Many in football remember the tumultuous and, more remarkably, brief reign of legendary manager Brian Clough at Leeds United, lasting a then-unprecedented 44 days in charge. On Saturday Leeds contributed another name to the ranks of football’s shortest managerial tenures, replacing Darko Milanic after just 32 days. Casting light on the ease and frequency with which managers are replaced in modern football, and how little time many are afforded to build a team and instil their own values and style of play, the debate which has arisen around Leeds’ treatment of Milanic might potentially yield changes in the approach taken to recent appointees.
Milanic, already the third manager (following Brian McDermott and Dave Hockaday) of majority owner Massimo Cellino’s seven months in charge of the club, just four months of which have been during league play, was given limited time to put a stamp on the side, and his removal has prompted pundits to suggest incoming managers ought to be allowed a suitable amount of time to affect change before their position comes under review.
More than simply permitting new managers to be judged on their own merits rather than those of an inherited team, the improvements might be felt in the quality of the entire league. If managers had suitable time to implement a system, and possibly make additions to the squad to best suit that new system, the progress in team performance might create a more competitive, and thus more entertaining and unpredictable, league.
As well as improving quality on the pitch, changes in the approach to newly appointed managers might vastly improve both the number and quality of home-grown managers. Frequent openings being made available and the relative upheaval caused by the near-constant rotation of managers often encourage owners and chairmen to look overseas in search of prospective replacements, limiting the number of positions for British managers as, in much the same way as has become observable in players in recent years, the market becomes flooded by foreign imports.
In addition to an influx of foreign candidates for management positions, the short amount of time given to prove a success might actively derail the progression of younger managers in smaller leagues, dissuaded from advancement to more high-profile positions by the prospect of career defined by short stints in charge of sides where they have had little time and limited input to prove their worth.
A similar case is currently underway, wherein Gary Rowett’s proposed taking over at former club Birmingham City has been cast into doubt following Bournemouth’s 8-0 victory over the Blues. This highlights the challenges of the position and, with much being made of the need for instant improvement, the intense demand intrinsic to taking the job. A guarantee of enough time to make a mark on the team would, therefore, encourage up and coming British managers to progress their careers, unburdened by the prospect of a brief tenure coming to define their entire career.
While almost all, both in punditry and in the public, have agreed that managers should be offered afforded ample time to affect change when joining a team, any regulation on the situation may be challenging. Despite their support the same majority backing suitable opportunity for incoming managers have opposed any imposition of a managers transfer window. This means that the discretion of managers appears destined to remain the ultimate word on the length of a manager’s tenure. It is therefore important that they themselves are aware, or made aware, of the wider ramifications of their fervour for immediate success. With time to make the necessary changes, managers might be in a position to improve their own reputations, the quality of their team, and that of the league as a whole.
How long should a manager be given to implement his own style on a team?