Are All Football Managers Masochists?

Andy B May 19, 2011 0

They seem suspiciously happy to expose themselves to abuse and blame for results they can have little control over (compared to the players, at least). Even if they’re successful one season, that only gives their future-detractors ammunition with which to accuse them of having ‘lost it’ in following seasons when they inevitably struggle to achieve quite the same level of success. Ferguson and Wenger, two of the Premiership’s most successful managers, have certainly had their fair share of such accusations during less successful periods. It seems the only way to maintain a reputation as a good manager is to ditch your team as soon as you win anything with them and get out of the country.

But before we all start wearing ribbons for them, let’s not forget that, by regular standards, they do have a really, really, easy job. They never even have to run!  The ‘pressure’ they suffer surrounds their long-term decisions,  that can be made over hours, with advice from colleagues and underlings, in the pub, in the bath, in bed. Not like the players’ instant-result/consequence pressure on the pitch, which could more conceivably get to you ‘in the moment’ and cause some ill-advised (not-at-all-advised, to be fair to them) decisions like poor passing choices, over-zealous tackles or yellow cards for dissent.

So isn’t the role of manager, even with no transfer budget, stars sold, replacements touted, actually a pretty cushty job? Why should we feel sorry for them? ‘Aw, they’ve been treated badly’, ‘Made fools of in the public eye’, ‘Terrible pressure, terrible pressure’. These people (the ones we tend to hear about at least) are averaging £1m a year in wages. That’s almost £20,000 a week – not far off what a lot of the premier-league players (that we’ll never feel sorry for because ‘Look-how-much-money-they-make-it’s-a-joke’) earn.

But they have to work 80-odd hours a week! Including weekends! Poor darlings. The average football fan probably thinks about what their team needs to do/sign/sell/set-up/drop/promote for about half of that anyway. For free.

Which this week brings us to West Ham. Whatever could have enticed Avram Grant to the position that he ‘was advised by several people not to take’? Can anyone think what could possibly have possessed him? Despite the ‘terrible situation’ he knew he would find himself in at the currently-so-turbulent club? And why would any other sane person want to take over as manager of the club?

Admittedly, the way West Ham’s owners had touted Grant’s recently-vacated position to other managers behind their current employee’s back can’t have been much fun for him, and has already blown the club’s chances of getting Martin O’Neill on board. And did they think that sacking Grant minutes after the game that confirmed their relegation would do anything to help repair their image as Employers From Hell amongst the football-management community?

But the reality is that there will always be plenty of managers who are willing to take the position, however ‘difficult’ the circumstances, because it beats working for a living. Or punditry – which it turns out must be a lot harder than it looks, considering the ever-declining quality of ‘insight’ we’re fed these days from the BBC, Sky, or (god help us) ITV.

Maybe Grant’s instant-sacking was a move engineered to help the club’s long-suffering fans to release some of their considerable frustration in these disappointing times. We’d all like to be able to sack someone for not delivering our team to the Premiership title, Champions League & FA Cup treble, and the manager’s the only one you can’t sell, so why not? He gets his money, you get your fall guy. Everyone’s a winner.

But right after the game?

Maybe they just wanted to be able to get into the changing room before other Premiership suitors came calling for Scott Parker and offer him the job. Apparently he’s been taking the half-time team talks this year anyway, and I can’t see too many West Ham fans arguing with that appointment after the dogged performances he’s consistently turned in over the season. He’s a man that doesn’t crack under pressure, that much seems clear.

And coaching badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!*

* Just ask Gareth Southgate.