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Time is running out for Martin Jol as Fulham manager to steer his side out of the relegation zone. Ian Walton / Getty Images
Time is running out for Martin Jol as Fulham manager to steer his side out of the relegation zone. Ian Walton / Getty Images

Coaches hot under the collar is not good

The role of money, club executives and the media can all be blamed for English football's short-termism where only seven of 92 managers in four divisions have held their job for more than three years.

When Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of last season, Arsene Wenger was left as the longest-serving English Premier League manager, having been in the Arsenal job 17 years.

It comes as something of a shock to realise that the next longest-serving manager is Alan Pardew, who will not complete three years at Newcastle United until December 9 (if he does indeed complete them).

In the whole English league structure, only seven of the 92 managers have been in their jobs more than three years.

Six years ago, when his former assistant at Manchester United, Steve McClaren, was being hounded out of the England job, Ferguson blamed the rise of reality television shows for creating a “mocking culture”.

Certainly the old reverence for the manager has gone: this is a world in which radio phone-ins and social media make discontent ever easier to express.

Nobody is rarely afforded a second chance: make a mistake as a manager and the axe will fall; the thought that somebody might actually be allowed to learn from their errors, to improve themselves in the job, seems faintly ludicrous.

If part of the reason is the exposure of the game, the constant discussion and the need for narrative (for the top sides two games without a win is rarely a blip, it’s always an emerging crisis), another major part is the money involved.

For the best teams, missing out on Uefa Champions League qualification has severe financial consequences. At the other end of the table, relegation from the Premier League can have catastrophic consequences — and that means the urge for a quick fix can be hard to resist.

That is what Sunderland got last season. With Martin O’Neill’s reign entering a phase of what felt like inevitable decay, the appointment of Paolo Di Canio brought a short, sharp shock. Wins over Newcastle United and Everton and survival, although there is no statistical evidence for the widely held belief in “new manager bounce”.

This season brought the hangover: a dictatorial, look-at-me managerial style that could not be sustained when results went awry. With players almost in open revolt, the club had little option but to rid themselves of the Italian just five games into the new season.

Attention has now turned to the director of football, Roberto De Fanti, and his role is another reason managers seem increasingly expendable.

The manager is no longer the omnipotent figure he once was, overseeing everything at a club. Now, he is essentially a first-team coach, with other executives concerning themselves with transfers and the financial side of business.

In the best examples — Swansea City, for instance — the philosophy is laid down by the club, with the manager charged with pursuing it. In theory, at least, managers can be replaced without creating a leadership vacuum, and that makes them extremely useful scapegoats.

Fulham and Crystal Palace now seem to have decisions to make.

Palace perhaps feel that, given their lack of resources, there is no sense in replacing Ian Holloway, although his defeatism seems baffling.

But Fulham must be wondering whether they can continue under Martin Jol or whether replacing him would jolt their season into life.


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