Between the Lines
As the managerial corpses pile up, the Barclay’s Premier League shows no sign of slowing down. The days may be over when clubs would splurge silly money on languid Spanish centre forwards whose only answer to stuttering form is to change the colour of their hair but the English game’s leading lights have since found a new outlet for their incurable restlessness.
The latest craze is sacking the coach. The cynics would say the writing was on the wall for Messrs Adkins, McDermott and O’Neill. Reading boss McDermott in particular must have been glancing nervously over his shoulder, his charges having dropped like a stone during February and early March to find themselves ahead of rock bottom QPR merely on goals scored. O’Neill had guided his boyhood club, Sunderland, to a dire run of eight games without a win that had left the Black Cats on the brink of the relegation zone.
Adkins and Southampton, meanwhile, were embroiled in a relegation dogfight that twisted one way and then the other, threatening to undo two and a half years of hard graft. What’s more, the Premier League is not even the most dangerous place to be for a manager. Whereas five top flight clubs have wielded the axe this season, seven Primera Liga outfits have succumbed to the temptation and a startling 10 teams in the Npower Football League Championship have sought a quick fix.
On the other hand, all three would claim, not without some justification, that they weren’t given a fair crack of the whip. If a week is a long time in football then a month is an eternity and so it proved for the softly spoken McDermott, who could be forgiven for reflecting bitterly on a whirlwind first quarter of 2013, during which he was named January’s Manager of the Month before suffering a sudden downturn in fortune that cost him his job. The decision to call time on his tenure has not been vindicated, his successor Adkins picking up one point out of a possible 12 since his arrival. Adkins himself was even more hard done by. The former Scunthorpe United coach had just steered Southampton to a rousing 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge when he was sent packing.
Finally, Martin O’Neill has not fashioned a reputation as one of the canniest managers in the country without demonstrating the know how to dig his teams out of a hole. It doesn’t take a genius to see that owners are scared stiff of relegation. Given that the average Premier League team wallows in £45 million per year in television revenues while the average Football League Championship side contents itself with £1 million, the financial repercussions of going down are obvious. Pound signs in their eyes, the bigwigs will stop at nothing to keep the good times rolling.