Ferguson 26 years and counting at United and Wenger a decade behind at Arsenal. These two clubs found the perfect manager and stuck with him. And how they have reaped the rewards.
But why have so few others stuck around with them?
Sir Alex Ferguson has sat in the throne at the helm of English football management for the lifetime of the Premier League, watching a merry go round of managers at his rivals. However, Ferguson’s tenure dates back further to 1986, seven years before lifting the very first Premier League trophy. Whilst it seems inconceivable now, Ferguson has his own story of trophy-less seasons, disgruntled fans and calls for his head. The United board wouldn’t have searched long for good cause to consign Ferguson to a growing list of managers failing to bring the League title back to Old Trafford since Sir Matt Busby in 1967.
Arsene Wenger is the solitary peer to remotely threaten his record. In contrast to Ferguson, Wenger waited only two years to lift the league and FA Cup double in 1998 and besides his success in bolstering the trophy cabinet has led the club through a revolution. It is during his recent history that Wenger has suffered the turmoil of Ferguson’s early years.
At times it is frustrating to see how reckless club owners are as they discard their managers, bewildering us all only further by their next appointment. Mick McCarthy’s departure from a floundering Wolves side last season was on the cards but, with all due respect to Terry Connor, leaving the first team coach to save the day was simply inflicting torture on the fans as well as certain death.
The merry go round of managers is laughable at times. We all know the names: Mick McCarthy, Neil Warnock, Steve Bruce, Alex McCleish, Sam Allardyce and the list goes on. This is not to put a slight on any of their achievements more to highlight a flawed strategy on the owners’ part.
To cite one of those clichés, football is a results business and, more than that, the manager is the easiest variable to change. Often a club does need a fresh face, a new impetus to drive out a heroic win towards the end of the season. That said, every club will go through highs and lows, so longer term why does it make sense to fire one manager only to hire another who has failed exactly the same challenge, often on more than one occasion!
Job security for the managers charged with Premiership survival has long been a problem but now it is rife amongst those chasing Champions League places and even those challenging for the title.
The Manchester City Sheikhs seem to be following the Chelsea blue print; impatient and slightly controversial sackings out of the way and now their emotional special one bringing some success. It’s not difficult to see an unceremonious end in the short to medium term given Mancini’s maturity and dignity being on the level of an older brother to Mario Balotelli. Harry’s ‘only a dope’ jibe would have been better directed here…
To give Roman Abramovich some credit, he’s no longer offering permanent roles and has the honesty to bring on his latest intern purely for the rest of the season. Judging by recent events the job spec now reads ‘proven experience in winning Premier League and Champions League, candidate will be on probation for maximum one season until both are won’. Roberto Di Matteo brilliantly forced Abramovich’s hand rather than handing him his greatest desire. I think everyone else enjoyed the irony behind Bayern’s capture of Pep Guardiola, which is far more than a consolation prize to last season’s European Cup.
Harry Redknapp surely deserved his chance to join the top dogs with an extended stay at Spurs. Daniel Levy obviously sees Abramovich as a father figure; a top four finish is simply not good enough on those rare occasions a domestic colleague snatches it away using their European glory, better to have a go with Chelsea’s cast off. In any other business wouldn’t poor Harry have a case for unfair dismissal? QPR cannot be faulted for this managerial capture.
Andre Villas Boas has a second reprieve at Spurs and let’s hope Levy’s latest Russian tendencies don’t see Benitez jumping across London for a full time job. Abramovich has gone through 9 managers in 10 years and with such managerial uncertainty it isn’t difficult to see why senior players begin to rule the dressing room.
Liverpool have done a fantastic job of tarnishing reputations, including the England manager’s and even their adored King Kenny. If ever there was a thankless task in the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers has certainly found it.
It seems the only stability is secured in the mid table and those hovering around the unenvied Europa League spots. David Moyes has rightly received plaudits for his work at Everton and better still the reward of 11 years and counting from Chairman Bill Kenwright. Tony Pulis often comes in for criticism for his playing style but as a relative new comer to the Premier League 4 years of survival, FA Cup runners-up and Europa League qualification should not be dismissed.
Both of these continue in post trophy-less and with little optimism for dramatically improved positioning in the league. Finally Chairmen who understand realistic expectations, that stability can be the only method for improved fortunes and, in today’s climate of billionaire owners, settling for a Europa League spot and the glimmer of a trip to Wembley will have to do.
The modern day football club has to be a money making machine to keep pace with its rivals and, with the fight for Premiership survival and Champions League spots paramount, owners will see their future strategy only as far as the end of the season. But should they follow in the footsteps of United, Arsenal, Everton and Stoke, they could discover managerial stability lays the foundation for their longer term goals.
Fresh off the back of a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, 15th place in the Premier League and Nicola Cortese is not happy? Southampton’s realistic expectation this season had to be 15th to 20th place – bottom three or narrow escape. Nigel Adkins can count himself painfully unlucky on that basis.
It’s fair to say some managers may have reached the peak of their capabilities having won promotion from the Championship and a club needs a more experienced head to retain Premiership status. No owner is likely to order the guillotine immediately after promotion to the Premier League, but if 15th place mid-way through the season is the alternative they probably should if they truly believe their own strategy.
But none of us were altogether surprised, were we. And I bet it’s only the opening managerial gambit for survival before the end of the season.