As winter starts to come in, and the nights get older in England, a football fan’s thoughts turn to one thing: Which manager is going to get sacked first? In one way, it makes sense to sack a manager before December, it gives the board a month to find a new manager before the transfer window opens, and gives the new guy a chance to assess his squad before he chooses who to axe and who to bring in.
Quite often though, the pre-Christmas sackings seem both harsh and rash. They are often borne out of desperation – a newly promoted club has spent big with the hope of staying up, and is now looking at a big financial hole if they get relegated again.
Last year, for a change, there was a reasonable amount of sense and restraint being shown before Christmas, only one manager: Steve Bruce of Sunderland lost his job, and that was a surprise to no-one. Neil Warnock at QPR lost his job nearly as soon as the January transfer window opened and Wolves showed incredible incompetence by sacking Mick McCarthy after the window closed and they were in 15th place. They subsequently got relegated and are now languishing in the bottom half of the Championship.
So, who’s jostling for position this year? Odds-on favourite surely has to be Mark Hughes of QPR. As I wrote at the start of the season, QPR are a mess and have been for a few years now. Hughes had a decent reputation for making average sides punch above their weight. The team he inherited narrowly avoided relegation, and over the summer he was given carte blanche to buy and sell as he saw fit, and boy did he see fit: 30 players out and 21 players in. This has resulted in a team of players who just lack cohesion and confidence – after eleven games, they are still winless and bottom of the table.
The other low-odds contender is Nigel Adkins of Southampton. It’s a shame, but it’s nearly always the case that at least one of the newly-promoted sides sacks their manager in an attempt to stay up. Southampton are generally a well run-club, known for developing talent such as Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. In his 2 years in charge Adkins has achieved the incredible feat of taking Southampton up 2 divisions. This is also probably his downfall as they failed to properly strengthen a particularly wobbly defence over the summer. Southampton are second from bottom and unlike QPR, they seem to lack the quality and money to turn things around. Whoever takes over from Adkins will probably be in the Championship next season.
Of the rest, the vultures don’t seem to be circling too closely. Paul Lambert of Aston Villa will be hoping his team continue their recent upswing in form, and Martin O’Neill of Sunderland (them again) is probably closer to the trap-door than he ever has been before, but I imagine both of them will be given at least til March to sort things out.
Mark Cruise is a Soccer writer for Ransports.com – You can follow him on Twitter @chiefhairyman #rantsoccer