Rather than rattle on about Gus Poyet, about whom I know nothing, I thought I’d rattle on about managerial changes in general. My starting point was Neil Carter’s 2006 book “The football manager, A history” which I used in my last post. You might remember me writing that Carter reckoned the average managerial tenure at the start of the Premiership was 1.5 years. There was room for argument as Dr. Sue Bridgewater put it at about 2.5 years in a recent report she wrote for the League Managers’ Association but as she also documented a declining trend, so much so that managers now last about 1.4 years, I don’t think it matters. Whatever the figure, however, it hides a multitude of facts. Did you know, for example, that over one thousand managers were sacked or resigned during the time Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge at Man Utd? Were you aware that until the end of last season, when David Moyes and Roberto Martinez moved in response to the above SAF’s retirement, the tenure of premiership managers was about twice the average for the Football League? That will change, of course, as the three above were some of the longest-enduring appointments and now only Arsene Wenger can claim durability.
So how does SAFC compare? I thought I’d take a look at the clubs we joined when we got promoted, add in who have been promoted since then, and see how we stack up.
Here’s a graph showing the number of mangers employed by every club in the premiership between our last promotion and the start of this season. There might be errors as there have been some short-term caretakers and I had to use Wikipedia for some of the information but, even so, it’s interesting:
You can see we’re somewhere in the middle. We had had five managers including Ricky Sbragia by the start of this season and another five clubs held the middle ground with us; now it’s six managers and counting for Derby and ourselves. Fourteen clubs had changed manager less us in the same period and ten had changed managers more.
Man Utd have the most stability and Chelsea the least, yet these are the two most successful clubs over the past six years. Well over half of the clubs with more changes than us have experienced relegation, while over half of the clubs with fewer changes have stayed up. All of the clubs in the middle group bar one (Derby) have experienced promotion and most have also experienced relegation. However, the graph doesn’t show when these changes happened. Some of the Championship clubs gained promotion after managerial changes and some got promoted and then sacked their manager, while some former Premiership clubs changed mangers after relegation. Therefore, it is difficult to draw any conclusion about managerial change and success from the graph. The best I can do is to offer the opinion that too many managerial changes do nothing for any club, except perhaps Chelsea, as if we didn’t know!
I next arranged the clubs alphabetically, with those of our first Premiership season in red, then former Championship teams in blue, and added in competition success and European qualification:
I still can’t see much of a relationship between the number of managers and the success or failure of a club. I can say that every club with only one manager has qualified for Europe, three of those – Everton, Arsenal and Stoke – without winning anything, but, to show how careful one must be in making such generalisations, I can also say that every Premiership team beginning with a B (including Bortsmouth for Waynetta Slob fans) has been relegated in the last 5 years.
Some of the clubs with two or three changes have also qualified for Europe, whereas fewer of those with many changes have qualified, and in this group only Chelsea and NUFC did so without winning anything. That’s probably the key thing to think about. Given that any managerial change is expensive, and only two mega rich clubs (Man City and Chelsea) have made a lot of changes and also won something, I’d say it’s reason enough for not changing a manager unless the wheels are well and truly coming off or a contract is ending after a long period of underperformance.
Which brings me to Stoke.
From the perspective of a Sunderland fan Stoke’s progress up the league has been slow but steady, something we could only wish for. Their fans have been able to sing Delilah lustily at Wembley and in Europe while we’ve had to hum along to the New Christie Minstrels.
Is this one of our former managers? Do you feel like joining in?
Yet some of those Stoke fans appeared disgruntled last season and wanted their manager out. I’m no fan of the teams Tony Pulis turned out, but moving him on brings two sayings to mind. The first is “Be careful what you wish for”, the second is “May you live in interesting times”. I wouldn’t usually presume to intrude on another set of fans but Tony Pulis’ departure from the Brittania is quite an anomaly and I have to wonder at it. Are there any Stokies, or indeed fans from anywhere, who would like to comment?
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