There has never been more pressure being a football manager than there is right now. Constant media speculation, 40 000 fans screaming you have lost the plot, primadonna players, the list goes on. This week has seen three managers in particular facing up to the fact that they may not be in their jobs for much longer.
Paul Hart at Portsmouth has the demeanour of a man who knows he is living on borrowed time. Adding to the woe of suffering seven straight Premier League defeats, he was the this week unable to bring Gary McAllister to the club as assistant manager and his players did not receive their wages. (Some would say they have not earned them, but that is a side issue). There are clearly serious problems at Pompey, on and off the pitch, the changes at the club since Harry Redknapp left tell their own story. Hart seems strained in press conferences and his reactions during the weekend defeat to Everton showed his passion but perhaps not his skill. The likelihood is that he will get until at least January but then he may well get his marching orders. If Pompey are still within touching distance of the teams above them, then a new man will surely be brought in. If they are dead and buried, then it will give a new manager time to mould his squad for the following season. Of course they may surprise us all and go on a 10-match winning run and be safe by Christmas. Anyone who has seen them play this season would however surely protest against that. Hart is doing his best to bring stability to a club that desperately needs it – he kept them up last season, against unlikely odds, perhaps he deserves the chance to do so again.
Hull City manager Phil Brown is another who finds himself being questioned at the moment. A poor start to the season coupled with the disastrous second half of last season has left Brown clinging on to his job. He has seen himself become something of a joke figure over the past year with his tan and headset combo, team talks on the pitch and atrocious singing making most people cringe. Yet there should be some sympathy for Brown as he has simply overachieved as a football manager. Getting Hull into the Premier League was a monumental achievement, although things started well for them last time round with victories at Arsenal and Spurs, reality has now set in. Through the success of the team, expectations have now reached an unmanageable level, but in all honesty the players at Hull are simply not Premier League class. Brown apparently has the support of his Chairman but being given the dreaded vote of confidence does not mean anything in the modern era. Brown is suffering the same problems that got Billy Davies the sack at Derby. Let us hope that Owen Coyle manages to avoid that particular pitfall.
Roy Keane has also felt the pressure of being a football manager this week as his Ipswich team were soundly beaten 4-0 at home to Newcastle. There was a sense of excitement when Keane took over at Ipswich, not necessarily because he was going to do well but it was obvious there would be fireworks at some point. There are many negative labels one could stick on Keane but even his most hated enemy (most probably Mick McCarthy) would have to admit he is breathtakingly honest. Indeed it was the reason he left Manchester United. Keane may find that players at Championship level are simply not able to achieve the high standards that he did as a player, and this could lead to frustration. It was the same reason why Tony Adams could not make a success at Wycombe. Although his subsequent spell at Pompey may perhaps suggest that he is just not a very good manager.
The old adage goes you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper, as managers continue to lose their jobs it may be time to update that particular pearl of wisdom. It was reported this week that Manchester United players Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar and Wayne Rooney were to take their UEFA coaching badges. Yet it is not hard to suggest that none of them will pursue a career in management. The pressure has never been greater, the rewards less so. They will not need the money. The love of the game is not enough any more. Graeme Souness raised some eyebrows a few weeks ago when he remarked he had no interest in management any more because he did not want to deal with players. Quite frankly, who can blame him?
A more successful manager this week celebrated 13 years in charge at Arsenal, becoming their longest reigning manager of all time. Arsene Wenger has completely changed the entire landscape at the Gunners and in doing so has brought upon a change in the whole of the English game. It is however hard to imagine any other manager lasting more than 10 years at any club in the future.
A Different Week
Michael Owen’s move reminiscent of The Boss – July 10
The City Circus – July 17
Beckham – End of an American dream? – July 24
Trouble at the Toon – July 31
Chester’s plight reflective of modern ways – August 7
What will happen – August 14
Joleon Lescott and the ugly side of a modern professional player – August 21
Defoe is Jermain man – August 28
Deadline day disappoints – September 4
Mixed fortunes for home nations, mixed treatment for English clubs? – September 11
Did Adebayor go too far or did we overreact? – September 18
A matter of race in the beautiful game’s ugly side – September 25
Managing the job – October 2