Results will speak louder than time in Grant struggle
Published 01/11/2010 | 05:00
AS well as people turning up an hour early for various activities yesterday and others forgetting what age they were in dodgy Halloween costumes, the one thing that this time of year always brings is a manager being sacked.
Before the Carling Cup game against Arsenal, bookies -- not for any publicity-seeking reasons, of course -- stopped taking bets that Chris Hughton would be the first Premier League manager to be fired, despite him turning Newcastle from a circus into a team so well bonded that the star striker babysits the captain's kids. Or perhaps that should be the other way around.
"Imagine if Arsene Wenger and Ferguson hadn't been allowed to carry on after the first year, the history of Arsenal and United would be different," said West Ham boss Avram Grant last week, citing the refrain of just about every manager who feels the vultures circling around the dugout. "I don't like to take examples from other teams, but we (Grant and Wenger) share the same ideas. On the football side, building a team from the Academy, that will be the vision for West Ham -- the same as Arsenal, more or less."
Grant and Hughton remain two of the favourites for the chop, but, unlike Grant, Hughton has had the good sense not to speak about the club's lofty plans for the future just in case they don't involve him.
By the time they finally go, Ferguson and Wenger will have left a stunning legacy at their clubs, but, for other managers, their departures will remove a safety net on the bizarre notion that, if teams wait long enough with somebody, they'll eventually find success just because this happened twice in the last 20 years.
At around this time every season, chairmen of teams in the lower end of the Premier League tend to look at the table and the forthcoming fixtures a little more closely and, if they are really masochistic, they might glance towards the top of League One for potential opponents in the Championship next year.
If they are used to playing Manchester United and Chelsea, it's understandable that the thoughts of a league game with Brighton or Huddersfield would be enough for them to do some firing and hiring.
If that happens, particularly to a manager popular with the media, there'll be a queue of pundits ready to lambast the trigger-happy chairman for not giving the recently-departed and well-compensated ex-boss more time to make his mark. Yet the reality is that many managers are out of their depth and, by giving them more time, there's more chance of the club continuing its downward spiral than there is of a miracle recovery simply because a few more months have passed.
At Tottenham, Juande Ramos was sacked after just under a year in charge when, eight games and two points into the 2008/2009 season Daniel Levy took the plunge with the team four points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League.
Two years later, the club are preparing to welcome Inter Milan to White Hart Lane in a Champions League match and, on Saturday, went to Old Trafford with six of the same starting line-up (Gomes, Hutton, Bale, Jenas, Modric and Lennon) who began Ramos' final game in charge at Stoke. Perhaps with another few months, Ramos could have catapulted Tottenham back up the league table, although given what has happened since, it's probably only Arsenal supporters who are sorry that he wasn't given the chance.
Even though he came closer than any other manager to bringing Roman Abramovich his much sought-after Champions League prize, Grant's reputation in the English game seems to be based far more on his seemingly dour personality than his ability.
At West Ham, he continued his dreadful timing of arriving at a club soon after the departure of a charming, quote-friendly manager in Gianfranco Zola, which gave Grant an unwanted hat-trick after taking over from Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and soon after Redknapp at Portsmouth.
Next week, West Ham head for Birmingham -- the club which David Sullivan and David Gold used to own -- before home games with West Brom and Blackpool. If they still find themselves rock bottom of the table after that, Grant's pleas for time won't be heard over the the stampede to the bookies.