Stop-gap managers

On 19th December 2009, the football world appeared to be in shock when Mark Hughes was sacked as Manchester City manager. Sir Alex Ferguson even launched an attack on City claiming: “It was unacceptable behaviour”. 11 days later on 30th December 2009 Gary Megson was also sacked as Bolton Wanderers manager yet not a single eyebrow was raised. However both these managers share the same stature; they are “stop-gap managers” – Managers who have been brought in to keep a club steady but are never going to dramatically improve the club and fulfil their long-term ambitions.

It was clear from day one that although Mark Hughes was a young and upcoming manager he was never going to be able to deliver the Premiership title to Manchester City. Even this season Hughes wouldn’t have been able to provide them with a Top 4 finish. This is due to the mass of egos at the club; players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, and Carlos Tevez need a manager they can believe in, who can guarantee them the success they desperately crave. Hughes despite having nearly qualified Wales for Euro 2004 and guided Blackburn to Top 10 finishes and reaching an FA Cup Semi-Final hasn’t actually won anything and these players need a manager with an impressive CV like Roberto Mancini. Although it could be argued that Hughes was still learning the trade and would have eventually delivered success, the rate at which the directors at Man City wanted the club to progress made it an impossible task.

Mark Hughes is a good manager but he needs to be at a club which are patient in going forward, similar to Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa and David Moyes at Everton.

With Gary Megson at Bolton, you really have to question the board’s decision in appointing him. When Sam Allardyce left the club in 2007, they were very much on the up, having consistently finished in the top half of the table, reaching the Carling Cup final in 2004 and qualifying for the UEFA Cup twice. At first the board decided to take a bit of a risk in appointing Allardyce’s number two Sammy Lee. However they could be forgiven for this as Lee had spent two years learning from Big Sam and was widely regarded in the game an up and coming tactician. Things didn’t quite work out for Lee as he was sacked as Bolton manager in October 2007 after only winning 1 league game in 11 matches.

With Bolton playing in the UEFA Cup, having plenty of time to turn around their bad start to the season and being an established Premiership side, they would have been an attractive proposition to a lot of managers. However Bolton decided to appoint Gary Megson, who was just six weeks into his job as the new Leicester City manager. His only real achievement was getting West Brom promoted to the Premiership in 2002 and in his last job before Leicester, Nottingham Forest were relegated to League 1 for the first time in half a century whilst under his management.

Bolton still continued to struggle that season and Megson just managed to keep them in the Premiership by earning 1-1 draw against Chelsea on the final day of the season. One of his biggest mistakes which could have cost Bolton their place in the league was selling Nicolas Anelka to Chelsea for £15 million and bringing in no comparable replacement. The next season Bolton finished 13th in the Premiership, which was much lower than what they were accustomed to.

This season prior to his sacking, Megson left the club 18th in the league with 18 points from 18 games. It could be argued that he has taken Bolton in massive steps backwards and undone all of the work that Allardyce had managed to create as they are no longer considered a mid-table Premiership side. Bolton will be hoping that Owen Coyle can turn around the club’s fortunes and they will once again become an established force in the Premiership.

Megson clearly knows his way around the football league and needs to be given a job there so he can slowly build a team that can win promotion to the Premiership.

At the moment there are two other “stop-gap managers” in the Premiership, Iain Dowie at Hull City and Brian Laws at Burnley. However both the clubs have arguably exceeded expectations by getting to the Premiership as early as they have and are nowhere near as established as Man City or Bolton.

It remains to be seen why clubs go for managers which just aren’t the right fit for the club. It is possible that clubs panic when a manager departs and they want to bring in some stability as soon as possible, rather than take their time and decide amongst a group of candidates. Clubs need to learn to pick their appointments carefully so that there can be less managerial casualties, otherwise it will put off managers from taking jobs in the Premiership.

Written By Charlie Rowling


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