Is there no patience left in football? Thus far, the season has been characterized by surprise sackings. Frank de Boer was dismissed by Crystal Palace after just five games on the 11th of September. Before the dust could settle on that story, Harry Redknapp was fired by Birmingham City, having spent only thirteen games at the helm.
With managers now being given so little time to succeed, should we be worried that football is becoming far too impatient?
No recollection of former glories?
Just over a fortnight ago, one of football’s most illustrious servants was given his marching orders. In what might have been his final moments as a manager in the beautiful game, Harry Redknapp witnessed his Birmingham City team, equipped with a plethora of new signings, collapse in the second half against a resilient Preston North End. They eventually lost 3-1. After the match, Redknapp was promptly sacked. Following a run of six straight defeats, which saw his side score only three goals, his five months at the club were brought to an uninspiring end.
A statement from Birmingham City FC read: “Unfortunately due to the poor start to the campaign which sees the club second from bottom of the Championship, we are left with no choice but to terminate the contract of the manager with immediate effect.”
So read the sentence that may well have unceremoniously ended a notable career. This is the man who once won the Premier League’s Manager of the Year Award, among other notable achievements. Yet it is a testament to the momentousness of that particular footballing week that Redknapp’s departure was not even its most shocking story.
On Monday, September 11th, Crystal Palace announced Frank de Boer’s dismissal after just five games in charge. An unprecedentedly brief term, this surpasses even his own embarrassing 85-day tenure at Inter Milan. Like Redknapp, de Boer boasts an outstanding footballing reputation. It’s noteworthy that he guided Ajax to four straight Eredivisie championships between 2011 and 2015.
Refusing to learn from past mistakes?
Since the departures of Redknapp and de Boer, both clubs have found replacements. Steve Cotterill is situated at Birmingham and Roy Hodgson at Palace.
Both managers seem to have their work cut out for them. Birmingham suffered a heavy 6-1 defeat away at Hull on Saturday. Palace were unable to cope with a rampant Manchester United side, losing 4-0 at Old Trafford. Birmingham find themselves 22nd in the Championship table. Meanwhile, Palace remain at the bottom of the Premier League, without a point or goal to their name.
Questions are also being asked of Everton’s Ronald Koeman. After a 1-0 home defeat to Burnley at the weekend, the Dutchman’s side is left in 16th place in the Premier League table with only one win in their last five league games.
Joining Koeman in the firing line is Sunderland’s Simon Grayson. The ex-Preston manager hasn’t managed a win in his last five games as gaffer at the Stadium of Light. With his side currently residing in 23rd place in the Championship table, Grayson could very well find himself looking for a job in the near future.
Nowadays, it would seem that no record is safe. You’re only as good as your last job. Football has begun to suffer from a chronic lack of patience.
Stumbling down the path of quick fixes
In recent years, the answer to a bad run of form seems to be obvious: sack the manager. Yet there is no proven evidence that this is the right decision. As Dutch Economist Dr. Bas ter Weel argues, “Changing a manager during a crisis in the season does improve the results in the short-term. But this is a misleading statistic because not changing the manager would have had the same result.” It’s little wonder, then, that Birmingham City’s board have come under so much scrutiny. They have just hired their third manager in only nine months.
This is precisely the problem—football is obsessed with the ‘short-term.’ Both Birmingham City and Crystal Palace have simply exhibited symptoms of the disease. The powers that be in the club food-chain these days have no desire to be patient with their managers.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the path that football is choosing to head down. It would come as little surprise to most fans if both Koeman and Grayson were relieved of their duties in the coming weeks.
Club hierarchies could do very well to heed the warning proclaimed by Chris Anderson and David Sally. In their seminal book The Numbers Game—Why Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong, the authors proffer this thought: “…a short-term decline in performance is not a good reason to be firing your manager.”