For­get the league ti­tle – who’ll win the man­agers’ sack race?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

THERE are a cou­ple of def­i­nites in this sport­ing life, though noth­ing is more cer­tain than the re­volv­ing door of English Premier­ship man­agers be­ing well-oiled.

Bet­ting for the first man­age­rial ca­su­alty of the new sea­son is now avail­able – and for Portsmouth fol­low­ers there is both good and bad news.

The bad news is that Pom­pey’s Paul Hart has been in­stalled as the 4-1 favourite to be the first to re­ceive his march­ing or­ders. Those odds are no doubt based on a slew of pre-sea­son de­par­tures, and few ar­rivals.

The ex­tent of the ex­o­dus has re­sulted in the fact that there are now just 18 first-team play­ers from which to choose.

Now for the good news: in the last 10 years, not once have the book­mak­ers who have priced up on what’s aptly called “The Sack Race”, been right.

So, though the dag­ger looks to be ready to be plunged through the Hart, if I was a fan of Birm­ing­ham, Hull City or Manch­ester City, re­spec­tively, I would be shift­ing around a lot more in the chair.

For Alex McLeish is 9-2 to be the first to lose his job, fol­lowed by Phil Brown at 11-2 and Mark Hughes at 6-1.

Pre­vi­ously, we sug­gested that Hughes, in charge of the world’s rich­est club, should en­joy his South African so­journ, when he brought his ex­pen­sive team of pam­pered mil­lion­aires here for the Vo­da­com Chal­lenge.

For, while all the talk is of City break­ing the cliched “Big Four” of Manch­ester United, Liver­pool, Chelsea and Arse­nal, the other side of the coin is that if they don’t get out of the stalls quicker than Usain Bolt, then the pres­sure from the club’s Arab own­ers will be firmly on him.

The sav­ing grace how­ever is that Hughes won’t be able to be eas­ily re­placed, for such is the level of ex­pec­ta­tion at City that the next man­ager will have to carry enough clout to keep the dress­in­groom egos un­der con­trol.

The next man­ager will have to be some­one of the cal­i­bre of Jose Mour­inho, Phil Sco­lari, or Roberto Mancini.

Even Sven-Go­ran Eriks­son was el­bowed out. So, while the clock is tick­ing al­ready on Hughes’ ten­ure, he might be given a stay of ex­e­cu­tion, pend­ing im­me­di­ate re­sults and the lack of avail­abil­ity of a high-pro­file name.

Given that Hull City are away to Chelsea in to­day’s open­ing match of the new sea­son and given that they hung on to their Premier­ship life­line at the end of last sea­son af­ter sink­ing like a stone (af­ter which the man­ager, Phil Brown, gave a bizarre song of cel­e­bra­tion to the fans), their man is likely to be in most dan­ger.

The board will feel that if Hull fail to pick up early points, it would be in its best in­ter­ests to dis­pense with a man­ager sooner rather than later, and al­low a new man plenty of time to mould the team into his own strengths.

When Hull failed in an at­tempt to sign New­cas­tle’s gifted, but in­jury-prone Eng­land striker Michael Owen, the afore­men­tioned Brown said he “was flat­tered that he had been beaten by Man United” to the player’s sig­na­ture.

Such a state­ment doesn’t smack of great am­bi­tion in it­self, so, at the ap­peal­ing odds of 11-2, he’s the man who I have the dosh won by cor­rectly bet­ting on last week’s Com­mu­nity Shield be­ing a draw at 90 min­utes, on.

What­ever the out­come of the Sack Race though, the “win­ner” can take com­fort in that he doesn’t hold the all-time English record. On 17 May 2007, Leroy Rosenoir was un­veiled as the new man­ager of Torquay United at a press con­fer­ence.

Ten min­utes later he was sacked.

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