Myths: Managers Need Time

8 05 2010

It really is one of the most annoyingly repetitive mantras you will hear churned out by TV pundits – ”managers need time”. I actually think this one gets wheeled out by all and sundry whenever any manager is sacked regardless of the circumstances. Mind you, you should especially look for it if the manager in question is English and/or has at some point returned the calls of Chris Kamara.

The argument will usually see some wise old sage pointing out that the most lauded managers in English history have been at their clubs for many years, whether it be Shankly, Clough, Ferguson or Wenger.. this kernel of wisdom will be delivered seemingly without any awareness of the obvious truth – they were rather good at it. Shankly and Clough brought promotion in their 2nd full seasons for Liverpool and Nottingham Forest respectively. In Wenger’s 2nd season he delivered Arsenal the double.. but for Kamara & co the link between these chaps and Gary Megson’s dismissal from Bolton Wanderers is clear for all to see. Managers. Need. Time.

This old pals act can be particularly nauseating because it seems to stop short of being extended to many foreign managers who come to ply their trade on these shores. Witness the ongoing sympathy for Mark Hughes following his dismissal by Manchester City, despite evidence to suggest he wasn’t taking them anywhere fast, and contrast it with the barely suppressed joy that greets Roberto Mancini’s struggles.

Before long, any discussion of this nature will inevitably hurtle towards the claim that Sir Alex Ferguson was nearly sacked by Man Utd in the 1989/90 season. We have been treated to quotes from Mark Robins to this effect ever since about how his goal kept them in the FA Cup and saved Sir Alex’s bacon. There are counter-arguments to be made about Ferguson’s proven quality as a manager - his runners-up finish with Utd in 1987/88 had followed League titles and European trophies with Aberdeen. However, should we really stand for this argument any longer? One example. Twenty years ago.

The case for the prosecution of failing managers is somewhat stronger, and again is a truth that appears lost on some. It is blindingly simple and it is this: Many great managers that were appointed got the job because someone was sacked. You can be certain that when Bruce Rioch was sacked by Arsenal in 1996 there were consoling gestures and platitudes from those in English football arguing that he had not had enough time; that success was just around the corner. It was, but only thanks to the inspired appointment of Arsene Wenger.

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