“That’s just modern football, though, innit?” seems to be the response to anything ludicrous or remotely controversial that happens in the game nowadays. Ronaldo being sold for £80m? Arsenal charging closer to that amount than you would think for a season ticket? Even a Manchester United player getting sent off and Sir Alex getting angry… It all leads to that one quote. The rather brutal sacking of Nigel Adkins from Southampton earlier in the season caused a great deal of shock and disgust from the great and the good of football. The Saints at that time had lost just two of their last 12 Premier League outings and were sitting pretty above the relegation places, so the news of Adkins’ departure came as a surprise to say the least. The club brought in Mauricio Pochettino in the hope that he could supersede the achievement of the back-to-back promotions of the Adkins era.
Many were dumbfounded by the decision because Nigel Adkins was actually doing a perfectly decent job at the club. But as is with human nature, you always aim to seek out the optimum option available to you. While Adkins could be doing a job that would keep Southampton afloat, the board think that Pochettino can simply do a better one. Was Nigel Adkins a victim of his own success, perhaps? The same can be said for the recently relieved-of-his-duties Brian McDermott. Both had hugely successful tenures in the Football League, and that hadn’t quite transferred into the Premier League, for one reason or another. While their dismissals may have been cruel, imagine being a player for a second. You’re in good form, then it tails off and you have a spell on the bench. Eventually, you fall out of favour altogether, seeing as the bright young talents have taken your place and are proving themselves to be worthy of it. Next thing you know, you’re being sold on to another team to get first team football again, and the process may well repeat itself again and again until retirement.
It’s almost taken for granted, now, that some players can be shuffled around from club to club, season after season. So why shouldn’t the same apply to the managers that they play under? A managers’ transfer market would be something that I would be very interested to see… Deadline Day filled with frantic phone-calls from Chief Executives and Chairmen to try and wrangle the best manager they can. Implausible, certainly, but not impossible in the future. The cycle of players is one that goes around surprisingly quickly. If you were to take a look at the squad you supported four seasons ago to what it is now, while the core of the squad in some areas may be the same, the players around it are likely to have changed completely. It may not be the ideal way to operate in terms of consistency, but that is just the way the game is, to make each squad as good as it can be and (subconsciously) to change the team so opposition can’t suss each team out very easily.
On the subject of consistency, it seems that managers are being cycled through alarmingly quickly; in the lower leagues in particular. 33 managers out of 92 teams in the Football League structure have received their marching orders this season, a five-year high; with a further 70 coaching staff exiting as well. Taking Blackburn Rovers’ situation of having a new gaffer on a bi-monthly basis into account, around a third of Football League teams have parted company with the boss of the first team since August. Has football become so arrogant as a sport that it sees the players as being ‘above’ the people that choose whether they play or not? Or is that just the way it has to be now? You decide for yourself. When most managers start a job, they usually say something along the lines of “We’re going to need time to adjust”, and very bluntly many don’t seem to get that time. Football is a results-based business, but some forms of human discretion have disappeared altogether. While performances may be worthy of points, circumstances don’t always favour those in bad form. As Brendan Rodgers is always keen to point out, his style of playing has taken time to implement and for the squad to get used to a certain way of playing. To relearn that twice or three times a season as a player must be incredibly difficult; and so unnecessary.
If you’re reading this and running a football club at any level and things aren’t going your way at the moment, think about what is going on. If you actually watch the games, you’ll see why you lose. But if you run a bigger club and you’re detached from the everyday workings of the club, you shouldn’t own one. It’s as simple as that. But I don’t have unfathomable amounts of millions in my bank account, so I wouldn’t know what it’s like. Of course, if your own money is being pumped into a project, you’re going to want good results. It’s only natural. But maybe perseverance is what’s needed, instead of another new face at the helm.
In summary, then, football managers aren’t in safe jobs. Neither are the players. To make the grade, both careers take an exceptional talent and years of moulding and training to be anywhere close to successful. But age and physical fitness are smaller barriers to managers, and the career-span of a player is generally far shorter. So that says to me that players flowing in this conveyor-belt-like nature makes more sense than doing the same for managers. But that doesn’t make it fair, because “That’s just modern football, though, innit?”