Sack­ing cul­ture is a no-no – just ask my dad Liam Rose­nior

The Guardian - Sport - - Football -

My dad laughs about it now but hav­ing his name against the record for the short­est man­age­rial reign is no joke. I very much doubt Frank de Boer, hav­ing been sacked by Crys­tal Palace af­ter four games in charge, is feel­ing too jovial ei­ther.

For those who don’t re­mem­ber, Leroy Rose­nior was hold­ing his press con­fer­ence on re­turn­ing to Torquay United for a sec­ond spell while be­hind the scenes the club had been bought by new own­ers. He was fired later that day and even now peo­ple ask him in­cred­u­lously: “Aren’t you the guy who got a job and the sack on the same day?” He smiles and nods but I’ve seen the toll it takes when a proud and hard-work­ing foot­ball man is hu­mil­i­ated by peo­ple who prom­ise you the world and then throw you off the deep end when it suits them.

And I’m not even talk­ing about Torquay – that was far­ci­cal and just an in­stance of be­ing in the wrong place at the wrong time. The dis­missal which hurt my dad most came at Brent­ford where he took over when the club were in dis­ar­ray but was told he had com­plete con­trol be­cause they had no bud­get and needed to de­velop young play­ers. De Boer was also told to bring through play­ers at Palace and the com­mon theme doesn’t end there.

Brent­ford’s di­rec­tors em­ployed my dad be­cause they wanted to in­stil a new style of play – a phi­los­o­phy of pos­ses­sion-based, ex­pan­sive and ex­cit­ing foot­ball which Dad has al­ways be­lieved in. He be­lieved he would get time to put his ideas across to the play­ers and staff, and was chal­lenged to make his name as a coach by trans­form­ing the club.

Un­for­tu­nately, he hadn’t re­alised how dire the club’s fi­nances were and that his record sign­ing would be “won” by fans who had en­tered a com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by a fizzy drinks com­pany. No mat­ter, he stayed and put heart and soul into his job be­cause he be­lieved in him­self and his ideas. Things went well but then re­sults changed and so did he.

He’d come home from work and be with­drawn and silent for long pe­ri­ods. I saw my dad change from a man who felt blessed to be do­ing a job he loved to some­one I could barely recog­nise. Af­ter about four months he was sacked be­cause the same peo­ple who hired him to re­verse the club’s for­tunes were scared to keep the faith they’d shown in the first place.

From all ac­counts, it seems De Boer was sold a sim­i­lar pitch at Crys­tal Palace and whether you think the de­ci­sion was cor­rect or not, we have to ask the ques­tion is the process of hir­ing and fir­ing man­agers on a reg­u­lar ba­sis dam­ag­ing our game?

Surely most clubs in­vest a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time re­search­ing and de­lib­er­at­ing over the ap­point­ment of a new man at the head of their most im­por­tant as­set – the team. And in do­ing so, they com­mit to his meth­ods and au­thor­ity – even more so when much was trum­peted about De Boer’s foot­balling phi­los­o­phy and his abil­ity to change and im­prove Crys­tal Palace’s play­ing iden­tity in the long term.

Surely four games is not the amount of time needed in or­der for those ideas to bear fruit. There seems to be a lack of re­spon­si­bil­ity re­gard­ing the ap­point­ment process – chair­men/di­rec­tors need to be clear on ex­actly what they want. If sur­vival in the Premier League is a club’s true am­bi­tion ev­ery sea­son then there’s noth­ing wrong in stat­ing that case rather than talk­ing about com­pletely changing their play­ing iden­tity.

The lack of sta­bil­ity does not only hurt the coaches who are fired. You may see an up­turn in per­for­mance or even league sur­vival but in the long term clubs are left with play­ers on ex­pen­sive con­tracts who were bought for big trans­fer fees by pre­vi­ous man­agers and are now sur­plus to re­quire­ments and un­able to be moved on.

Maybe a man­age­rial trans­fer win­dow, where coaches can­not be sacked but are locked in with their play­ing squad for that pe­riod of time, is the way for­ward – at least the con­stant game-to-game spec­u­la­tion would dis­ap­pear and play­ers would know that no mat­ter the re­sult of the next game, the man in charge would re­main for the fore­see­able fu­ture. This would re­in­force the au­thor­ity of the man­ager and so make clubs think about who they ap­point in the first place, cre­at­ing ac­count­abil­ity at all lev­els where bad re­sults don’t just land at the man­ager’s feet.

The board­room isn’t the only place where peo­ple get twitchy in a bad spell. I’ve been in dress­ing rooms where the man­ager is un­der pres­sure and there are un­happy play­ers, be­cause they’re not play­ing ev­ery week, un­der­min­ing ev­ery­thing he says and does in the knowl­edge that with a cou­ple more poor re­sults he’ll be gone. This is where the phrase “he’s lost the dress­ing room” comes from but it’s also foot­ball at its most cyn­i­cal. Nei­ther is it just in the Premier League. This is hap­pen­ing – League Two and Na­tional League level man­agers are los­ing their jobs at an as­ton­ish­ing rate. We de­spair about how few home­grown man­agers are com­ing through to work at the top level but how many are af­forded the chance to re­ally for­mu­late and ex­e­cute their phi­los­o­phy when they are fire­fight­ing and fear they are three games from the sack?

We all talk about a de­sire to see free-flow­ing, ex­cit­ing and ex­pan­sive games at ev­ery level but I’ve seen my fa­ther forced to sac­ri­fice his phi­los­o­phy in or­der to hang on to the job at Brent­ford. In do­ing so, he lost au­then­tic­ity as a coach in or­der to sat­isfy the short-term de­mands of sur­viv­ing in a job rather than flour­ish­ing in or­der to stay em­ployed.

It’s eas­ier and quicker to coach di­rect, safety-first, per­cent­age foot­ball that’s not great on the eye but gains short-term re­sults as op­posed to play­ing a tech­ni­cal, ex­pan­sive of­fen­sive game that needs time and be­lief to suc­ceed but im­proves and ben­e­fits play­ers and clubs long term.

I fear the over­all qual­ity of our na­tional game will con­tinue to strug­gle while this short-term pol­icy of hire and fire con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate and if you don’t be­lieve me go ask my dad or the many other coaches who’ve lost their jobs as a re­sult of it.

He lost au­then­tic­ity as a coach in or­der to sat­isfy short-term de­mands

When West Bromwich Al­bion play­ers think back to the early days un­der Roy Hodg­son, the mem­o­ries that stick in the mind are of the shift in the in­ten­sity of their work on the train­ing ground, the way they re­turned to the dress­ing rooms ex­hausted, and how their new man­ager never missed a trick. “I can see you’re walk­ing, you’re not do­ing it,” was one of Hodg­son’s favourite phrases as he worked time and again on team shape.

West Brom were Hodg­son’s last job in club man­age­ment be­fore he left to take the Eng­land po­si­tion in 2012, and the short but sweet spell he spent in charge at the Hawthorns pro­vides a rea­son­able barom­e­ter for what to ex­pect at Crys­tal Palace. The 70-year-old is now work­ing at a club op­er­at­ing at a sim­i­lar level and faced with some of the same chal­lenges that con­fronted him in the Mid­lands.

Then, much like now, Hodg­son had a rep­u­ta­tion to re­build af­ter last­ing only six months as the Liver­pool man­ager. In an­other par­al­lel be­tween life at Sel­hurst

Back Page Images/ Rex/Shut­ter­stock

Leroy Rose­nior in the dugout in 2006 dur­ing his first spell as the man­ager of Torquay United

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