The not so ruthless world of managerial sackings

Like it or not football is a business and a multi-billion one at that. All businesses, regardless of size require decisions to be made and those decisions have to be based on facts and not romance. Football is no different with the axe wielding boards of many clubs coming under attack for making changes or facing criticism for making the wrong decisions at the wrong time. This phenomenon in football shouldn’t be considered ruthless, if something isn’t working, change it. Only a fool would continue down the wrong path.

Quique Sanchez Flores is the latest Premier league manager to be presented with his P45 and is now looking for a new job in the ever turbulent world of football management. Following a meeting with the Watford’s decision makers, it was apparent that the two parties were some way apart on their evaluation of the season and seemingly the outcome of the season and what success is was very much up for debate.

Favourites for relegation at the start of the season they ended it comfortably clear of the dogfight at the foot of the table in the thirteenth and produced a defiant FA Cup run reaching the semi-final beating Arsenal in the process. Context is often important in these situations and in this case the context can only support the assumption that Watford’s season was a successful one based on the so-called ‘big’ clubs that have been relegated spending power and football history. Newcastle had a net spend close to twenty-eight million in the January transfer window which made them the biggest spenders. Aston Villa, another victim of relegation, have ended a twenty-eight-year association with top flight football.

It’s not just those at the wrong end of the table that falls victim to the proverbial grim reaper of the managerial world. Those at the top are not immune either, with Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho being two such casualties. Rodgers had gone close to winning the title with Liverpool in the previous season but was deemed no longer able to fulfil the ambitions of the Liverpool owners and decision makers. Likewise, Mourinho, the self-proclaimed special one, following an underwhelming start to their defence as champions was removed from his position of manager at Chelsea football club, this is a man who has won league titles at multiple clubs in multiple countries in addition to European success. As with Quique Sanchez Flores, context is key.

The end of the season only adds fresh fuel to the fire of the managerial merry-go-round. Clubs will be picking over the bones of the season and will find themselves in the difficult position of either having to stick or twist with the current managerial incumbent. Fans and commentators of the clubs that will see their manager departing will in some cases accept the decision, most likely because it has been a disappointing season – results, performances or indeed, both. Other departures, might raise more than just an eyebrow, the situation at Watford is a fine example.

Owners of any club and those put in place by the owners to run the clubs on a day-to-day basis will have ambitions for the clubs and maintain the right to revise those ambitions and set new targets at any time – realistic or otherwise. This sort of information is not likely to reach the fans and they are left to second guess any reasons for a change. Do they have a right to be disgruntled? Probably. After all, the fans pay their money week-in-week-out and the investment doesn’t stop at financial. Football clubs are an emotional investment for fans, the ‘them and us’ scenario between clubs adds to the emotion, time spent travelling and with strangers each with a common bond – the football club.

In the case of Quique Sanchez Flores, it is clear that the club now has loftier ambitions and will look elsewhere for a manager to deliver those ambitions. Too much too soon? Can they back it up with the right appointment and the significant financial input required to not only maintain Premier league status but climb higher? Time will tell. Those clubs making the changes can be accused of ruthlessness but it is a misguided view, it is nothing other than pragmatism combined with ambition and there will always be another manager or coach to step into the shoes of the previous manager.

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