Should they stick or sack?
29 July ~ Steve Clarke and Sam Allardyce are favourites at 6/1, Roberto di Matteo is a tempting offer at 12/1, while Alex Ferguson is an outside bet at 66/1. Yes, the beginning of the Premier League season marks the start of the managerial sackrace for bookmakers. Last year we had to wait until November 30 – more than three months into the season – for Sunderland to give Steve Bruce the boot. Until then, you could be forgiven for thinking that clubs were starting to ignore fan and media pressure and show some patience. After Bruce three more managers followed by early March, and another three after the season ended.
The dilemma of whether to sack or stick with managers plagues Premier League decision-makers every season. It comes down to whether the manager is going to bring enough success to the club. There is no straightforward answer to which option – sacking or sticking – might work best. Look at the two most successful clubs in English football over the last decade, Manchester United and Chelsea.
The former have won 12 League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions League competitions under one manager, Alex Ferguson. It wasn't always plain sailing – it took him four seasons to win a major trophy and a further three to win the League – and many clubs would have lost faith. But United stuck with him and it paid off.
Chelsea have been through nine managers – including caretakers Guus Hiddink and Ray Wilkins – since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. This instability has worked well for the Blues, who have won ten major trophies to United's nine since Abramovich came to England (though admittedly Ferguson won an extra League title in this time).
José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti both won the Premier League in their first seasons, Guus Hiddink revitalised a league campaign and won the FA Cup in three months, and it took an inexperienced Roberto di Matteo just two months to win both the FA Cup and Champions League.
Manchester United and Chelsea create a conundrum for Premier League clubs. Both have achieved great success in recent times, but in completely different ways. Does Ferguson's reign at United prove stability is best? Or is he just a unique and exceptional manager?
Does the modern game suit the high manager turnover exemplified by Chelsea? These are the key questions for Premier League club owners and chairmen to answer. The season's sackrace starts soon. William Turvill