Changing managers – does it work?

This week has seen Phil Brown lose his job as Hull City manager. He joins Paul Hart, Mark Hughes and Gary Megson on the list of Premier League managers to lose their job this season, but is changing the manager the best course of action for clubs to change their fortunes.

In the case of Bolton this looks to have worked out. Owen Coyle has changed their fortunes around and with eight games to go in the season their Premier League status looks safe for another year at least. However, the last time Bolton changed their manager they were in a very similar situation. After the dismissal of Sammy Lee, Gary Megson was brought in and kept Bolton up after flirting dangerously with relegation. Many Bolton fans will argue that Megson was under-pressure from the very start of his reign after being a somewhat disappointing appointment in their eyes. This along with a string of poor results contributed to his downfall. In contrast, Coyle was met with open arms at the Reebok Stadium and after a patchy start has led Bolton out of the relegation zone with three wins in their last four games. Whether his appointment will work out in the long run we’ll have to wait and see but with the fans behind him, he’s already off to a better start than Megson.

Manchester City’s quest for fourth place has not been damaged by the departure of their manager Mark Hughes in December, although nor has it been strengthened. However, there form has been inconsistent of late and Roberto Mancini may himself be ousted in the summer if City are unable to secure the coveted fourth Champions League spot. When Mancini arrived City were fifth in the table, they are currently sixth, albeit with a game in hand on Tottenham and two on Liverpool, who lay fourth and fifth respectively. The Mancini era at City started well with four straight wins but after the honeymoon period was over City succumbed to defeats against Everton and Hull in the league and Stoke in the FA Cup. In four fewer games, Mancini’s City have lost one more game than City under Hughes this season. Would City be better off right now if they had stuck with Hughes? One of the criticisms of Hughes’ reign was the amount of games they drew, but whether in the long run it’s better to risk more losses in search of wins is up to City hierarchy. The pressure at the top end of the table for wins is evident and it was interesting to see Mancini usher his players away from the City fans at the Stadium of Light on Sunday after Adam Johnson’s late equaliser so they could push for the win. Whether Mancini can handle the pressure of producing constant victories will determine just how long he stays as Man City manager. In the long run, only a couple of managers in the modern era have coped with that pressure, and if City want to create the kind of dynasty their mega-rich owners crave, they need look no further than their local rivals in Manchester United.

Back to Hull City, who have this week chosen to ditch Phil Brown, who performed so admirably with a team lacking in quality. The Tigers have decided to replace him with Iain Dowie, whose record in the top flight is far from great. Sides managed by Dowie tend to be relegated, such as Crystal Palace, Charlton and last year while assisting at Newcastle. Whether this appointment will follow the pattern of immediate wins, like the aforementioned two, remains to be seen. Or if this is Adam Pearson hitting the panic button only time will tell, but if they are relegated they will have to rebuild with a new team and may struggle to regain their Premier League status. A good example of a team sticking by the manager is Birmingham City. When Alex McLeish took charge after Steve Bruce’s move to Wigan, they were 15th in the table and were amongst the favourites to be relegated. When relegation did come the Birmingham board stuck by McCleish and backed him to get them promoted back to the Premier League. After some trials and tribulations in the Championship they were promoted automatically after finishing second. Since McLeish had first hand experience of how his players had coped in the league previously, he knew what he needed. He bought wisely and the results of his good management are on display as they sit eighth. Credit is due to (former owners) David Gold and David Sullivan for sticking with McLeish when they could simply have taken the easy way out and sacked him. The rewards are the healthy price they got for selling the club to Carson Yeung.

The changing of a football manager is dependent on the club and there are cases for sacking and sticking. Sacking seems to bring results in the short-term and may help keep a struggling side up. However, for the best results in the long-term the sticking option appears to be the best, look no further than Birmingham City who are reaping the rewards of sticking by their manager.

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