Football has become a brutal business. No matter how long fans, players, managers or anyone else has been associated with the game, the cold hearted and often dismissive manner in which somebody loses their job never becomes easier to accept.
Take Francesco Guidolin for example. When he was sacked on October 3rd and immediately replaced by American Bob Bradley, he became the first Premier League manager to leave a club on his birthday. That’s what you call an unforgettable present. Happy birthday Francesco, here’s your P45. Regardless of Swansea’s recent form and their league position, Guidolin deserved better than that. It was clear that he would be sacked after the 2-1 home defeat against Liverpool, but it still seemed harsh. Based solely on Swansea’s performance against Liverpool, I don’t believe the team or the manager were to blame. There is often a perception that players down tools when things get tough and no longer support the manager. This was not the case at Swansea and the pure devastation on Guidolin’s face, on what proved to be his final game in charge, was clear for all to see.
Some fans were incensed at the decision to replace Guidolin with Bob Bradley, believing that he was only hired because their American owners wanted an American manager. Bradley suffered defeat against Arsenal in his first game in charge, stretching Swansea’s losing run to four games, and they are still in the bottom three as a result. The Swans have not won a Premier League game since their opening day victory against Burnley. Swansea’s next three games are against Watford, Stoke, and Manchester United. All three of these games promise to be tricky for Bradley, especially when his side are so low on confidence. He needs a win in at least one of those three games, otherwise, the fans will become even more disgruntled and the team will remain in the bottom three.
In the Championship, Roberto di Matteo was sacked as Aston Villa manager after just 124 days in charge. He left with the club in 19th place and after only one win during 11 Championship games in charge. Villa have since appointed Steve Bruce, their sixth manager in a year, to get their season back on track. Steve Bruce managed rivals Birmingham and got them promoted twice. The last time Aston Villa had an ex-Birmingham City boss as their manager it did not end very well. Alex McLeish was sacked after 11 months in charge and had been an unpopular appointment right from the beginning. The difference between him and Steve Bruce, however, is that McLeish went straight from Birmingham to Aston Villa whereas Bruce has managed a number of clubs in between and also earned promotion with Hull City twice. Bruce’s first game in charge of Aston Villa was a 1-1 draw with Wolves and then he followed that up with a 2-1 win against Reading. The victory against Reading was incredibly significant as it was the first time Aston Villa had won away since August 2015, on the opening day of the Premier League season at Bournemouth. Steve Bruce has excellent knowledge of the Championship and as long as the board and the fans give him time, he should succeed at Villa Park.
There are still clubs that will stick with their manager even during incredibly tough periods. Last season, Crystal Palace started very well. The Eagles beat Stoke 2-1 in December last year, a victory that took them to sixth place, level on points with Tottenham and Manchester United who were in fourth and fifth place respectively. After that game, things went downhill fast. Crystal Palace only won two of their games in 2016 last season and ended the season in 15th position. The only reason they narrowly avoided a relegation battle was because of their brilliant start to the season. Steve Parish, Crystal Palace’s chairman could have easily replaced Alan Pardew but he stuck by him. Pardew was grateful for Parish’s support last season, saying: “Steve Parish has been wonderfully supportive of what has been a difficult second half of the campaign… We’re determined to make progress heading into next season.” So far this season, Palace are in ninth place after eight games (W3, D2, L3). Record signing Benteke has started well at Selhurst Park, as have Andros Townsend and Steve Mandanda to name a few, so the Eagles should be aiming to finish in the top half this season. Things could have been very different if Crystal Palace had sacked Alan Pardew when the going got tough.
Reigning champions Leicester City have had a rather indifferent start to the season and their main focus is clearly the Champions League. They have eight points from eight games in the Premier League, leaving them in 13th place, and nine points from three Champions League group games. Nobody expects Leicester to retain their title after last season’s fairytale, but they have already lost four Premier League matches this season, one more than they lost in the whole of last season. Manager Claudio Ranieri is pleased with their form in the Champions League but not in the Premier League.
Losing matches is something that all clubs do. The problem with football these days is that every defeat is a disaster. A team cannot lose a match without every inch of their performance being scrutinised by the media and massively blown out of proportion. Being a manager has never been so demanding.