed on. Has impressed supporters even more with his iron fisted approach to the Barry saga. Though question marks remain about his reticence in the transfer market. Martin will still be around next year.
PAUL INCE- Has built himself a solid reputation in the lower leagues and now has a shot at the big time. It will be a steep learning curve but Ince will need time and Rovers supremo John Williams isn't the type to wield the axe willy nilly (he employed Graeme Sounness for long enough). I expect Ince will be given at least one season, but if Rovers are bottom approaching Christmas, Ince may be back on the breadlines. Doesn't seem likely, but with Santa Cruz and Bentley possible movers, Ince will have his work cut out.
GARY MEGSON- Only just kept Wanderers up last season, but Megson doesn't have much of a record in top flight management and has just spent £11m on a chap called Elmander. I would be very surprised to see Megson still in situ come January 1st as I don't see Bolton as anything other than relegation strugglers right now.
FELIPE SCOLARI- Mourinho and Grant have already fallen by the wayside under the controversial stewardship of Abramovich. Roman doesn't seem to understand much about football, the joga bonita he seems to desire is hardly Big Phil's trademark. The oligarch doesn't like to be challenged and Scolari is no shrinking violet. Mind you, Abramovich did not like the verbose Mourinho or the quiet lapdog Grant. That said, Scolari is a good coach and Chelsea will be in the shake up for big honours, so the Russian will probably wait until next summer before sacking Scolari for only winning the treble with an average of six goals per game. Though I wouldn't be surprised if a tear up sees him given the old heave ho sooner.
DAVID MOYES- Everton are one of the few clubs that have recognised the causal relationship between stability and progress. Of the small school of clubs clinging to the top four coat tails, it is Everton and Moyes who consitently come closest, whilst Spurs, City and Newcastle toil away with revolving doors. Moyes looks very safe to me and rightly so, he has done a terrific job.
ROY HODGSON- Performed a small miracle n keeping Fulham up last season, but sentiment may evaporate as he will be expected to build from there. Al Fayed had no problems sacking Coleman, who kept the Cottagers punching above their weight for years. I can see Hodgson going, but possibly not until next summer.
PHIL BROWN- Similarly to Billy Davies last season, Brown got Hull promoted against all odds. In reality, most managers would have their work cut out keeping Hull afloat and Brown should be retained, relegation or otherwise. However, if/when Hull are in trouble at Christmas, Hull's administration may reach for the panic button.
RAFAEL BENITEZ- With Liverpool's ownership soap opera continuing and the transfer kitty appearing to have been poured into a new stadium, Benitez has found himself in the centre of an unseamly power struggle. Hung onto his job by the skin of his teeth last year following a public tiff with Gillet and Hicks. Depending on which way the power pendulum swings, Benitez might decide he's had enough and jump ship. Anyone still keen on Usmanov?
MARK HUGHES- An excellent up and coming coach lured by the prospect of a decent transfer budget, looks a great coup for City. But under the tenure of the megalomanical Shiniwatra, I cannot see Hughes staying at Eastlands for long. His chairman has surreal expectations and Sparky doesn't like being told what to do. I cannot see this lasting more than 1 year. Nor can I see any manager lasting at City for more than a year.
ALEX FERGUSON- See Arsene Wenger. If ever there was a man with a job for life, it's him. The Glaziers want as much money as they can drain from United, they realise Ferguson is their chief commodity.
GARETH SOUTHGATE- Steve Gibson is a manager's dream for a Chairman, never one to panic, he has let Southgate ride out some rough times to learn his trade. After two seasons in the job, Gibson might be looking for demonstratable improvement on lower mid table, but I think Southgate will be fine for one more season at least.
KEVIN KEEGAN- My favourite for the first to bite the dust. Ashley is reluctant to spend cash, the club have employed a bizarre structure that Keegan doesn't seem to have been entirely on board with. The continued employment of Joey Barton will see the knives out for Newcastle amongst the public and Keegan, whilst undoubtedly a bloody nice bloke, hardly has a great record for seeing out a managerial challenge. Whether he packs his bindle and hanky and treks off into the night, or walks the plank, Keggy will not see out this season.
HARRY REDKNAPP- Having already left Pompey once to reignite his love affair and now having bought silverware to Fratton Park, it's hard to see Harry being sacked. However, he was tempted by the Newcastle job in December and if a perceived bigger boy comes knocking, Harry might jilt the Pompey chimes at the altar again. That said, I'd put my money on him still being a blueboy next summer.
TONY PULIS- Will have a gargantuan task keeping Stoke up. His long ball tactics may have been a success in the Championship, but he will need to add a few dimensions to survive in the top flight, as Aidy Boothroyd discovered. Will be sacked before the new year as Stoke desperately try to escape the drop.
ROY KEANE- Appears to have a very good rapport with chairman and compatriot Niall Quinn, Keano is another one still learning his trade and will have taken a lot on board last season. However, has spent a lot of money on old rope and a very real relegation battle could see Quinn act. On the other hand, would you have the testicular fortitude to sack Roy Keane? Sunderland will be fine as will Keane.
JUANDE RAMOS- Now in his first full season, I would imagine his job is guaranteed for this year at least as he looks to mould the team in his own image. Won the Spuds a six pack of Carling Black Label in February which has won him some good will, despite the fact he didn't actually improve Tottenham's league performance. The long term will be trickier, Ramos looks to be a decent coach, but the highest league position he can secure is 5th and that wasn't enough to save Jol. Ramos is historically a mercenary. He left a club as good as Seville for a bigger salary. If he achieves success, he'll leave for a bigger pay packet elsewhere, if he isn't he'll be sacked. Will still be in N17 next summer though.
TONY MOWBRAY- His target will be survival, WBA have achieved the status yo yo club in recent years, the West Brom board will be looking for a longer stay in the top flight this time around after misplacing their faith in Messrs Megson and Robson in the past. I'd wager Mowbray will not be in the Baggies hotseat this time next year.
ALAN CURBISHLEY- Despite turning the Hammers from a relegation doomed soap opera into a bland midtable outfit, the natives are still restless. Having signed treatment table dwellers such as Upson, Dyer and Ljungberg for huge sums, the club's top brass will want tangible improvement. Curbishley's usual trick of securing survival before giving up on the league campaign won't wash at Upton Park. I think he'll be gone by December.
STEVE BRUCE- Has earned a lot of goodwill by steering Wigan to safety last season, whilst the club he left rode the lightning train back to the Championship. Bruce will now look to build Wigan into a club of lower mid table standing. Seems to invest money wisely and I think he will definitely be at Wigan next summer.
There you have it, I'm saving the link and I'll reproduce it in May to see whether my crystal ball needs some running repairs.LD