Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The sack race: Is best of British time-served managerial experience the key to Premier League survival?

Like most seasons' in the Premier League the carnage of managerial casualties are everywhere. Last week the self-styled guvnor was cut-down to size as Paul Ince became the latest big name to fall victim of the chopping block, when Blackburn Rovers decided enough was enough.

Manchester City's owners are currently saying that Mark Hughes is safe at the Citizens', if that is so it makes a pleasant change. How many of City's former struggling managers' have been afforded time when the going gets tough? John Bond once a famously referred to the Blues' old main stand as a whispering gallery, he was gone not long after.

Despite City's Arabic money-men saying the right things behind the scenes you do get the feeling that it is only a matter of time before Hughes feels the sharp edge of the henchman's axe. Having watched City on a number of occasions recently, I'm stating the bleeding obvious that they cannot defend and yet all of the talk is of new strikers' and midfield players' arriving at Eastlands in January.

Hughes keeps his own council on potential targets - as any half-decent manager should - but I do fear for the future of the Welshman - especially if he cannot see where his problems lie. At the season's beginning much talk centred on Jo the young Brazilian striker, but his form has dipped amidst talk of dressing room unrest and bad influences, which if true could also see fans favourite Elano sent out on loan along with Jo. Here again, Hughes must be courting potential disaster with his own supporters' who are not known for backing under-fire managers'.

For me, the big question is who will replace someone like Hughes? With young managers' like Roy Keane and Paul Ince failing so badly it seems that now is not the time to back those with little or no managerial experience at Premier League level.

For reasons largely connected with off-the-field problems, Newcastle parted company with Kevin Keegan, but Joe Kinnear has come in and steadied the ship for the Magpies. It's the same situation at Spurs where Harry Redknapp has charted a course to Premier League safety in short order.

Big Sam Allardyce has come in and replaced Ince at Blackburn, instead of going for an overseas manager Rovers opted for a time-served Englishman and a safe pair of hands.

Football is indeed a funny old game, not so long ago men like Allardyce and Kinnear were yesterday's heroes. No more, because by my reckoning Phil Brown at Hull City is probably the hottest young manager in the business and of course he's served his time as a coach under Sam Allardyce before taking up the challenge of becoming a number one.

Ultimately, results dictate everything and with the pressure of just remaining in the Premier League being so great, there are no hard and fast rules which can be followed for managerial stability, which is why so often club owners end up pressing the panic button. Men like Ricky Sbragia who is in temporary charge at Sunderland, is another with a wealth of coaching experience, but he could just as easily fail at the Black Cats, just as Brain Kidd did at Blackburn.

We can all talk about giving the likes of Ince and Keane the luxury of that which waits for no man, but the reality is time waits for no manager.

The English game has seen an influx of overseas managers' and star players' over the last 15 years or so, but right at this moment in time the stock of English managers' with Premier League experience appears to be flavour of the month especially for the second and third-tier clubs.

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