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