Sacking a manager is a difficult decision for any chairman to make but choosing their replacement is even more crucial. Whatever the reason is behind the boss getting the boot it is vital that the new man makes changes and breathes fresh air into the team, so why do clubs give the job to the assistant?
Recently there have been a few managerial changes throughout the leagues yet the two jobs that have become available in the top flight have been filled by the number two until at least the end of the season and surely I can’t be the only person who completely disagrees with that.
When an owner becomes so unhappy about the state of affairs at his club that he feels the only way to salvage the situation is to sack his boss, surely the worst thing to do after that would be to install the assistant as top dog.
To work together the pair must share the same belief in how the game should be played and the values they want to try and instil on their team so bringing them in to take the club in a new direction and change their approach is redundant because the same problems are going to emerge.
The fact that they were there together and share similar ideas will also mean that they made the important decisions together and because of that it is undeniable that they should take some responsibility for the clubs’ shortcomings.
More importantly, when the assistants are promoted to the hotseat they spend their first press conference telling fans how they will make a difference and turn the club around, but shouldn’t they have been trying to do that before?
When Roberto Di Matteo was installed as interim manager one headline read: “Di Matteo hopes to bring passion to Chelsea”, but that begs the question, what was he doing when he was assistant boss? If the level of help he was offering Andre Villas-Boas wasn’t enough to stop the Portuguese being sacked how can he be expected to turn things around? And from the rumblings coming out of Stamford Bridge soon after the appointment, the Italian is no more popular than his predecessor so why will the players listen to him?
Admittedly he has achieved where AVB failed by overcoming Birmingham and Napoli and has made life at Stamford Bridge more harmonious by resurrecting the old guard but this smacks of a man pandering to the owner in a desperate bid for a chance to prove himself as a manager.
Sacking a Europa League winning manager in favour of a man who failed at West Bromwich Albion just doesn’t make sense and it hasn’t even resolved the poisonous problem of player power at the club. During extra time in the Champions League game against Napoli, Di Matteo and John Terry were in constant conversation on the touchline and it looked like Terry was the one giving instructions on the touchline rather than the man supposed to be in charge, so it seems the lesson the new man has learned from his time as number two is to ignore the problem and let his stars take over so long as he can keep his job.
I take Chelsea as the main example because they are a big team with a big budget, fighting for big prizes that have chosen to employ a manager lacking in the ability to hold such a prestigious post, but other clubs have given the job to the assistant manager and proven it is not a good idea.
The other Premier League job to have become available recently was at Wolverhampton Wanderers and they followed Abramovich’s example by giving Terry Connor the job after sacking Mick McCarthy. Although this decision was born more out of desperation than choice it is ridiculous to think that the club entrusted a man who had been assistant to the previous boss for nearly four years and had no managerial experience with the enormous task of keeping the club in the Premier League.
Although he made a promising start with a 2-2 draw against Newcastle, there had been a couple of occasions where Wolves had come out in the second half with added impetus and got results under McCarthy and since that initial result they have reverted back to old ways, getting stuffed 5-0 by Fulham and looking increasingly woeful to a point where there are rumours that Connor might get the boot himself.
Elsewhere Steve McLaren proved that promoting the assistant will never provide success when he took over from Sven Goran Eriksson as England manager in 2006. Failing to qualify for Euro 2008 was a disaster and his attempts to make his own mark on the job led to Emile Heskey getting a recall and David Beckham being dropped from the squad only to be given his place back when things went pear-shaped.
But perhaps the clearest example of why assistant managers should never be given the top job is Steve Kean. After replacing Sam Allardyce as boss the Scot has taken the club from mid-table security and transformed them into a disorientated relegation candidate. Rather than taking the club forward they have dropped down the table like a lead weight and while the level of abuse he has received at times is despicable it is a minor miracle that he still has a job and even more so that the club are perched outside of the drop zone.
Only time will tell if Connor and Di Matteo can prove me wrong but history is against them. So if the chairman at your club drops the axe on your manager, pray they don’t pick the easy option.
Can the assistant manager ever make the step up successfully at the same club? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @jrobbins1991.
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