The Premier League Merry-Go-Round has never been so apparent. Southampton sacked Mauricio Pellegrino after just one win in 17 league games saw them sit just one point adrift from safety. With eight games to go, it was important to find the right man to keep them up.
Enter Mark Hughes, the man who had just been sacked by Stoke City after winning just five of his opening 22 games of the season and exiting the FA Cup with defeat to League Two’s Coventry City. Stoke City sacked Hughes because they had been sucked into a relegation battle, and looked to be heading in only one direction. Not an inspiring choice of manager for Southampton, who are in a similar position to the one Hughes had left Stoke in.
Mark Hughes has done great things at Blackburn and Stoke (up until this season) but that is partly the point here. Southampton don’t expect Mark Hughes to take them to new heights and European glory as a long-term manager. They just want survival, but it’s not as if Hughes is a survival specialist. He was also sacked by QPR before Christmas in 2012 when they inevitably went down, and Stoke have never been involved in any serious relegation fights under the Welshman.
He could be the man to keep Southampton up, but there’s a broader point to make: English football’s managerial merry-go-round is in full swing. It seems like managers such as Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson, Alan Pardew, David Moyes and Tony Pulis are hired by struggling Premier League clubs, sacked when results don’t go their way, and then hired again by other struggling teams in a never-ending cycle.
I can’t imagine they love to be at a team that is at the bottom of the table because they already showed all of us they are good at turning the corner and bringing teams up to mid-table (or higher) status. The best football I have seen their teams play is also when they are mid-table or above.
When a club near the bottom of the table hires one of these guys its a sign that they’re just hoping for survival.
Some people argue that too many foreign managers come to the Premier League and don’t give home-grown leaders the chance. But the reality is that some of the British guys who have been in the business for decades are monopolizing all of the opportunity.
Craig Shakespeare was given his chance at Leicester and turned things around for the Foxes to keep them up, but was then abruptly sacked after a poor start to the following season, and now he’s in a coaching role at Everton under Big Sam.
Young managers are like young players. If you want to build something successful for a long period you need to take a calculated risk. Find out what makes them a great candidate because now I see a lot of managers getting turned down because they aren’t well-connected with the right person at the club. Football is based on results, but it’s also about growing the club to bigger success and status than it has already.
Today the game is largely about money so boards don’t like taking unnecessary risks. But sometimes playing it safe is the biggest risk of all.