The football team that I support was relegated this season to Division Two, 24 years ago it was celebrating being promoted to England’s top division, the Premier League, for the first time in the club’s history. Players are being released and the manager has been sacked. These are gloomy times.
A new manager was supposed to have been revealed at the end of last week, but no announcement was made. As a result rumours abound, and the bookmakers keep adjusting their odds as to who they think will take over the reins.
It is interesting to look at the Management situation. Swindon Town from 1902-1993, when they were promoted to the Premier League had 18 Managers, and that includes interim managers who may only have been in charge for just one game. This means that each manager was at the club on average for 5 years.
Since 1993 when Glenn Hoddle left to join Chelsea the club has had 28 managers in 24 Years; again including interim managers. This means that the average tenure in that time was just 8 months. How can a club hope to be successful with such a turnover of managers?
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Swindon Town gave a number of young managers their break, Lou Macari, Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle. The club showing faith in the then untried former high profile players paid dividends. Since then however the football landscape has changed.
Now we see former Premier League players who have had successful careers in the top flight stating that they will not go below the Championship to embark on a career in coaching. To many fans in the divisions below this comes across as sheer arrogance, but is it more a case of fear of failure?
In the Championship they will have the opportunity to cut their teeth with a relatively well known club, and due to the fiercely competitive nature of that division, unless they are relegated will have the opportunity to put a mid-table finish down to the competition, and being ‘a few players short of challenging for promotion.’ It may be a couple of seasons before they get found out, but still they will be offered another position with another club at a similar level. Thus prolonging their involvement in the game.
Division One and Two are completely different propositions. These are still leagues in which some good football is played, but the desperation to survive is more apparent. You need to compile a squad that combines leaders, players who will fight until that final whistle, and to whom defeat hurts. At the same time you need quality, players with vision, a good touch who can create and score goals. It is a balancing act to get the combinations right. One key, is being able to bring in the quality on loan from clubs higher up the league. Yet as Swindon found out this season loan players with the wrong attitude can destroy a team.
There was a post on social media at the weekend which was intended as a joke that stated if Arsenal lost the FA Cup Final Arsene Wenger would be the next Swindon Manager. It seemed ridiculous, and Wenger has since signed a new deal with Arsenal for another two years.
Yet when when stopping to ponder the possibility for a second a new train of thought emerged. Wenger has been successful, he has made a great deal of money from football, and clearly money is not the motivating force. Yes, we know he wants to win the Champions League and the English Premier League again, and confirm his place as one of the best managers. However if he had left where is the sense of achievement in simply going to another big name club, buying the best players and winning the same trophies there?
Could Wenger turn a club like Swindon Town around? Does he have the managerial skills to lift a small club to great heights? This applies to not only Wenger but a number of big name managers. Or has the media attention that they bemoan become a drug that they crave just as players do, and they miss it when out of the limelight? Surely it cannot be all about the money? Or is it because most of the older brigade have been there and done that and have no desire to return?
Currently David Moyes, Roberto Mancini, Bob Bradley, Alan Pardew and Claudio Ranieri are all former Premier League Managers out of work. Would any of them take up the challenge at a lower division club and use the knowledge they have acquired to build it up to challenge the big boys? To be fair to Moyes and Pardew they started down in the lower divisions, Moyes with the likes of Cambridge, Bristol City and Preston North End, and Pardew at Reading. Even Claudio Ranieri started in Serie D before two successive promotions when he was with Cagliari lifted them out of Serie C, saw his stocks as a manager rise.
Would it not be interesting to see how a high profile manager coped in such a competition? Would it also not make a great fly-on-the-wall television series or documentary?
Of course we are unlikely to see this happen at any lower division club. Meanwhile at Swindon it would be nice to have a manager who can bring some success and who hangs around longer than the average of eight months, and possibly longer than the longest term served in the last 24 years, which as been 4 years!