Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in British football. Over his 22 year reign at Old Trafford the 67-year-old Scot has won an incredible 10 Premier League titles, the FA Cup five times, the Champions League twice, the League Cup three times, amidst other accolades. He has become the archetypal modern day manager and an example to all vying managers learning their trade in this fiercely competitive sport.
A closer look at the ‘big-four’ shows that Arsenal and Liverpool seem to have taken this on board. Liverpool have recently rewarded Rafa Benitez with a new contract which will keep him at Anfield until 2014. The 48-year-old signed a new deal a week after inflicting Real Madrid’s heaviest defeat in Europe and compounding a serious title challenge by dispatching United in their own back yard. Rafa has had his doubters, but since arriving at the helm of the Reds he has reached the Champions League final twice, winning it in his first season with the club and the FA Cup a year later.
Arsenal’s current manager, Arsene Wenger, who arrived in 1996, is their longest running manager in terms of games and also their most successful manager in terms of percentage of wins. There have been mutterings in the last few seasons and, daren’t I say it, rumours of a change of regime at Arsenal. Arsenal have fallen off the pace a bit but talk to any Arsenal fan and I’m sure he/she would be the first to rubbish any talks of Arsene being on the way out. Success in the form of three Premier League titles (the latest: 2003/4), four FA Cups and a European Cup final under the Frenchman cannot, should not be easily forgotten.
But when one takes a look at the ‘new-boys’ Blues – there seems to be a completely different mentality within the hierarchy at the Bridge. In the time since Arsenal have been led by Wenger, Chelsea have had no less than seven managers and two care-taker managers. The latest axings have sent shock waves through the footballing world. How can a manager who takes his team to the Champions League final and finish Premier League runners-up still be sacked? I mentioned this is a competitive sport but this seems almost farcical. Avram Grant was in the job for nine months. His successor, one of the most respected managers in international football Luiz Felipe Scolari only survived seven months.
This has to be something to do with their Russian billionaire oligarch pulling the strings behind closed doors, but he risks damaging his club’s success if he keeps up this managerial merry-go-round. Chelsea have only won the Premier League three times in their history and I think if they are to match the other ‘big-three’ and actually create their own history they need to keep the faith with new man Gus Hiddink or someone else and over a prolonged period of time. Trophies speak louder than anything else.
Stability is what club’s should strive for. Tottenham Hotspur are another club that have, arguably, seriously under-achieved with a wealth of talented players at the club over the years. Having said that, it seems White Hart Lane has adopted a rotational system similar to that used by Rafa Benitez. Managers have come and gone and there have been no less than 12 managers during Wenger’s tenure at their north London rivals. Which trophies have Spurs won in the past ten years to show for this? A mere two League Cups e basta.
So, stability is crucial; it must be agonisingly difficult supporting a club like West Brom with the constant drama of promotions and relegations at the Hawthorns. This season has shown just like any other that there is virtually no such thing as job security in the Premier League.
Paul Ince, a young and aspiring manager was shown the door out of Ewood Park with not much of a chance to prove himself. The same treatment has been dished out to Scolari, Kevin Keegan, Tony Adams, Roy Keane , Alan Curbishley and Juande Ramos this season.
Everton have stuck by Moyes and have reached a kind limit which they seem unable to breach ie the ‘big-four’. Boro” chairman Steve Gibson has recently publicly backed Gareth Southgate despite the club’s worrying 19th position, 4 points, adrift from safety and the likes of Bruce, Zola and Hodgson have surpassed expectations all keeping their clubs in contention for a Europa League spot next season. Still remains to be seen how long these managers last before a chairman or the fans grow tired and think it wise to move onto the next gaffer.
Teams, players, fans and managers often talk about stability but it seems very few clubs actually pursue it and with the 2008/09 season coming to a close we can only wait and see which clubs are rewarded for their loyalty to one man. My guess is Chelsea have a lot to learn.
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