This weekend saw Watford part company with Marco Silva, while sitting tenth in the Premier League. The sacking has sparked widespread outcry from the football world, with proclamations rife on social media that “the game has gone”. The likes of Gary Neville have leapt to the defence of Silva, criticising the Watford hierarchy for being overly trigger-happy, and suggesting that they will be unable to replace him with a manager of similar prestige. Despite, however, all of the noise, Watford are in fact one of the few clubs who are not in the wrong for their handling of the managerial position.
That the Hornets’ have had four managers since promotion to the top flight in 2015 does not sit well, but under closer inspection it is more difficult to place the blame on the club for high turnover. Despite all four managers having left the club after a season or less, they have all departed Vicarage Road either at the end of the season or during the January transfer window. The particular example of Silva’s sacking is open to debate, as it does appear harsh to sack a manager who is in the top half of the table, whatever form they are in. However, as long as it is done either at the end of the season or in the transfer window, I have little problem with clubs changing managers.
The madness of mid-season sackings
The problem comes when managers are given their marching orders mid-season, having had little or no time to adapt to their new job and meaning that their replacement must use another manager’s squad until the window opens for him to bring in his own men. Frank de Boer was sacked by Crystal Palace after just eight league matches this season, meaning that Roy Hodgson has had to try and keep the club up without any opportunity to shape the squad to his needs. He has, in fact, done a remarkable job so far given the circumstances, but the fact remains that it is a situation he should never have been put in. The same applies to West ham, who sacked Slaven Bilić mid-season meaning that David Moyes had to use a squad which had been shaped by his predecessor over a number of seasons to achieve short term success.
In the Championship, Garry Monk was relieved of his duties by Middlesbrough when Tony Pulis became available. Astoundingly, Monk’s last game in charge was a victory over Sheffield Wednesday, which suggests that the reason for Middlesbrough’s decision — or at least their basis for sacking Monk at that particular time — was that Pulis had become available after being sacked by West Brom. This is unacceptable in that it shows the way attitudes to changing managers have become so gung-ho that clubs are prepared to pull the proverbial trigger on a whim. The current system, which gives clubs freedom to sack and hire managers at any point, does nothing to dissuade clubs from firing managers when it is not absolutely necessary.With this in mind, it might be sensible to amend the transfer windows so that they include managers as well as players.
The importance of stability
If a team wants to make changes to their playing staff, they must wait until the transfer window, either in the summer or in January to do so. The reason for this is so that some consistency can be achieved and clubs can settle with a dedicated set of players rather than an uncontrollable turnover which disrupts the league. Another reason for transfer windows being used for players is that the availability for transfers at all times leads to endless speculation which overshadows matches themselves.
If one thinks about it, they will realise that only allowing clubs to change managers during transfer windows would tackle these problems in the managerial world. Clubs would be forced to commit to a manager for at least half a season, allowing him to assert his style on the club and make his own additions to the squad. In a word: stability. The problem of speculation distracting from matches is also highly prevalent in football at present. It’s difficult to recall the last time a month went by without Arséne Wenger being asked about his plans for the future. Consider how much time might have been spent focusing on football if the media’s attention hadn’t all been focused on the personal futures of managers.
Why, then, should clubs be able to sack and hire managers throughout the season? All it serves to do is distract from the football itself and rob clubs of much-needed stability. Until the system for managerial sackings is reformed, football will be stuck in the past with an outdated process which is unfair on supporters and, not least, managers themselves. Clubs have the right, as Watford have done, to make decisions on the futures of their managers, but the regularity with which sackings are made takes away from football as a spectacle and draws attention to off-field issues rather than matches which, in the end, is the only reason anyone follows the game.
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