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Love on the Rocks

By Mark Burke



In around three or four weeks, we will enter into a period known as the "sacking season", a period where managers who have not started well and are unable to reverse the slump will lose their jobs. Three months into a new season and managers are losing their jobs. It is crazy really, but this is the harsh reality of the game of football. This article is about the process a manager goes through after losing his job; I know many manager who have been in this position and it not nice.

Think about this situation: It’s all you know and now its been taken away and you must carry on, chin up, while the public VERY publicly discusses why you are not very good at your job.

Not nice.

Love on the Rocks

Veteran manager Neil Warnock has lost his job today. Are we surprised?

Not really.

The pressure had been building and building, hissing and bubbling and now finally the lid blows off. The pressure is released by the sacking of the manager.

A friend of mine recently lost his job as a football manager a club abroad. Completely out of the blue, big success one season, average start in the next and Bam! Bye Bye.

I know now that unless he gets something else quickly he will subject himself to weeks and months of agonising, self-pity and worry.

Now we know that Neil Warnock’s case will be different. He is a successful manager at the top end of the game and as far as his finances go, he will have enough to keep the big bad wolf from the door until the next job comes around.

But the fate of your average out of work manager, it's a totally different matter.

I can hear people saying “well, he'll be ok, he'll get paid up, he'll soon jump back on the old managerial merry go round” (has anyone ever seen that? I can picture a lot of middle-aged managers on their little horses going up and down as they swap seats with each other at regular intervals)

While it's true that the bigger names get compensation when they're sacked and then quite often the opportunity to settle onto a nice sofa with some 'no pressure' match analysis, its not like that for the vast majority of sacked managers who are often racked with fear and self- doubt.

Many are forced to abandon principles if they want to get back into the game. They have to put on a brave face on. They have to put themselves ‘out there‘ by attending matches, as many matches as they can. By attending coaching seminars, as much in the hope of meeting that right contact, that can get them back in the game as learning something new.

Networking is the name of the game for the out of work manager, who is not high profile enough, for people to be knocking on his door.

“First they say they want you, how they really need you, suddenly you find you're out there walking in a storm.”

Did the legendary singer, Neil Diamond, have a part-time job as a manager somewhere in between selling millions of albums? 

His lyrics from ‘Love on the Rocks’ describes perfectly the relationship between a football club and its manager.

He might have substituted the last line of that song with: "Suddenly you find you're out there watching Plymouth Argyle for expenses only and the hope of making a contact for a new job", but that doesn't rhyme does it?

For an out of work manager, it's a storm of anger, doubt, some depression, unfulfilled ambition, self-loathing and at times, compromised principles. 

The club moves on without him, scarcely glancing back, the king is dead long live the king, the new man is all that counts now.

"Yes we are delighted to have secured a man of his calibre, obviously Neil did a great job but in the end the board felt it was time to move on and find somebody to take us to the next level. 

They should just record that paragraph and press the play button each time a new manager comes in.

A manager arrives to smiles, handshakes and usually leaves with a thousand small daggers embedded in his cashmere coat.

The club bends over backwards to meet any demands the new manager has “anything you want, we’ll sort it out, anything else we can do for you?” 

This is the time the new man must strike! He will never be as powerful as he is on this day, his first day on the job.

He must get his orders in quickly before any poor performances on the field dilute his power.

Feted, applauded and fawned over on arrival, on his departure the script goes something like this...

“Oh yeah goodbye and by the way, we need your car back in the morning and you need to be out of the house by the end of the month as the new gaffer wants it, oh yes and almost forgot we won't be paying you your remaining three years in full as we agreed but we'll give you six months full pay and we can go our separate ways, that’s ok isn’t it?

"You don't mind that do you, oh you do?" 

"Ok then we'll see you in court and get it sorted, of course we will pay you monthly until its sorted out but you know you cant work for anybody else or be connected to any other club in any shape or form until its all sorted out."

"One more thing if we do find out you have been talking to another club even if it's about the weather, then you will be in breach of contract, you're aware of that? Ok? Fine."

"The court case shouldn’t take long, about 6-12 months, that ok?"

I bet you never thought football clubs were that petty did you? 

You can‘t believe that the moment they have dispensed with a manager services, he ceases to ‘exist’ for that club? 

Surely those years of dedication, thinking 24/7 about the well being of the club and its players mean something? 

Managers risking their health with a ridiculous workload (a lot of it self-inflicted), doesn’t mean a thing, if results are poor.

A manager I knew had to give up 650,000 Euros or he would still be sitting at home watching daytime television in the morning and looking forward to pruning the roses in the afternoon.

So although the merry-go-round looks like it's always turning and everybody's smiling, at times the horses do come to a grinding halt. This leaves a group of middle aged men staring at each other and wondering “what the beep am I going to do now?"