Between 25 November and 2 December 2013, seven football managers lost their jobs in England. That was a particularly bad week for bosses but out of the norm. According to the League Managers Association, 38 coaches have lost their roles so far this season.
Fulham have had three different men at the helm; Richie Barker has managed two teams and is now out of a job; four black managers are now absent from the four main leagues; and Swansea thanked Michael Laudrup for their first major trophy by ousting him in February.
Research by two professors at Hull and Bangor Universities found that over 40 years of English football, sacking a manger on average was more harmful to the team’s performance than doing nothing.
That seems to hold true in the Premier League: bar Crystal Palace, none of the teams that have changed their manager so far this season can claim to have seen their new appointee drastically improve the team’s run of form. Fulham had to even replace their replacement for Martin Jol. Cardiff, Sunderland, West Brom and Swansea have all struggled, while Norwich have seemingly decided to replace their two-year boss just before they meet Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to finish a torrid season.
Yet the alternative – stand by your man – poses its own tricky scenario. West Ham stuck with Sam Allardyce and the team is (almost) safe. Yet what happens when the years drag on and the Irons reach the stage of Arsenal currently. Arsene Wenger is now the longest-serving manager in the English game, now in his 18th season. Just to emphasise our transient managers are these days, Allardyce is the 12th longest-reigning manager in the top four leagues. He was appointed in June 2011.
Most would agree that Arsenal have benefited from the long tenure of Wenger and the consistency he has provided, albeit without a trophy for the past nine years. That drought may come to an end as the FA Cup Final approaches. Some believe victory against Hull City will spell the end of Wenger: like Sir Alex Ferguson before him, it is best to end on a high.
Yet Ferguson’s 27-year reign has been followed by a year of disappointment and fan frustration. Clearly, having a long-serving manager is beneficial. But when is it time for them then to leave? And when they do leave, does that mean a long, drawn-out period of transition as the team adjusts to a new man at the helm and a new way of doing things?
No one knows when Wenger will leave, who will replace him and what will then follow. The Manchester United situation may be an anomaly too: not only may the team be completely overhauled over the summer, but Everton’s strengthening under Roberto Martinez after David Moyes’ reign surely shows that the end of a long-term boss’ premiership does not have to be followed by transition and rebuilding.
Bookmakers exist because of two reasons: gambling is fun and ultimately addictive, and sport – no, everything – is unpredictable. It is impossible to tell what the state of Arsenal, Manchester United or Everton will be in a year’s time, or whether all three managers will be in place (Martinez seems the one safe bet).
The question though is what is best for West Ham United? It is my firm belief that Sam Allardyce should be given at least until our move to the Olympic Stadium to prove his worth and strengthen our Premier League position. West Ham fans may like to tout that we play our football on the floor, but I would point out that another Hammer’s tradition is sticking by our managers.
Between 1895 and 1989 (94 years), West Ham had only five managers. Since then, in 25 years, we’ve had nine. It’s time to solidify our place in the top league and win a cup trophy. Once that consistency and stability is there – along with the added revenue and prestige of the Olympic Stadium – then the club can consider whether it wants to add some spice and go a different way. Only when the team is ready.