If we have learned anything this season it is that patience is a virtue, particularly when it comes to smaller clubs.
To be honest, I think most of us knew that before the start of this campaign, but owners of clubs just cannot seem to grasp it. This season, all three relegated clubs from the Premier League changed managers (twice in Fulham’s case) and their results got worse. Out of the last nine sides to drop out of the top-flight in the last three campaigns, seven of those changed bosses during the course of the season.
The majority of them had an initial impact with positive results, but it soon tailed off as it became clear that what was needed was a person who knew the extent of the problems having been there a good deal longer.
Sunderland swapped Paolo di Canio for Gus Poyet, but that was soon after the beginning of the season, and it was in place of a man who it seems was highly derided within the club. In that situation, the person in question had to be let go. West Bromwich Albion inexplicably got rid of Steve Clarke, the man who had guided the Baggies to their highest league finish for 32 years after a run of bad results.
Under Clarke the team averaged 1.06 points per game. From then on it was 1.04. Not much of a difference, but a difference all the same. And for someone who lifted the expectations of the club the previous season, he should have held on to his job for longer than he did.
Easy to say now, but Clarke would have got them through it and then had a basis and lesson to learn from with the group of players who have become used to his methods. Then, when Pepe Mel was finally appointed, the personnel had to get used to another style of management, and will have to again this summer after Mel was relieved of his duties earlier this week. Clarke’s still without a club, so he would be a good shout as, give or take a couple of players, it’s the same team.
When I’ve written about this subject before, a good deal of supporters of relegated clubs insist that change was justified despite things deteriorating further, even in the case of Wolverhampton Wanderers who went down not once, but twice in quick succession after giving Mick McCarthy the chop. One fan responded to my article ‘How the mess at Wolves exemplifies why chairmen and women should exercise more patience’ with:
"McCarthy, as all Wolves fans know, took the club as far as he could and if at Molineux another 10 years the results or the league position would not have changed very much, still hovering around the relegation zone and losing more than winning!"
I replied that: ‘‘I bet now, in the club’s current predicament, you wouldn’t have minded the league position changing much i.e. 17th in the Premiership rather than 24th in League One.’’
The situation at Wolves that saw them in the third tier within a year should have been a sign clear enough that owners everywhere noticed that it rarely pays to change managers during the course of the season. Obviously not clear enough it seems. It would take a sign so bright that it would blind them into handing the reins to someone who actually knows a thing or two about football, someone who would then instil some level-headedness into the club.
Regularly switching managers works better for clubs at the top with the financial resources to virtually pick and choose who they want, even if I and many others think the attitude stinks. But if stability is needed anywhere, it’s the ones that don’t have it in the first place e.g. the yo-yo clubs and ones who sit in the bottom half of the table year in, year out.
This also applies to Tottenham Hotspur as well who, in constantly bringing new people in have to once again settle in players who were just getting used to the old boss. Despite Daniel Levy’s desperate attempts it wasn’t enough as they missed out on the Champions League yet again. When will he and his contemporaries learn, eh?
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