With Paul Lambert being the latest managerial casualty in English football, it sometimes seems like proving yourself in a job within the beautiful game has become harder than it’s ever been. It’s the tough life of a manager, knowing you can only really be judged on two things, success or failure. It’s no longer natural to think a manager can learn from his mistakes (because let’s face it, that’s impossible in the eyes of some fans), can it not be the case that it was those mistakes that led to the making of a master tactician? I mean lets be serious, Lambert is an average manager who has nothing to show from his time in management… Hold on, didn’t he take Norwich from League 1 to the Premier League in two seasons?
Sometimes it’s the tough years starting out that lead onto great things in the future. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was one of those managers who endured a tough beginning with life in the dugout. After learning his trade in the coaching ranks at Chelsea, Rodgers moved onto the tough world of the Championship. After a season with Watford in 2008-09 leading them to a comfortable mid-table finish in 13th, he joined Reading the following season. His time with the Royals will be one he would most like to forget, with tactics not working and his style of football seemingly rejected by the players, Rodgers was sacked in December that season, with Reading stranded in the bottom three.
However, sometimes it takes just a bit of luck to get it right, when Rodgers landed the Swansea job at the start of the 2010-11 season, everything suddenly fell into place with promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs that season, and Premier League stability to follow. No one would have expected him to then take Liverpool to 2nd place in the Premier League last season and back into the Champions League. Then again bookmakers take bets on stranger things these days.
Not every manager is so lucky to walk into a job that works out. The legend that is Brian Clough took Derby County and Nottingham Forest to greater things, but we all still remember the 44 day spell at Leeds United (thanks Michael Sheen…). Everyone’s favourite ranting machine Ian Holloway took Blackpool to heights and financial glory they had never seen before in the Premier League, then got bored at Crystal Palace to eventually manage at struggling Millwall. Aidy Boothroyd became one of the youngest Premier League managers of all time when he took Watford to promotion in the 2005-06 playoff final, he was more recently sacked with Northampton Town in the League 2 relegation zone last season. Oh how the mighty fall some might say.
Whilst we see some gaffers who it all seems to work out for. Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth surpassing expectations and flying high in the Championship. Phil Parkinson’s Bradford shocking everyone by being the finest of all ‘giant killers’, after becoming the first fourth tier side to reach the League Cup final in the 2013-14 season since Rochdale did it back in 1962, never mind their FA Cup journey this season.
Not forgetting Mauricio Pochettino who showed you could manage an English top flight team without even knowing how to speak the language. I honestly don’t know what I was more shocked by, his impressive reign as Southampton boss last season and his work with Tottenham this year, or his first interview in English without an interpreter.
Should we blame the boards at football clubs? Are managers not getting enough time to prove themselves? For me, it’s just like learning an instrument or driving a car. Sometimes you will make mistakes, some of those will be rather spectacular, but in time you get the hang of it, and with some luck you get it just right and become a master of your craft. As for new Villa boss Tim Sherwood, I am looking forward to seeing him take Villa to new heights and Premier League glory… or, another fight against relegation. I haven’t decided which way I’m betting yet.
by Chris Reinholter