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Sacked Managers- Class of 2021

P45 form (via Foreign Pension Society)

Xisco Muñoz, Steve Bruce, Nuno Espírito Santo, Daniel Farke, Dean Smith. It is only the middle of November and five Premier League managers have already been told that their services are no longer required. That’s a quarter of the Premier League who have made a change at the top. A stark reminder, as if it were needed, that life as a football manager at any level (but particularly in the Premier League) can be fleeting.



Xisco Muñoz was the first to go on October 3rd. Predictably, perhaps, because he was the manager of Watford and that’s just what they do. Muñoz had only been in charge of Watford since December of last year, turning around their fortunes quickly to earn promotion from the Championship that same season. With two games to spare no less. At the time of his sacking Watford sat 15th in the Premier League. Fighting (but currently winning) the relegation battle that everyone and their mother had predicted they would be. It seems that even the successful managers at Watford have a short shelf life.


Steve Bruce was the next to go on October 20th. An inevitability as soon as the Newcastle takeover was completed. New owners, looking to endear themselves to the fanbase, were never going to entertain the idea of keeping hold of a manager that those same fans had long since rejected. The disdain that the Newcastle fans held for Bruce did at often times seem a little odd to those of us outside of the club.


Bruce achieved respectable Premier League finishes with a playing squad and training facilities that could both be politely described as insufficient for the task. Having to follow a popular manager in Rafa Benítez (who various stats will tell you didn’t do a better job than Steve Bruce) didn’t help. Being a former Sunderland manager probably didn’t help. Being so closely linked to, and unwilling to criticise pantomime villain turned owner Mike Ashley, absolutely didn’t help.


To change tact for a moment, imagine you are shopping for a pair of shoes (I know, a bit out of left field, but stay with me here).  If the shop you’re in doesn’t have shoes in your size, it doesn’t really matter how nice the shoes are. If they don’t fit, they don’t fit. Similarly, it didn’t seem to matter if Nuno Espírito Santo was a good manager or not, he was never the right fit for Tottenham (see, I was going somewhere with that shoe analogy) and he was the next managerial casualty on November 1st. Sometimes, seemingly, you just have to cut your losses, accept that these nice shoes don’t fit, and sack them less than five months after you appointed them to manage Spurs (I’ve stretched the shoe analogy too far, admittedly)!


The Spurs fans had been promised a change, a more attack minded manager who would enrich the already proud DNA of the club. What they got was a very public managerial hunt with their 7th or 8th choice eventually appointed. Nicknamed Mourinho Lite, Nuno faced an uphill battle to win over the Spurs supporters (and apparently the Spurs players) and never came close with his ultra-cautious, sleep inducing brand of football. Failing to mount a serious attack against a Manchester United side who had been defensively humbled in a 5-0 loss at home to Liverpool just a week before, proved to be the final straw.


Just five days later, November 6th, the final straw for Daniel Farke at Norwich turned out to be a 2-1 win away at Brentford. Norwich’s first win in the league this season apparently greeted with that gif of T’Challa in the Black Panther movie dismissively saying “we don’t do that here”. Norwich of course hadn’t done anything this season so far to suggest that they would do anything other than get relegated straight back to the Championship where they came from. But in fairness they’re probably the only club in the top flight who could be adrift at the bottom of the table and still not be labelled as underachievers. Farke had done a commendable job in the first place to get Norwich promoted but it always seemed destined to end with them returning to the Championship.


And lastly, for now at least, Dean Smith. Losing your talismanic best player (Jack Grealish, him with the socks that won’t stay up) is a tough blow to recover from. Blending a number of new summer signings into a cohesive unit famously takes time. More time it seems than Dean Smith was going to be allowed. A good manager who has since walked straight back into a (borderline) Premier League job (hi Norwich) wasn’t seen as the man to take Villa forward. Although you have to imagine that once he got past the two obstacles that I laid out at the top of this paragraph, that Dean Smith could very well still have been the man to take Villa forward. An unfortunate end to a largely successful spell. So why the need for Villa (or any of these other clubs) to make the most drastic of changes?


From the perspective of the clubs involved, this all comes down to money. Football is a business as we are so often reminded despite our best efforts to pretend that deep down, just maybe, it’s actually more of a sport. Sacking a football manager is expensive, even by deep Premier League pocket standards. Hiring a new manager equally so. But this financial outlay is ultimately worth the gamble. Because, this manager switch expenditure is dwarfed completely by the amount that can be made staying in the Premier League as opposed to relegation. Or qualifying for the Champions League versus missing out.


We, as fans, play a part too. We’re a new generation of football fans (and perhaps people in general) who want everything now. We don’t have the patience for anything less than our lofty expectations. And the pressure we are capable of putting on a club not just at the stadium but also plastered all over social media can be intense. Manchester Utd fans certainly know this and seem fully engrossed in heaping that same pressure on their decision makers (#OleOut).


Full disclosure, I am a Spurs fan. I didn’t particularly want Nuno to get the job, even though he had a decent spell at Wolves. His CV certainly compared well to that of Mauricio Pochettino (he’s magic, you know?) when he took the Spurs job. I didn’t call for Nuno to be sacked. But I feel a little guilty over the fact that I wasn’t sorry when it happened either. By all accounts a nice man, a relatively talented coach, unemployed after being hounded out of a job in a fashion more aggressive than any of us will likely ever experience.


Dean Smith was the most recent to go, but he won’t be the last (Watford have time to sack another one or two yet this season and likely will). But, as we all have heard countless times, that’s the nature of the game. Although, come to think of it, maybe that’s not the nature of a ‘game’ at all. But it is unfortunately the nature of high stakes business. And it’s not going to be changing any time soon.

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