In a recent article discussing the managerial changes this season, I left on a point about the lack of long serving managers in English football. Today the likes of Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger are looking like a dying breed in what is becoming a sport concerned and effective by instant success rather than long-term stability (and success). Every time a manger is sacked, the question is often raised about how much time a manager should be allowed at a club with comparisons made to the successes of Wenger and Ferguson. So will we ever see the likes of Steve Bruce or Roberto Mancini for example staying with their current clubs for the next decade?
It is highly doubtful with the demand for instant success in today’s football mixed with the ambitions and questionable loyalties of managers themselves. In the case of Roberto Mancini and the money pumped into Manchester City there is an instant demand for Champions League qualification this season and a trophy or two. Compared to Steve Bruce at Sunderland, the demand for success isn’t as high but the club still want to progress into an established Premier League side that finish in the top 10 and so on. So are long serving managers only for football clubs who have a slower long term plan in place for the future?
It’s not just the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea that demand instant success; the teams that are promoted from the Championship have the pressure of staying in the top flight in the first season. Some clubs panic and sack their manager at the first sight of trouble, despite the promotion that was achieved under his reign. Ferguson’s reign at Manchester United is the longest, this November will mark his 25th year in charge but his start at United was not instant. After 3 years, despite some improvements since his arrival there were fans and media alike calling for him to be sacked but the United board of directors backed Fergie and the rest is history.
Apart from Accrington Stanley’s John Coleman (11 years as manager), Everton’s David Moyes is one of the longest serving at a top flight club. Moyes, who was appointed in March 2002 will be approaching his 9th year at the club but with their recent performance at Bolton at the weekend, there is speculation about his future. Despite not winning any trophies during his time on Merseyside, Moyes is one of the highest rated managers in the Premier League with his astute signings and regularly finishing within the top 8 of the league (bar the odd season), it is a credible achievement compared to the money other clubs around them have spent. As I mentioned, John Coleman’s reign at Accrington Stanley is as impressive despite being in the lower leagues – just like Crewe’s Dario Gradi who, despite a year out as full time manager has been with the club since 1983, which has seen the club go through promotions and relegations. Aside from those mentioned, other managers have a long way to go before serving a decade in charge at a club with the likes of John Still at Dagenham & Redbridge and Dave Jones of Cardiff City currently at 6 and 5 year reigns respectively, both have a long way to go.
In conclusion, a long serving manager provides the club with a great sense of identity, focus and style but with the instant demand for success in football the board of directors or the fans can lose faith in the long term plan. In certain cases, like that of Roy Hodgson, some managers and clubs just don’t work and a change is needed but if teams like West Bromwich Albion are going to become an established Premier League side, perhaps more faith in the manager is needed for a more long term success.