Carlo Ancelotti has the look of a resigned man. It’s a look we’ve all seen many a time. Another dead man walking, who knows that his time is almost up. Whatever he does from now until the end of the season, he is almost certainly going to be relieved of his job in the summer. His billionaire owner has decided, once more, that a change is needed.
You would imagine this would put an enormous strain on a man to have this hanging over you. Imagine being sat at work knowing that the press are constantly running stories about you losing your job in a couple of months. And yet you have to carry on as normal, as if nothing has happened. You have to inspire your workforce, you have to make them believe that there is an incentive to try their hardest. You have to face the press and answer questions about your future and pretend that it is not affecting you.
But Ancelotti does not look too stressed to me. Resigned to fate perhaps, the eyebrow is still permanently arched after all, but he seems no different otherwise. And you have to wonder if being sacked as a football manager is as bad an experience as it used to be.
Being sacked always presented two immediate problems. Financially, you were out of work and needed to find a new income in a market with limited opportunities. And secondly, and linked to the first point, being sacked would not look good on anyone’s CV, so that made finding another job rather more difficult.
Whilst nothing has changed for some of those managers that operate in the lower leagues, for many managers towards the upper echelons of the game, such concerns often don’t apply anymore.
Firstly, getting sacked is no longer an automatic sign of failure or lack of ability. When Jose Mourinho can be forced out of Chelsea, then anyone is fair game. Ancelotti, should he wish, will walk into another job, and will have a near-endless line of suitors. If Roberto Mancini were to be sacked by Manchester City in the summer (unlikely), he too could find a new job without any fuss, and could probably get his dream job at Juventus right now, if reports are to be believed. Roy Hodgson had a nightmare at Liverpool, but walked into another job, admittedly at a “smaller” club.
In the lower leagues, there are a raft of managers that seem to achieved little, if that, but continue to get jobs, which invariably they will leave within 2 years. It seems sometimes that breaking into management is hard to do, because of the Catch 22 situation of not having any experience, which of course you can’t get until someone gives you a management job. And so it is often a jobs for the boys culture that pervades, and the same managers chop and change over and over as chairmen go for people they know. Often of course, a manager is never officially sacked. They leave posts “by mutual consent”, effectively taking a nice pay-off in return for their silence. I have Manchester City supporting friends who still to this day maintain that Sven Goran Eriksson was not sacked by Thaksin Shinawatra – after all, he left by mutual consent. He has spoken since about his dismay at being dismissed. And the financial side means that few top managers are left on the scrapheap. Nice payoffs and gardening leave mean the mortgage on that beach-front mansion is taken care off, and there’s always the opportunity of some media work whilst they consider their next move. Nowadays, megalomaniac club owners are as common as Alex Ferguson media blackouts. Is it really damaging to be relieved of your job by a man who thinks he could run the first team himself (like Dmitry Pietrman did at Racing Santander), wants his son playing up front or thinks it might be a good idea to hire a female player (see Luciano Gaucci at Perugia)? And if you play in a stadium whose name is also the name of the owner, don’t worry, you’ll be fine if he sacks you (Mr Madejski, I’ll leave you out of this). If your owner is really mental, you could be sacked and back in the job pretty quickly anyway. A couple of weeks ago, Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini sacked Serse Cosmi after a run of poor results – Cosmi was only appointed at the end of February. His replacement is Delio Rossi – the man who preceded Cosmi. Stan Flashman sacked and re-hired Barry Fry eight times at Barnet, and this excludes Fry’s first managerial stint at the club. Sometimes, if not most of the time, the fans do not help. If Manchester City can learn one thing from their history, it is that changing managers every year achieves little. And yet recently there were still those that thought that Mancini should go, and City should get someone else in, and start the rebuilding cycle all over again, until he has a bad month and then people will want him to go, and on and on, and on. And it is this culture of replacing anyone who doesn’t succeed from the off that produces a merry-go-round but which also lines the pockets of many a manager. Afterall, modern-day football waits around for no one. Owners and fans demand instant success, instant results. A bad two weeks is all it takes for mumblings of discontent about a manager and rumours in the press about the owner looking for a replacement. Every manager has had 3 games to save his job, as if someone’s entire ability can be judged from a fortnight of results. Rare is the Alex Ferguson or the Arsene Wenger that stays at one club, for many a year. Abroad it’s even worse. Jesus Gil at Atletico Madrid got through as many coaches as Manchester United and Liverpool have ever had combined. Real Madrid have sacked a league winning coach. No one is safe. But it does them little harm, because there’ll almost always be another owner waiting in the wings to give them another chance, and the endless cycle continues.