How To Sack Managers And Alienate People


The sacking of a football manager is hardly a rare occurrence in modern football. Today on the blog Football Cliches walks us through the process and tells us how to sack a manager.


You can't help but wonder what life is like on the Managerial Merry-Go-Round. Within days of being sacked, managers develop a strange skin condition that leaves them "itching to get back into the game". They start throwing hats into rings. Some, like Gerry Francis, even forget to update their hairstyle.

The perennially-lampooned Phil Brown clambered off the Managerial Merry-Go-Round this week, leaving a forlorn Alan Curbishley going round and round and wondering where Peter Reid has got to. Brown's unveiling at Southend United followed the Shrimpers' unconventional axemanship in dispensing of the services of Paul Sturrock. Admirably deciding against the usual template for post-sacking statements, Southend supremo* Ron Martin embarked on nearly a thousand bullet-pointed and inexplicably speech-marked words detailing the reasons for Sturrock's departure.

Otherwise, official club announcements of mutually consensual partings-of-ways have adhered to a strict script for a number of years now, probably due to the sheer number of entrants in the annual sack race. Such statements are apparently bound by FA regulations to include the following:

  • Acting now in the best interests of the club - Once the requisite six games to save his job have passed without a reversal in the manager's fortunes, the club have a race against time to edge him out of the revolving door before the next transfer window flies open.
  • Thanks for efforts - Often "placed on record" (not, sadly, in the musical sense), a half-hearted appreciation of the efforts of the underperforming manager - however unconvincing - are extended.
  • Well-wishing for the future - Knowing full well that the poor ex-manager (not literally, thanks to his bumper pay-off) will have to suffer the indignity of dropping down the divisions to resurrect his career, a club can safely wish him well for the future in the knowledge that he probably won't be back soon, in a rival's hotseat, to bite the hand that used to feed him.
  • Hope to appoint a new manager as soon as possible - I notice that newly managerless clubs rarely make public their intention to kick back, relax and appoint a replacement boss "ooh we dunno, sometime between now and May, no rush".


Replacing a manager sounds like a right pain in the backside: scribbling together tinpot statements, drawing up shortlists and identifying targets, having to get permission to talk to employed managers (before being refused that permission in a mardy, short-lived stand-off), interviewing candidates (what on earth are they asked?!), before finally making their man sit under a proverbial veil before his debut press conference. Then he has to be handed a war chest - and where can you get war chests these days?

Sacking A Manager: The Process

Sackings usually begin in around early December. Once one club finally puts their flailing manager out of his misery, others tend to follow fairly quickly. Most of these stories are a predictable cascade of media-driven events, which can be condensed thus:


A struggling manager passes through several phases before he finally gets the bullet - mounting pressure comes first, which then finds itself buried under the misery that gets piled on after a particularly abject performance (ideally against lower-league opponents in a domestic cup competition). At this stage, the manager in question is now officially "under fire", which often prompts the dreaded vote of confidence**. Now everybody knows he's facing the axe, and his name takes on the prefix of "beleaguered". Rumours surface, which no-one needs to bother to substantiate, that the dead man walking has six games to save his job. It's pretty much always six games, but nobody's sure why.

Naturally, the manager "has never walked away from a potentially lucrative pay off anything in his life" and, what's more, "isn't going to start now". Too late, pal - oh, and tell Curbs we said hello.

Finally, while the boardroom faffs around with putting thanks on record and tapping up their next victim, an interim solution is needed. If he hasn't been dragged out of the door by his lifelong colleague, the No.2 finally gets his day in the sun. A rabbit in the headlights (albeit one with its initials printed on its tracksuit), the Comedy Caretaker puts on his bravest media face. But, secretly, he prepares for the inevitable.


* "Supremo" is an endangered species in the jungle of football clichés, which is a shame for such a pointlessly spectacular word.

** The vote of confidence became so aware of its clichéd status that it became the dreaded vote of confidence. Unfortunately, that in turn has become a cliché. A wonderful example of the evolution of a football phrase, resisting any attempts at self-awareness.



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Tags:  Football , Humour

Adam Hurrey's crusade to analyse, in excruciating depth, the unique language of football.