News broke out last night that Norwich City, currently sitting just five points above the drop zone and with a game against Fulham to come next week, have sacked their manager Chris Hughton. Whilst many of the club’s fans were happy with the dismissal, others have questioned the timing especially with the torrid fixture list that now Neil Adams has to face. So is there a right time to sack a manager? Does patching things up at the last second ever work?
Since the 2005-06 season, there have been five teams that have replaced their manager with 10 or less games to go whilst in a relegation dogfight. Of those five, two have managed to steer their clubs to safety whilst the other three fell through the trap door.
Looking at the most recent success story, Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland managed to get eight points from the Black Cat’s remaining seven games to keep them in the top flight. Many felt that was a job well done, especially with wins over Everton and local rivals Newcastle, but it’s also overshadowed by a dreadful 6-1 loss away to Aston Villa.
The other manager to keep his side up, Lawrie Sanchez at Fulham in the 2006-07 season, relied more on luck than managerial prowess. In his five games in charge that season, Sanchez managed just one win, one draw and three defeats with his side beating the drop by just a point.
The other three, Alan Shearer at Newcastle, Iain Dowie at Hull and Kevin Ball at Sunderland, all failed to lift struggling sides which led to their relegation and their removal from management. In fact, none of the five managers lasted over a year. None of them have managed in the Premier League since and only one of them is still employed as a manager, Lawrie Sanchez is currently boss of Greek side Apollon Smyrini.
There can be a right time to sack a manager, poor performances over an extended period of time has to come down on someone’s head, but some teams have taken this to an extreme. All of the bottom seven teams have sacked their manager this season and only one side seems to have got it right, with Palace hiring Tony Pulis.
Norwich have an incredibly key game this weekend against Fulham which could essentially see them safe but if they lose, with the fixtures they have left it could signal their doom. Neil Adams has to get it right first time or his side is doomed and he’ll be another stop-gap Premier League appointment destined to be yet another pub quiz answer.
This weekend also saw Catania sack the same man for the second time this season. The absurdity of managerial reigns hasn’t quite got that far in England yet but with the high price of falling out of the top division, owners might just be getting ever more desperate to keep their side afloat.