Bilic’s short odds further reflection of sacking cultureTwo Manchester trips, a home match with Chelsea and a trip to surprise package Newcastle await Palace next. On the basis of every team's current form, the Eagles could quite conceivably reach the quarter mark of the season pointless, with such a development surely condemning the South Londoners to relegation. In realising this, the experts of sports betting at Sun Bets now price Palace at an all-time low of 5/2 to finish bottom of the Premier League. With de Boer now gone, Slaven Bilic is now considered the likeliest candidate for the next ‘chop’ by bookmakers.
After an impressive first season at West Ham, Bilic was unable to sustain the momentum that had seen West Ham finish above Chelsea for the first time in twenty years. Several factors, such as the loss of Dimitri Payet, a dip in Michail Antonio’s form, and the move to an alien stadium in Stratford, could be counted as mitigating circumstances. Nonetheless, he steered the Hammers to a comfortable mid-table finish in 2016/17 after a dreadful start, and recently managed to stop three successive defeats becoming four in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield. A workmanlike (if rather tedious) 0-0 draw at West Brom five days later was another small vindication of the board’s current loyalty to Bilic – however finite such loyalty may be.
The Hammers are undeniably in need of long-term cosmetic improvement, but the green shoots of recovery are evident, and there is nothing to suggest that the team will suffer quite as severely as it did this time last year with Bilic at the helm. Meanwhile, Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino is currently fourth favourite to be the next managerial casualty, even though his Southampton side has won twice in the five games he has thus far overseen. Tellingly, his predecessor Claude Puel was sacked after just one season at St Mary's, despite steering the Saints to the League Cup final.
Pre-PL era can curb board-level ‘enthusiasm’According to football lore, even the great Sir Alex Ferguson was once just a single game away from being sacked. United had several bad runs under Ferguson in the earlier part of his tenure at the club. However, the Red Devils' history could have read very differently, had Sir Alex Ferguson not arrested a twelve-match winless run in February 1990, after his side beat Millwall 2-1 at The Den. What happened at Manchester United thereafter needs no elaboration...
Six years earlier, just across the M62, a similar fable on the virtues of patience unfolded at Goodison Park. Halfway through the 1983/84 season, Everton found themselves on a bad run of form, in mid-table and getting poor gates. Some fans were even chanting for the head of manager Howard Kendall, and there was indeed a strong rumour that Kendall would be sacked, if his side lost to Oxford United in the League Cup quarter finals.
Known in Evertonian circles as the ‘Kevin Brock game’, Oxford led Everton 1-0 at the Manor Ground. Howard Kendall had just minutes remaining as manager of Everton, until Kevin Brock made a suicidal back-pass. From this, an intercepting Adrian Heath ruthlessly scored. Unbeknownst to Brock, he had just saved the skin of Howard Kendall. A mere fifteen months after the infamous back-pass, Everton were league champions and Cup Winners Cup holder, and the late Howard Kendall is today remembered as Everton’s greatest manager of all time.
Stick or twist – the age-old dilemmaSacking a manager is no 'grey' area, and the sight of a new face in the dressing room will either rejuvenate a team or drag it further into the depths of despair. With all Premier League clubs enjoying riches that would have been considered ludicrous twenty years ago, laying off a manager is now akin to losing mere pennies. Financially, the effect of relegation will always be felt more profoundly than any magnitude of sacking.
Many would argue that the Sunderland board recently paid the ultimate price for failing to act, when it became apparent that David Moyes was powerless to prevent the Wearside club's meek demise in 2016/17. The Black Cats are now floundering in the lower reaches of the FL Championship, and though (realistically speaking) the squad was never going to finish anywhere near the top half of the Premier League 2016/17, there is the ever-nagging feeling that Sunderland may have been just one more managerial change away from salvation.
While drastic events such as the 'Kevin Brock back-pass' are now a rarity, boards must take more time to consider whether a team is unlucky or just unwilling. Once a manager ‘loses’ the dressing room, there is no going back, and a sacking thus becomes the only option. Mutual respect between motivated players and shrewd managers has always been an ingredient for success, and it presence – or lack thereof – is a board's best clue as to whether to stick or twist.