The fickle fate of football managers
Posted by John Beech on March 14, 2011
This morning’s announcement that Aidy Boothroyd has been sacked as manager of Coventry City (1) brings a local dimension for me on that increasingly common fate for a manager who does not bring success to their club. There is a second very recent local case, that of Ian Sampson at Northampton Town (2), which I will turn to below.
In Boothroyd’s case his team had produced only one win in the last sixteen games, so it is pretty clear that some action by the board was justified. In a general sense though, and I emphasise that I not focusing on recent form and events at Coventry, there are the unaddressed, and I suspect internally unasked by a Board of Directors, questions a) have we given this manager a chance to show his mettle beyond the short-term situation he inherited, b) have we given him the support he might reasonably expect, and c) are there any issues to do with his recruitment and appointment that we, the Board, have been in any way at fault with? I doubt that in general the answers to these three questions are an unequivocal ‘Yes’, ‘Yes’, and ‘No’.
At Coventry there have been recent Board changes (3), so there may be at least an element of ‘new brushes’ and ‘sweeping clean’. Nevertheless, as recently as five weeks ago, Chairman Ray Ranson (4), someone not exactly unversed in the vaguaries of the football sector, who has been chairman of Coventry City for just over three years, and who must accept the responsibility for Boothroyd’s appointment in May last year, said “There are no issues whatsoever with Aidy – we’re still very supportive of the manager” (5). Not, of course, that such statements of confidence in a manager are infrequently an omen of a sacking.
At Northampton Town at the beginning of this month Ian Sampson was sacked as manager (6), having failed to produce a win in the previous seven games. In this case, the three questions I have posed certainly need to be asked. Sampson had been an employee of the club since 1994! He had played 449 games for the club, then been promoted from youth team coach to first team coach, then caretaker manager, and finally manager in October 2009. He was given a fresh three-year contract in March 2010.
‘Seven failures to produce a win’ sets Sampson’s recent form in an unfairly poor light – six of the results had been draws.
Chairman David Cardoza defended the sacking of an employee with seventeen years service thus:
“The club must always come first but that doesn’t make this decision any easier. I, my fellow directors, the staff and supporters all wanted Ian to succeed. I really hoped Ian would prove a successful manager here, but I did not see enough signs that we were improving as a side. Ian had put together a decent squad, and in a way that made our league position all the more unacceptable, and we are at a crucial time of year.
“I wanted to make this change now to give us time to go through a detailed recruitment process and to give the new man time to assess the squad before the end of the season, to look at the budget for next season and have a full summer to recruit and make the changes they see fit.
“No-one is ruled in and no-one is ruled out as we begin our search for our next manager. I think this will be an attractive job.”
Ironic that you should think that, David. Ian Sampson himself had said just before Christmas “I’m a fairly loyal person, I was happy with my work and the environment created by Northampton. When you’re happy, you don’t look to go anywhere else.” Not of course unless you’re sacked that is.
If Sampson were guilty of incompetence, á la Peter Principle, would the decent thing not have been to have moved him sideways rather than that ultimate and brutal decision to sack him?
Wouldn’t it be rather fine if just once a Director put his hand up and said “I accept full responsibility for the appointment of this manager“, did the decent thing and resigned himself?
UPDATE – 28 MARCH 2011
A rather more reasonable approach is shown at Scarborough Athletic (A) .