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Jack: More Guttmans, Guardiolas than Wengers in England

Kristian Jack
10/25/2013 12:22:34 AM
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Hands up anybody who has heard of Paul Tisdale, Chris Wilder, Mark Yates or Russell Slade.

The four Englishmen might sound like members of a boy band but are in fact all in the top five of the longest tenured managers in English football.

Ninety-two clubs form the top four tiers of English football and the summer departures of Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester United, David Moyes from Everton and Tony Pulis from Stoke, all moved these four lower league managers directly behind Arsenal's Arsene Wenger in time spent as managers at their current clubs.

Wenger has now managed Arsenal for 17 years in the Premier League, over nine years longer than Exeter City boss Tisdale who is second on the list.

The gap is staggeringly wider to the next Premier League manager and I will give you time to think who that might be.....

Alan Pardew was hired by Newcastle United on December 9, 2010. He hasn't yet reached three years in the job but the Magpies are already ahead of 18 other Premier League clubs in terms of longevity with the man in charge.

Six weeks away from his third anniversary in charge, incredibly Pardew ranks eighth out of 92 football managers in England for longevity at his club. There's a good chance you've been on Twitter longer.

Football clubs are hiring and firing football managers at a quicker rate in English football than they ever have before. Just 42 of the 92 managers (45 per cent) have been in their current job for one year or more.

On this date two years ago, in 2011, 72 of the current 92 English league clubs (78 per cent) had a different football manager than they currently have.

Fifteen of the current 20 Premier League clubs also had a different man in charge (75 per cent) and, even though it seemed just like yesterday, Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool (hired June 1, 2012) is now the 6th longest tenured manager at a Premier League club.

These are unprecedented times in English football, but what are we to make of these changes? Why now? And is it good for the game?

The pressure has always been on football managers to be successful. Chairman of clubs in the 40s, 60s, 80s, no matter when, were just as passionate as the ones currently in charge, if not more so, with many of them having a real connection with the club from a young age.

However, never before have clubs evaluated themselves more than they currently do. Never before have fans had a louder voice than they currently have through social media and never before have managers had to deal with more self-entitled, rich, unmotivated players than they currently do.

This was evident this very week after the Premier League lost another manager when Ian Holloway left Crystal Palace by mutual consent.

Palace, new to the Premier League after winning the playoff final last season, are yet another clear case that three promoted teams to the top flight each year is one too many. Holloway, a man who openly talks about things like spirit and confidence in attempts to galvanize his team, is clearly a man who believes he can make a difference when the playing field is quite level amongst competitive sides, such as the Championship.

He is also a man easy to like. He tells you what he feels and for fans and the media this opens up a rare and fascinating window to the goings-on in the game, many shield us from.

Holloway looked like a broken man in the press conference confirming his departure. A positive, candid and funny man, the emotions had drained out of him. He looked ten years older than he looked just a few months ago, lifting the Playoff Trophy at Wembley.

"I am very tired, if I am honest. With the changes made, we didn't keep the spirit. Some of the new lads' attitude, I am finding very annoying and that's not good. We probably made too many changes."

Holloway had had enough and wasn't in the job a year.

Footballers can wear managers down quickly as even the greatest will admit.

"Four years at one club in enough," declared Pep Guardiola when he announced he was leaving Barcelona in 2012.

Author Jonathan Wilson once told the story of the legendary Bela Guttman.  "The third year," the great Hungarian coach always said, "is fatal." If a manager stays at a club more than that, he said, his players tend to become bored and/or complacent and opponents start to work out counter-strategies.

And this brings us to whether or not it is good for the game. Long runs at football clubs, such as Wenger's current one and Ferguson at Manchester United, are, of course, to be admired but they are now in the minority of the minority. What worked for them will not work for many others.

Large football clubs with deep pockets and talent to win trophies regularly, in need of guidance from a legacy builder, obsessed with control and a need to be the true ruler of the club, is what kept them together for so long.

Most other teams are positioned lower down the totem pole of English football hierarchy where successful managers will leave to move up the pole and where teams are forced to find a way of changing their fortunes much quicker.

This is not good for current, former and future managers but it is great news for players, and their agents, who constantly can go in and out of the good books of managers as they move in/on. Crystal Palace, for example, signed 14 new players in June, July and August, all approved by Holloway and who will now play under a new manager who, most likely, will move many on sooner rather than later. The situation is similar at Sunderland, the other Premier League team to make a change this season, with Gus Poyet, in his third week, forced to work with players Di Canio and his recruitment staff wanted.

Allowing managers to have a strong say on which players are signed is archaic and leads to these problems and clearly one of the next major changes in the sport is towards the North American model of recruitment, already used often in continental Europe, where a manager is left to simply manage the players his bosses get for him.

It will never be only that way, however, and, of course, this way just reduces a manager's stranglehold on a club even further, likely straining his patience even more, working with players he didn't necessarily want. Either way, it appears the future is not bright for managers to stay in one place for long.

The way English football is looking, it appears Messrs Guttman and Guardiola were, much like their teams.

Three years is now becoming a massive achievement. Just ask Alan Pardew in six weeks. If he makes it that far.

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