Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Why Reading may have been wrong to sack McDermott

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Allow me to present you some of these statistics. Brian McDermott's somewhat surprising sacking as Reading manager yesterday again threw up the debate on whether there are too many irresponsible owners and chairman in Premier League football these days.

As I write, Reading are 19th, four points from safety, and with nine games to save their skins. While I would certainly have chosen them as the first team to go down, I never imagined the boss would get the chop. As many have already commented, McDermott performed miracles to even get the Royals this far - and they certainly haven't disgraced themselves in the top division.

What this blog is about though, is whether sacking the manager at this stage ever improves a team's position.

My own personal logic would dictate that once the January transfer window is out of the way, it is harder for a new manager to make changes, and that any improvements made can only be psychological - the 'honeymoon period'.

So here we go - in the ten years since the transfer window was introduced, let's see whether rash late-season managerial decisions ever help the league position. All sackings (and sackings only, not resignations) will be included, from February onwards.

2003 - Terry Venables (Leeds) - 15th/15th NO
            Jean Tigana (Fulham - 15th/14th YES

2004 - No sackings after January

2005 - Kevin Keegan (Man City) - 12th/8th YES

2006 - Graeme Souness (Newcastle)- 15th/7th YES
           Mick McCarthy (Sunderland) - 20th/20th NO

2007 - Chris Coleman (Fulham) - 15th/16th NO

2008 - No sackings after January (Mind you, there were eight managerial changes between the start of the season and Allardyce leaving Newcastle in January, including seven sackings... panic stations!)

2009 - Tony Adams (Portsmouth) -  16th/14th YES
           Felipe Scolari (Chelsea) - 4th/3rd YES
2010 - Phil Brown (Hull) - 19th/19th NO

2011 - Roberto Di Matteo (West Brom) - 16th/11th YES

2012 - Mick McCarthy (Wolves) - 18th/20th NO
           Andres Villas-Boas (Chelsea) - 5th/6th NO

So on 12 occasions in the last ten years, chairmen have decided to remove their managers, giving new incumbents no chance to make their own personnel changes. Does it work?

On the face of it, it seems to be an equal split. In six out of 12 scenarios, the league position was improved. Glenn Roeder, Guus Hiddink, and Stuart Pearce proving late season miracle workers at Newcastle, Chelsea, and Man City.

When dealing with the worst relegation concerns however, changing the guard has historically had no effect. Twice the departing manager has been Mick McCarthy. His Sunderland side were down anyway, and went on to become statistically the worst side in Premier League history. Wolves had more of a fighting chance, but Terry Connor blew it, managing no wins.

Ian Dowie had a similarly fruitless attempt at reviving Phil Brown's sinking Hull.

So, Mr Anton Zingarevich faces a challenging task in replacing Brian McDermott. Not one chairman of a team in the relegation zone has sacked their manager after the transfer window and escaped relegation. In each instance, they have been dismissing the manager that got them into the Premier League in the first place.

So late on in the season, with no new signings on the horizon, it is perhaps best to plan for bouncing back. Who better to do that than the man with proven success in that area? If Reading buck the trend, perhaps the men upstairs will get some credit. For now, they will earn the contempt they deserve.


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