Saturday 16 December 2017

Managers are the ultimate optimists

Eamonn Sweeney

The departure of Mick McCarthy sums up the Sisyphean nature of football management.

For the second time in his career, the Yorkshire man has been sacked by a club he's brought into the Premier League. The phrase 'making a rod for your own back' comes to mind. His very success in winning promotion with Sunderland and Wolves sowed the seeds of McCarthy's downfall. Any manager bringing a team up to the Premier League runs the risk of engendering expectations he can't fulfil. Your day of glory is the day the real struggle begins. And so it was with McCarthy.

It's a rare football manager who goes through his career without having his contract terminated in the most inglorious fashion. It happens to the best of them. Alex Ferguson got his marching orders from St Mirren, Arsene Wenger began his career by being shown the road by AS Nancy, Roberto Mancini jumped before he was pushed out of relegation-threatened Fiorentina and Kenny Dalglish was given the gate by Newcastle United and Celtic.

Further down the league things are even crueller. In the last two months, ten new managers have taken over clubs in Championship, League One and League Two. New Notts County boss Keith Curle has been sacked from each of his previous three jobs. County, Oldham Athletic, Plymouth Argyle, Crystal Palace and QPR have all sacked new Leeds United manager Neil Warnock. Mark McGhee will be hoping he has better luck at Bristol Rovers than at Wolves, Millwall, Brighton and Aberdeen where he amassed a quartet of sackings.

Simon Grayson of Huddersfield Town has been laid off by Leeds United, Gary Smith of Stevenage Borough by Colorado Rapids and Paul Cook of Accrington Stanley by Southport. Preston North End boss Graham Westley's CV includes dismissals by non-league sides Enfield, Kettering and Kingstonian. Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson's half-dozen sackings include one by the Latvian national team. Neale Cooper of Hartlepool United also boasts an international dimension to his career having been sacked in England by Gillingham and Scotland by Peterhead. Only new Rochdale manager John Coleman is a sacking virgin, having enjoyed a dozen rancour-free years at the helm of Accrington Stanley.

It's a perilous job, managing the smaller clubs whose dreams and ambitions will always be larger than their capabilities. You'd be tempted to say that there can't be many tougher ways to make a living. Warnock, for example, is a superb manager who has earned several promotions for his clubs over the years. On the other hand, there are few jobs where you can fail, fail again and keep getting another chance. Football management is perhaps the ultimate triumph of optimism over experience.

Mind you, there are managers who've never been sacked. Like Steve Kean. And Andre Villas-Boas. I wonder what their secret is?

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