Rewarding Failure – The Managerial Roundabout

Rewarding Failure – The Managerial Roundabout

By TomTom – Your SatNav around Football


Rewarding Failure – The Managerial Roundabout

The lifespan of a football manager is declining at a rapid rate. According to recent research carried out by the League Managers Association (LMA) the average managerial tenure across the four English leagues is 2.13 seasons. Focusing just on the Premiership, there are only four managers out of the 20 teams who have been in their current role for more than 3 seasons: Ferguson, Wenger, Moyes and Pulis.

That is a startling lack of sustainability when considered in a business sense and is unparalleled in almost any other industry. It is of course a reflection on the increased pressure to deliver results but are clubs really choosing managers who can guarantee the type of success they crave?

On what basis are clubs making these crucial managerial decisions and how are certain managers gaining repeat employment so easily? There doesn’t appear to be any level of meritocracy involved in many of the appointments across the leagues. Take the lower half of the Premiership as an example. Every managerial vacancy seemingly has the same shortlist for the role. It is laughably narrow minded. Clubs repeatedly select from the same rather stunted gene pool, rather than casting the net further afield and breaking the mould. The Sky Sports news graphic showing the odds for the latest vacancy doesn’t appear to have changed in years. Curbishley 4-1 again. What a surprise.

In some cases, it appears as though failure in a previous role is a pre-requisite to be considered for a new position. The fact that Alex Mcleish was appointed at Aston Villa the season after leading their biggest rivals to relegation is beyond comprehension. No surprises he was subsequently sacked less than a year into the job. In most professions recent achievements are a critical currency for determining the suitability of a candidate. If football clubs truly see themselves as businesses then they need to buck the trend of hiring based on past glories, or even more worryingly on the back of past failures.

Here is a case study to back up this argument and highlight the unplaced faith shown by decision makers at both club and international level which undoubtedly contributes to the higher turnover in managers. This example is not based on personal opinion (I quite like the man) but simply upon his recent track record.

Rewarding Failure in Football ManagementSven-Goran Eriksson should never get a job in English football again. Ever. His CV since leaving the England job in 2006 is a car crash. First up was a solitary season in charge of Manchester City which culminated in an 8-1 thrashing at the hands of Middlesbrough. A fleeting return to national team management then followed as he became Mexico boss. His tenure was so disappointing that when he was fired 30,000 fans held a victory rally to celebrate his departure. Need I say more? Ok, then came his role in the shambles that was the Notts County acquisition which proceeded a 5 game spell in charge of Ivory Coast. It hardly seems mentioning given its brevity, but proves a point. The most recent disaster, which should prove to be the final nail in his coffin, was his time at the helm of Leicester City. He eventually bit the bullet with the Foxes in mid-table obscurity having spent millions over the summer and being touted as favourites for promotion. In the commercial world he wouldn’t even have got an interview at the King Power stadium, never mind getting the job.

The fact that is most astounding is that Eriksson was favourite to take the recent vacancy at Nottingham Forest. I was screaming at the TV in astonishment. Surely Sven wasn’t going to get another gig. Thankfully the Forest owners saw sense and opted to put their faith elsewhere. Their choice was a refreshing one and shows that some clubs are willing to break the mould. The selection of their former first team coach, Sean O’Driscoll, was based on suitability rather than surname and should be the model for other clubs to follow. It remains to be seen how he will fare but it at least appears to be a considered decision as opposed to selecting the highest profile name that is interested in the role.

Managerial tenures are shortening due to the intense pressure that stems from a culture which demands immediate success, however, owners need to think sustainably but in this case avoid recycling.

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About TomTom
“Having studied English at university and always been a keen footballer and fan, combining the two has always appealed to me.” - Tom Lytton-Dickie. -"I'm a recently qualified journalist and I've worked in newspapers and broadcasting. I'm a dedicated follower of all sports primarily football, tennis and cricket." Tom Allnutt

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