Why on earth would you want to be a manager?
Steve Kean will be glad of the distance between himself and Blackburn Rovers supporters when he steps out at Carrow Road tomorrow afternoon.
They’ve been getting a little close for comfort of late, but should his team fail to take anything from the game, the width of City’s pitch won’t be enough to hide the howls from what will definitely be very wild Rovers.
Kean is the last man in football’s game of tag. He has been touched by failure. He is ‘it’, a pariah. Number one target. Some won’t rest until they drive him out.
Sacking a football manager used to be an art form. Now it can be just an abstract decision, based largely on finance and sometimes loosely on common sense and fair play. But perhaps mostly on fan power.
Managerial sackings are two a penny. There’s even a web site which awaits, like a sniper, to shoot down unsuspecting candidates. The next likely subject is lined up week after week, with the bookies’ odds next to their names showing how much of a game it has become.
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A day or two ago I heard Kean being interviewed for radio, denying he had ever said that he “didn’t care” what the angry Blackburn fans thought of him. Whether he said it or not I don’t know, but most people will tell you that once you upset your fans you’ve had it.
Peter Grant and Glenn Roeder probably regret comments made about Norwich supporters. In November, 2006, Grant accused them of failing to get behind the team in the closing stages of a match against Hull City.
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“Fifteen bloody minutes to go and we were 1-0 up, we can win the game,” he said. “We needed a little bit of help. They got their commitment, they got their passion, they never got anything back in return, not for 94 minutes did they get anything in return. For me that’s a disgrace.”
Big, big mistake.
Roeder’s relationship with supporters never appeared to be that good, and were perhaps summed up by his “I don’t remember your tenure as England manager” comment to one at a club AGM.
Once said, there’s no going back.
Paul Lambert has always admitted that two or three bad results and the chopping block will be edged closer to a position where it would suit his neck. But criticise the fans? Never.
There are few managers who haven’t suffered.
You’re a footballer, with a decent pension accrued over years of earning an above average salary. You will probably have a very nice house of your own, and a few others for your tenants (“we all live in a Robbie Fowler house” wasn’t just a funny song from the Liverpool fans, but illustrates perfectly how a footballer’s best friend is his financial advisor), and be earning pocket money through media opportunities.
There is no need whatsoever to consider going into management.
When you think about it, being a football manager is quite possibly the most ridiculous career choice anyone could ever make.
It’s not as if managers have the same amount of training time accorded to other professions. Footballers have a pair of boots laced up for them by their mum at some ridiculously young age and they spend years developing their skills before they are then dropped into the game’s sieve, mum and dad praying they drop through the hole marked “Big Money Ahead”.
Managers have to get it right straight away. The moment a manager takes over he is joined by thousands, tens of thousands, of fans who all believe they can manage the club better than him, and are never slow to make sure he knows. You are under constant scrutiny.
And then, in a game when contest involve just two combatants, when anything can happen, you lose a game. Then you lose another and another. Suddenly, you can’t be trusted to pick a team, to spend the transfer kitty, decide on tactics. It may be that you have half a dozen of your best players out, but that doesn’t matter. It may be your best player is having a hissy fit and not giving his all. But that doesn’t matter. It may be that you haven’t got two brass farthings to rub together. But that doesn’t matter.
There is only one thing that matters. Results. And if you are Sam Allardyce at West Ham, that Academy trained paragon of footballing virtue, even that might not be enough because it also has to be done in style.
Mick McCarthy was slaughtered on Saturday when his side were 2-0 down at home to Swansea. He made a double substitution, and was slaughtered again by fans who no doubt still secrete a banner which reads “You’ve let us down again” beneath their seats waiting for the next opportunity to unfurl it. That Wolves came back to draw 2-2 didn’t matter a jot. Wolves fans have got it in for McCarthy and even if his chairman thinks he’s the next best thing to sliced bread, that doesn’t matter, because the fans have turned.
Steve Kean will know what that’s all about because they’ve been protesting up at Blackburn for a while now. The owners have put money in, but where there are new owners with a few quid there is quite often a change of the guard in the offing.
Owners are fickle people. It’s their money and they can do what they want, but it is seems to me that the more money a club has the more insecure the manager’s role. Mark Hughes didn’t do an awful lot wrong at Manchester City, but the demand for instant success cost him his job. Even Roberto Mancini was under pressure last season, despite guiding the club to their first trophy in a million years.
Chelsea have Roman Abramovitch’s billions, but it hasn’t stopped him kicking out Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti in less than four years.
Some owners don’t think twice about kicking out a valuable asset because they can afford to throw a lump sum at him and pay big money for a replacement. And if he doesn’t work out, they’ll do it again. And again. And again.