Does sacking a manager get the job done, or does it simply make things worse? Joe Santry offers his own debate on the matter.
It is the dream of any young football fan to get a job within the sport that they love. When I was in primary school I’d envisage scoring screamers at Wembley for England. As I grew older, more unfit and more sensible I re-orientated my dreams and decided I could potentially get a job as a ball-boy. I’d give the ball to the winger in a manner so fast that the defenders couldn’t get back in time and I ultimately would be heralded as a hero as my team scored from my quick-thinking. However, I never dreamed of being a manager. Sure, if, aged 9, I’d been offered the England managers job I may have been inclined to take it but it has to be one of the most cut-throat, ruthless jobs available in the game.
The current consumerism-powered brand culture that currently surrounds football means that most football clubs are run with short-term, money focussed goals with little regard for loyalty and patience. Arguably, the people who suffer the most from this are the managers/head coaches of our clubs. At time of writing, 43 managers out of the 72 who started the season at Football League clubs are no longer in the job that they started the season in. That means there’s only a 40% chance of the manager at the helm in August still being there 8 months later! There are not many jobs in the world, let alone in football, that are so temporary and insecure.
If teams are deemed to be under-performing, no matter what the reasons or circumstances, the blame is usually placed on the manager. Typically, results go badly, then, before long, there are rumours of discord with the dressing room, followed by the board publicly backing the manager only for him to be sacked after a couple more losses.
But does sacking a manager really work? Sky Sports produced an article suggesting that, although results do noticeably improve when a manager is sacked, the same improvement is almost as likely to happen without the changeover of staff. My own club, Bradford City, recently sacked club legend, Stuart McCall, sparking absolute uproar from the fans. Simon Grayson came into replace him, a very good manager himself, but since his appointment results haven’t improved and performances have become worse. Increasingly, clubs are appointing ex-players to manage clubs so that fans and even the board have an affiliation to the manager and are consequently more likely to give him time to battle his way out of bad runs of form. It is probably true that there is more loyalty shown to an ex-player coming back to manage his hometown club, but, as is the case with Bradford City and Stuart McCall, it can be a very bitter and nasty atmosphere when they do leave the club.
It also seems to becoming more common to hear thousands of fans yelling ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ at opposition managers or even their own manager. For example the Watford fans, whose club seems to accept that managers don’t last longer a season, were constantly goading Antonio Conte, who won the Premier League last season, during their 4-1 win at home to Chelsea. No one deserves that. That highlighted how upsetting and lonely life can be as a manager. The current situation at Arsenal surrounding Arsene Wenger is another gloomy example.
Not for one minute is this article intending to suggest that managers are the in the doldrums of society or that they should weep in the wallows of self-pity. Managers are obviously extremely well paid and have a lot of power over the team. However, mortgages still need to be paid and if a manager underperforms at a club it can have drastic consequences for his career. As Christians especially, we know that no amount of money or power will ever bring ultimate joy or happiness, without the love of Christ. Therefore to dismiss managers as overpaid power-hungry men who can deal with copious amount of uncertainty and the pressure of being at fault when the team underperforms would be grossly uncouth.
I’ve come to the realisation that if I could have any manager at my club I would have Jesus Christ. Not just for the 90th minute miracles, but the Bible shows that Jesus is the ultimate manager. Jesus says ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28. Surely as a player that is what you want to hear from a manager! When you’re struggling, come to me and I’ll take the weight off your shoulders as I walk alongside you! That’s the kind of manager I want to work for!
Unfortunately my dreams of scoring a screamer at Wembley never became a reality. I never even got a job as a ball boy. But in a sense, I am on the team of Jesus. Jesus is my manager. He is not in the Sir Alex Ferguson mould of manager, launching boots at my head when I mess up. He gifts us a sense of freedom and satisfaction that nothing else can offer (2 Corinthians 3:17).
I think those are two great traits of any manager; offering ultimate freedom and loosening any burdens on the players. Sadly, until Jesus’ return, he will not be available for appointment by your club but hopefully in the future we will see more loyalty towards our managers and fewer examples of fans pleading for managers to lose their job.