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Villas-Boas and Kean in middle of festive season firing line

It is the season to be jolly, but not if you are a Premier League manager according to Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers' Association. The festive season has become English football's sacking season.

Steve Bruce is the first faller, axed from his job at Sunderland, but he is unlikely to be the last. For Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea and Steve Kean at Blackburn, there is every reason to be concerned.

As the pressure mounts and supporters call for their removal, fingers are hovering over the 'fire' button in the boardrooms. English football used to see the highest number of managerial casualties in October and November, but, Bruce's sacking aside, there has been a gradual shift towards midwinter in recent years.

Bevan would like to think it was down to more restraint, but he fears chairmen and owners are just waiting for the January transfer window to appear on the horizon before they start handing out P45s.

At Sunderland they could not wait that long, but Bevan fears even more sackings are to come. "The traditional time to switch managers used to be at the end of the season, then it came in October and November,"said Bevan.

"Suggested reasons for this include the possibility that clubs had begun to change managers in advance of the transfer window in order that any budget can be spent by the new manager. Now, the peak in October and November appears in recent years to have fallen and it is occurring a little later."

In each of the last three seasons, the most amount of managers have lost their jobs in December and with two teetering on the edge, it is a pattern that may well continue.

Given yesterday's events at the Stadium of Light, Blackburn's Kean will do well to last until the hectic Christmas programme begins. Villas-Boas may have been backed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last week, but there is also good reason for him to worry every time the Russian rings.

The LMA's figures show that most sackings come after a run of six bad results.

Chelsea have lost three out of their last five, Sunderland did not wait to see what their sixth game would bring after just one win and two draws from their previous five, while Blackburn have only two draws from five outings to show for their continued backing for Kean.

Then again, perhaps those who are thinking of following Sunderland's lead by bringing about a change of manager should take notice of other LMA research which shows how futile it can be.

Although the initial honeymoon period following a new manager's appointment does lead to an improvement in results, the average length of that period is just 18 games.

Once over, the vast majority of teams slip back to the same points-per-game level they had under the predecessor. No wonder the average life expectancy of a manager over the last five years equates to less than 1.89 years. (© (Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent