Wednesday 18 September 2019

Three proves the magic number for managers in Premier League

Allardyce and Pardew show that 'made men' will never be out of a job for long in era of safety-first

Sam Allardyce makes his way into Goodison Park for last season’s game between Everton and Stoke City. Photo: Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
Sam Allardyce makes his way into Goodison Park for last season’s game between Everton and Stoke City. Photo: Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Three strikes and you're out? In the Premier League world, it's slightly different for managers. Three spins is generally enough to keep an individual permanently in the game.

The 'race' to become Everton manager has illustrated that. Sam Allardyce is back in pole position - moving ahead of fellow veterans Tony Pulis and Martin O'Neill in the pecking order - and that is a reminder of the tunnel vision that exists in the English top flight.

Once relegation becomes an option, the reflex action from club owners is to seek the tried and trusted. It's hardly surprising really when the only thing the vast majority of top-flight clubs can aspire to is simply keeping hold of their Premier League membership.

Everton had loftier ambitions, of course, and the Leicester fairytale will always be cited by those mid-table operations seeking a focus. But unless Santa Claus brings a Sheikh, they will start every campaign running the wrong way up an escalator hoping they don't get sucked down to the bottom. Survival is everything. Calling up Big Sam is logical.

Almost a year has passed since Hull went the other way and brought in Marco Silva, a switch that outraged Paul Merson and Phil Thompson. Merson, whose career in the dugout extended to a couple of unremarkable years with Walsall, suggested that Silva's league-winning feats in Greece were worthless.

"I could win the league with Olympiakos," he declared before adding: "What does he know about the Premier League?"

Phil Thompson added that his appointment was a 'slap in the face' for British coaches, and perhaps Allardyce's pride may still be dented by the belief he is only warming the seat for Silva.

As it happens, the current Watford boss has graduated to made man territory by following up his excellent efforts with Hull - they did suffer relegation but the quality of his work stood out - by making an instant impression with his new employers and ensuring they will not have to worry about the drop zone this term.

A third Premier League job is the point where a manager really knows he has cracked the gig; once you get to that point then it's harder to stay out of work.

And the reality is that the biggest obstacle to young British (and Irish) coaches getting their badges is the elder statesmen from the same parish.

If Allardyce (63) is appointed Everton boss, it would be his seventh different Premier League gig. When Roy Hodgson (70) was drafted in at Crystal Palace after their short-lived experiment with Frank de Boer, they became his fifth English top flight home.

West Ham are 54-year-old David Moyes' fourth employer at that level. Should West Brom turn to Alan Pardew (56) then it would be his fifth chance.

And then there's Pulis (59) whose name will be firmly in the mix for any vacancies that crop up, with the situation at Swansea sure to interest the Welshman.

West Brom was his third top-flight brief after Stoke and Crystal Palace and he's now done enough to be viewed as a 'Premier League manager'.

It took him a while to get there. Like all of the previous examples, Pulis had to climb the ladder to get to the top, and he was only ever going to ascend to the big league by bringing a team there himself.

His second stint at Stoke was his seventh managerial task but lasting the course and then doing reasonable jobs at Palace and West Brom has given him the stripes to stay high up the queue.

That is an achievement in a fickle industry where in the region of 70pc of first-time managers do not get a second job as a number one. Pulis was already a success story by consistently getting work in the lower divisions, but figuring out the top-flight code is laudable.

His replacement at Stoke, Mark Hughes, has established himself as belonging with the elite as both a player and manager. Once West Brom turned Pulis' way, his new rank was confirmed. The football may not be pretty, but there is a belief he can handle the spotlight and organise a team to make them a solid proposition.

David O'Leary is part of the group that only got two tries, but he was harmed by an inglorious end at Aston Villa and the right opportunity never came around to put him back in business. Alan Curbishley had the reins at Charlton and West Ham but never got the hat-trick opportunity despite being linked with several dozen and then slipped out of sight. John Gregory's work at Aston Villa gave him a twist at Derby but that his star fell quickly.

Tim Sherwood got the nod at Spurs and Aston Villa and used up his credit to drift off the radar. Owen Coyle was in fashion when he shone with Burnley and jumped ship for Bolton but his stock fell dramatically thereafter.

Gary Megson had two spells in the Premier League dugout with West Brom and Bolton and is now eager for another but Pardew has the recent form in the book and the deeper CV.

And then there's the case of Mick McCarthy, who was battling into the wind with both Sunderland and Wolves and has spoken openly about how he feels he will never be considered for Premier League roles.

At Championship level, there will always be interest, but the perception lingers that he's not a Premier League boss - maybe another job in a slightly more stable environment might have changed that. But he will have to take a team up to alter his standing.

Chris Hughton needed to be responsible for a promotion to claim his third try and his excellent work with Brighton has erased the memory of the disappointing end to his stay with Norwich. He could well be there for the long haul now.

Burnley's Sean Dyche is also another good decision away from preserving his position at the top table; he was at the crossroads at the start of this campaign.

Dyche is cut from a completely different cloth, but the example of Phil Brown hangs over every English rising star.

Premier League chairmen are obsessed by the safe pair of hands, with Watford and Southampton notable exceptions that have sought to look outside the box - the latter did take some stick for appointing Mauricio Pochettino.

Swansea were pilloried for taking a risk with Bob Bradley, and their patience in Paul Clement will now be tested considering the other four clubs in the bottom five have already changed manager this term.

This Premier League climate explains why the FAI will expect O'Neill to be linked with more roles. His work with Celtic and Ireland on top of his experience with Leicester, Aston Villa and Sunderland will mean that he always be mentioned in conjunction with Premier League gigs; he'd only been out of a job for seven months before accepting the FAI's offer.

The Derryman has been there and done that and that T-shirt carries real currency in a culture where there are enough people of influence that retain a fear of the unknown. On this lucrative managerial merry-go-round, it really is a case of third time lucky.

Irish Independent

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