Are they making the football step up too soon?

Former Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman

The risk of ‘moving up too soon’ is a debate that typically refers to those on the pitch rather than in the dugout. At present, arguments are erupting over whether young starlets Wilfried Zaha and Tom Ince are good enough to grace the Premier League with their presence, but what about the beautiful game’s most promising managers, are they also guilty of seeking a crack at the big time before they’re ready?

When a new managerial vacancy becomes available, there are two types of candidates: the reputable unemployed and those currently working wonders elsewhere. The financially viable option is to appoint those currently without a job but they are often tainted by recent failures, which means many clubs are lured in by those who are highly-rated but under-qualified.

Bolton’s pursuit of Dougie Freedman is the perfect case in point. At the start of the season, Crystal Palace look destined for another relegation battle but a series of shrewd transfers and tactical tweaks propelled the club up the table. Freedman converted Selhurst Park into a fortress, but more importantly he was gradually compiling the components needed for an effective promotion push.

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Elsewhere the Trotters had grown tired of Owen Coyle’s unfulfilled potential and instead turned their attentions to another talented Scotsman. Freedman insisted he ‘didn’t like leaving jobs half finished’ and with the Eagles fourth in late October, supporters were convinced he would remain in South London.

Less than a week later, Bolton’s crumbling status as a ‘big club’ had successfully enticed Freedman to abandon his post at Palace and while the arrival of Ian Holloway has preserved the Eagles’ position near the top of the table, Bolton sit in 16th place, ten points adrift the playoffs and a further four points from Palace. Freedman has managed to apply the brakes on Bolton’s decline, but expectations of a rapid ascent remain increasingly optimistic.

In the Premier League, it would be appear that the grass isn’t greener for the managerial duo who departed their recently promoted clubs after a successful debut in the top flight. Brendan Rodgers has struggled to implement his playing philosophy at Liverpool, while Swansea continue to thrive under Michael Laudrup. In addition, Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa find themselves wallowing in the relegation zone, seven points behind Norwich.

However, both managers are fortunate to possess the full backing of those seated above them, a rare luxury in a league that boasts several trigger-happy chairmen. Both men are instigating a period of transition at their new club and will require an unrelenting level of patience before we see results. However, does either man possess the respect of his players needed to do so? Rodgers especially, much like Andre Villas-Boas can’t claim the illustrious playing career in which many players respond to.

I find it difficult to resent a manager for grabbing a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, especially when the security of such positions are always vulnerable. However, while a player’s career can be ended in an instant from a bad tackle, managers are not under the same threat. They can take their time, to nurture both themselves and the players around them, but when that golden carrot is dangled in front of you, who among us could refuse a bite?


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