Paul Ince sacked by Blackburn. Kevin Keegan pushed out of Newcastle. Roy Keane frustrated by Sunderland. Ince was an outright firing after Blackburn only registered 3 wins in 17 matches. Keegan technically resigned, but has made allegations that the club forced him out. Roy Keane left Sunderland after failing to agree on contract negotiations.
Poor form dogged each of these sides as club and manager parted ways. Newcastle sit within the relegation zone. Blackburn and Sunderland are fighting to remain clear of it. Are clubs too quick to part ways with the men who steer them?
We enter each season knowing the drop of the ax is inevitable. The sack is so entrenched in football culture, predictions are made and odds are given. We make a game of it: who will go first? Along with Ince, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Tony Adams, Juande Ramos and Alan Curbishly all got the sack this season. More than a third of the Premier League’s managers parted ways with their clubs. (Harry Redknapp also left Portsmouth for Spurs, but seemed to be for the lure of big money.)
The lack of tenacity in club/manager relations shows many boards are unwilling to give managers the time to work through a bad period. True, Ince’s record was beyond poor, but he’d never managed a top flight club before. Six months is a short amount of time to garner enough experience to excel. And Blackburn are still in the danger zone despite his departure.
Keane saved Sunderland from dropping down to League One and then delivered them back to the Premier League. I don’t know what Keane’s contract demands were or how much his famous temper factored into it, but it seems like Sunderland would have done well to fight harder to keep him in place. Keane’s leadership combined with the savy he showed in going after players did wonders for not only bringing Sunderland back to the top flight, but keeping them above the drop last year.
Before Newcastle parted ways with Keegan, Sam Allardyce had been sacked after 24 matches. Keegan managed the Magpies for eight months. Now, Alan Shearer takes over for Joe Kinnear (whose heart surgery put him out for the remainder of the season). At 31 points with only four matches left, finally coaxing in Shearer (many Newcastle supporters have long hoped he’d take charge) may be too late, and Newcastles unwillingness in recent times to give any one manager a long-term chance to lift the club will probably mean they are going down. And if they continue their long tradition of spending most of their money on attackers and very little of it on defenders, it will be quite a task for them to come back up.
While some managerial replacements prove to be positive (Spurs have clearly been playing better under Redknapp and West Ham have improved under Zola), the struggles of Blackburn, Sunderland and especially Newcastle show that the desparate shift in management provide no guarantee that a club’s fortune will reverse. The fates of these clubs might not hang in doubt if the managers had been encouraged to stay on and work through the club’s problems. Sir Alex Ferguson had his struggles in his first few years of managing United before he started winning titles. He was allowed the time to develop the club into a winning side. An endeavor that takes longer than six months.