The last 3 months have seen a fairly high turnover of managers throughout the English leagues. Unlike players, who can be judged on actual performances, assessing how good a manager is can be a more nubilous task. Watching your own players week in week out gives a much clearer view of their style and ability than you can gain for players of other teams who you only see play occasionally. With a manager, whilst you can see certain characteristics in the way his team plays, it’s more difficult to judge exactly how good he is at his job. Most of what he does on a day to day basis is done away from the public view, and so opinions tend to be based on 5 minute post-match interviews or rumours picked up from people "in the know". The bottom line for all managers is that, no matter how good you might be as a coach, you will be judged on results and often won’t get much time to change things if those results are not going well.
What I am trying to get to here is how do you judge when enough is enough and it’s time for a change or when giving a manager more time will yield the right results. It’s clear the best managers around now tend to be the ones who have been in their jobs for longest. A quick look at the League Managers Association website shows the current top 10 to be thus;
I think it’s surprising to see that it’s possible to make the top ten after only 3 seasons but It’s also interesting to note that, with all but a couple of exceptions, the clubs involved are currently in the top half of their respective tables and several of them pushing for promotion or silverware.
Just giving a manager time does not, on its own, mean you’re going to do well. You need to pick the right man for the job in the first place and THAT is the crux of my post. How do you pick the right man? What indications are there to know you’ve found someone who will take the club forward? I think many recent premier league appointments have shown how difficult that is.
Bolton Wanderers are a good example of the quandary. When Sam Allardyce left I think everyone expected them to find life difficult. They choose Allardyce’s assistant Sammy Lee in an attempt to maintain consistency. It didn’t look good from the start, and as Lee tried to introduce a more classic passing style of football to the side, the results were poor and papers were full of reports about fall outs with senior players and disharmony in the squad. When Lee was subsequently sacked Bolton fan’s must have been hoping for a "name" manager to fill the role. Someone with a "proven track record". Instead they got Gary Megson who was instantly derided in the media and not given a particularly warm welcome by the fans. Less than two months in and, following some great results in Europe and at home, Megson’s name is being sung with gusto. Megson does have a track record, but bar two promotions to the Premier League with West Brom he's not looked that impressive. Has he learnt from past mistakes? Should he have been given more time at previous clubs?
Down the bottom of the Premier League Derby, Wigan, Birmingham, Bolton and Spurs have all changed their manager this season. Arguably those five clubs have all seen an upturn in fortune. It's still early days but I reckon the fans of those teams are happier now than they were. That leaves only us, Middlesbrough and Sunderland sticking with the men that began this campaign. I’m sure Roy Keane will see the season out whatever happens to his team (if nothing else keeps him in the job, who would have the guts to sack him?) and Southgate has a very supportive chairman who would not make any changes rashly. Does Sanchez have the support of our board? They certainly backed him in the summer with a decent investment, but are they prepared to stand by their man in the longer term.
Is Sanchez the right man to take us forward or should we fire him now and begin the search again? There are some interesting names out of work right now; Billy Davies, Martin Jol, Martin Allen, Paul Bracewell, Roy Hodgson, Gerrard Houllier, Leroy Rosenior, Terry Butcher, Glenn Hoddle, Joe Royle, Berti Vogts, Marcello Lippi even Jose Mourinho. Probably reading that list there are names that get you excited and others that make you cringe, but I wonder how many we’d all agree on. Being realistic we’re unlikely to see Mourinho or Lippi rolling up at Craven Cottage any time soon but there are some good options should we (or in reality the board) decide it's time for a change. For now Sanchez is still the man but, if he’s going to stay in the job, he needs to get some results very quickly.