Managers on the brink as LMA condemns sackings
As a host of Premier League bosses fight to keep their jobs, the LMA pleads with clubs not to wield the axe
Wednesday night’s Premier League results threw several managerial posts onto the knife edge, triggering a media furore with potential dismissals and possible replacements discussed at length.
On Thursday evening the League Managers Association (LMA) wrote an open letter to the football media reflecting on the departures of football managers throughout 2010. The organisation, which represents the 92 league football managers, highlighted the long-term benefits for club owners in sticking with their coaches. It was aptly timed for under-fire managers Roy Hodgson, Carlo Ancelotti, Gerard Houllier and Avram Grant.
Hodgson is the bookmakers favourite to be given his marching orders first following a dismal first six months in charge at Anfield. Disappointing defeats to Wolves and Blackburn in the last eight days, albeit with a late comeback over Bolton on New Years Day providing brief respite, have seen the former Fulham boss edge ever closer to a premature end to a difficult spell at Liverpool.
Reports suggest the club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), led by John W Henry are considering the 64-year-old’s future. Hogdson was seen by former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett as a safe choice to see the club through a difficult period. Upon FSG’s subsequent takeover Henry was willing to give the experienced manager a chance to prove his capabilities.
However, the club have secured just a single away victory, testing the patience of the owners and supporters alike. The unenviable task of masterminding a third round FA Cup success against Manchester United at Old Trafford now awaits Hodgson. The club opted to cancel his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the FA Cup clash, and it is understood that he will remain in charge for the immediate future at least.
Ancelotti admits he must swiftly turn around his fortunes at Stamford Bridge in order for him to continue on as Chelsea boss. The Blues were beaten comprehensively by struggling Wolves at Molineux on Wednesday and now lie nine points off the pace having played one game more than table-toppers Manchester United.
The Italian says he would be “surprised” if Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich were to terminate his contract, but despite Ancelotti’s defiance the former AC Milan manager is acutely aware recent results are “not good enough” with the defending champions picking up just 10 points from a possible 33.
Further down the Premier League table, Aston Villa have been sucked into a relegation battle, a prospect which seemed unfathomable with the new season set to begin with so much promise under Martin O’Neill. Randy Lerner’s replacement for the disillusioned O’Neill was the experienced Houiller.
But the former Liverpool manager has not enjoyed his brief spell in Birmingham. Under the French manager Villa have managed just three league victories since September, a sequence of results which has left them lingering in the relegation zone.
The 63-year-old was backed by Lerner on Thursday with the American owner content to give Houiller time to turn around the club’s fortunes. The Midlands club face a difficult run of games with a trip to St Andrews for the local derby, followed by the visit of Manchester City and a trip to Old Trafford.
Also in a relegation scrap are Grant’s West Ham. The resounding 5-0 reversal against Newcastle at St James’ Park heaped pressure back onto the Israeli manager after a reasonable festive period which had seen the Hammers move from the bottom of the table.
The Hammers navigated through the Christmas schedule unbeaten with victories against Fulham and Wolves while sharing the spoils with Everton and Blackburn. It appeared to alleviate pressure from Grant’s shoulders and momentarily restore calm in the Upton Park boardroom, but Wednesday night’s heavy defeat has once again cast the spotlight on Grant’s future.
As it stands, we are yet to see the first Premier League dismissal of 2011, and as the LMA have warned, parting company with the boss is not always the most sensible option. “Statistics show that a club is likely to end up worse off when they sack their manager. They have less points and are often significantly out of pocket due to monies spent on compensation and paying up contracts.”