The New Year was less than 2 weeks old when the English Premier League saw it's first managerial casualty of 2008, with Sam Allardyce leaving his job at Newcastle United, by “mutual consent.”
'Big Sam' was just 24 matches into a 3 year contract, and the team were 11th in the league, not in danger from relegation, but conversely not doing well enough for fans of the North East's 'Sleeping Giants' to be happy with. Allardyce had become unpopular with the 'Toon Army' because of what they had viewed as negative football. A bad run of form over the Christmas period sealed his fate. Newcastle losing three straight league matches and failing to beat lower league Stoke in the FA Cup.
Ultimately it was in the boardroom that his fate was sealed. Their new Billionaire owner Mike Ashley had inherited the manager when he took over the club in May 2007. The 0-0 draw with Stoke in the FA Cup was the last straw for the Newcastle owner. Ashley and chairman Chris Mort made a decision to fire Allardyce and begin the search for their own manager.
Many observers have commented that a manager or head coach needs much more time to make an impact at their club. Most commonly quoted is the example of Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been so successful at Manchester United, having been there for 21 years and winning numerous trophies.
Since Alex Ferguson has been Head Coach at Manchester United, 1986– their Geordie rivals have had to seek a new permanent manager ten times and despite being generally thought of as 'sleeping giants' have failed to win any significant trophies since the European Fairs Cup victory in 1969.
“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” has been the cry of the Geordie faithful, for too long. Former England Captain Kevin Keegan came closest to leading them to glory in 1996, leading the Premier League for most of the season, but Manchester United closed a 12 point gap that year and beat the Toon to the title.
The Toon Army seem to long for a return to those heady heights, almost repeated by Sir Bobby Robson in the early years of this century, but a lack of longevity of management is often thought to be their Achilles heel.
Sam Allardyce is Newcastle's 5th manager to be axed in a decade and 8 out of 20 Premier League clubs have now changed their managers since the season started in August.
Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson joined the chorus of Premier League managers in support of the outgoing Toon boss, telling Sky Sports News that he was “surprised” that Allardyce did not have more time, whilst also adding that England had changed a lot over the last 10 years, and was becoming more like South European nations such as Spain or Italy when sacking their managers.
There does seem to be a growing trend of fast turnaround of Head Coaches in the Premier League, but Newcastle are not the worst culprits. There are six other current Premier League clubs who have had the same or more managers in the Premier League era.
Is the Premier League becoming more like Southern Europe in it's approach? Is it good, bad or inevitable? What is the cause?
Is it the fans every increasing demand for value for money, in an era where season tickets can cost more than a months wages?
Is it the new owners who have invested billions into the Premier League, becoming more and more demanding for fast results?
What affect does the fast turnaround of managers and the demand for experienced, foreign coaches coming into the English League have on home grown managers? Are foreign managers necessarily better?
Is a club better off for a football club to stick with a manager for a long time and allow them to build a squad in their own image? Or is it more important to get the right manager in place?
What encouragement is there for young coaches to aspire to coach and manage at the top level?
Answers on a postcard please! You are invited to discuss these questions in more depth on the Soccer forum.
The English Premier League is a high pressure environment, and ultimately perhaps the chance at glory is it's own reward, but the time it takes to build a successful team at the top level is getting shorter all the time. The compensation package for the outgoing manager will soften the blow.
Meanwhile, it is highly likely that Sam Allardyce will bounce straight back and be involved in football again soon. After a short break with his wife and family, it is reported that he is interested in managing the Republic of Ireland national team and potentially one of the favourites to get the job as Head Coach.