IT’S just as well that football managers earn decent salaries because their roles carry all the job security of a kamikaze pilot.
When Wigan Athletic handed Owen Coyle his P45 on Monday, he became the seventh manager in seven days to be shown the door.
He leaves his club midway in the Championship, only six points off a play-off slot and having had to negotiate his way through the demands of a Europa Cup campaign.
To an outside observer, Coyle’s achievements since taking over at the newly relegated club six months ago may seem pretty good, particularly as Wigan are hardly one of the game’s superpowers.
But miracles are expected on a regular basis, even at clubs with unrealistic ambitions, and the Scot, once one of the most sought-after managers in the game, paid the price
As football’s season of panic entered full swing, Coyle joined the football manager dole queue immediately behind Martin Jol (Fulham), Dave Jones (Sheffield Wednesday), David Flitcroft (Barnsley), Sean O’Driscoll (Bristol City), Richie Barker (Crawley Town) and Guy Whittingham (Portsmouth).
It has become a familiar pre-Christmas ritual for football club chairmen and autocratic owners the length of the land to start getting twitchy; the vultures are said to be circling over several other managers.
At all levels of the game, the job has never been tougher. At the top the managers must deal with millionaire players, cash-driven agents, success-hungry fans and the bloated demands of owners. It’s a balancing act that few can maintain for long.
Lower down the leagues, the role involves managing on a shoestring budget, getting the maximum out of second-rate players, and staying focused on the task of winning matches while financial meltdown brings cuts and the fear of administration.
The sacking culture has grown in recent years as the English game has become swollen with money; failure is not an option and even mediocrity is not tolerated for long.
The most successful managers in the game over the past 20 years have been Sir Alex Ferguson, now retired, at Manchester United and Arsène Wenger at Arsenal. They are also, of course, the longest serving.
It’s pure conjecture whether their longevity was the result of their success or vice-versa. But the chances are that, if they were starting out now, they would not be granted the luxury of time. Maybe there’s a lesson there for Wigan, Fulham and the rest.