David Moyes and Sam Allardyce have both been relieved of their duties after only 6 months in charge of their respective teams. Neither team was relegated, Everton finished 8th in the Premier League. So what is the meaning of success for these clubs? Are their chairmen and boards ever satisfied with what they achieve?
Employment and sacking of managers is in the hands of the team’s chairmen or leadership groups, these days either super rich individuals or business men with football as part of their portfolios. Perhaps dissatisfaction is in the nature of elite individuals. How else would they be motivated to improve and be better, despite what many would regard as outstanding life success? Or in this football may merely be expressing the modern society, in which nothing is ever good enough. Since the enlightenment and scientific revolution beliefs are increasing built around constant progress. But football does not reflect reality in many ways. In reality science and technology can improve and provide many people with a better quality of life without others necessarily suffering. But in the Premier League there are 20 positions. All teams are striving to be better every year, but being better won’t always translate into a higher position. Across Europe very few teams can expect to win. In the 4 best leagues outside of England Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid, PSG and Barcelona have won 27 of the 36 possible titles since 2009. Performance is closely knitted to money and prestige. So what do the chairmen of the other clubs want?
The financial crash of 2008 was blamed, in part, on short term profiteering i.e. putting the 6 month share price above the future security of the business. These business practices could be being repeated in football. But, it is more likely that the clubs are caught up in the contagion and pressure that comes with the modern game, and to some extent modern society. People expect better all the time, but increasingly expect it fast. The problem for the football clubs is obvious, measurement of progress seems clear, points and money, but it is in many respects intangible. When there are a designated number of positions to fight for being better can mean standing still or even dropping in the rankings. But this doesn’t feel like success, or improvement. Just not getting relegated seems a dull goal for every year. If 10 teams feel (clearly wrongly) that the Champions League is the level they should be aspiring to, do 6 teams need to sack their managers every year for “failing”? This may indicate a mismatch between ambitions and the appreciation of reality. It is possible the chairmen and boards of these clubs are guilty of the same cognitive flaw that fans display. That is that they feel their club deserves better, is bigger than it genuinely is, and is due more loyalty than it is given. The chairmen may well become fans and start to think as fans. So they behave impulsively by sacking managers in hope of improvement. But does the constant changing of managers, basically a Premier League merry-go-round, where the same managers become journeymen across the land, really benefit the clubs? It is doubtful. Clearly staleness can be an issue. Wenger and Arsenal are a case and point. But 6 months can’t really be sufficient to have any marked impact on a club when transfers are only permitted twice a year. If chairmen and boards are not willing, or are unable, to put in the vast sums of money required to become an elite club (if that is even possible given the positive cycle generated by winning) then perhaps they should lower their expectations and save themselves some cash by keeping a manager a touch longer.