|The English Premier League is cut-throat when it comes to management|
In hip-hop music there is an expression: ‘Don’t hate the player, hate the game.’
Although this saying is primarily thrown around for the entertainment of music fans, a deep truth lies within it.
Ultimately that individuals are not solely responsible for their actions but are driven to action by the environment or system they find themselves in.
For example, if you live in a western capitalist country you are programmed to make as much money as possible regardless of what your real desires might be.
The English Premier League is another example of a system that encourages people to behave in a certain way.
However, after Andre Villas-Boas’ sacking on Sunday, a more relevant phrase for football could be ‘Don’t hate the owner, hate the game'.
Following the Chelsea manager’s departure there has been criticism levelled at Russian owner Roman Abramovich for once again deciding that sacking a manager is the best way to move the club forward.
While some understand Abramovich’s decision, others know the blame didn’t lie solely at AVB’s feet. A poor run of form in the league coincided with the new manager having to deal with a misfiring Fernando Torres, the racism scandal surrounding John Terry and the worsening form of ageing Chelsea stalwarts Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
In addition to this, the Portuguese manager had to dodge the ghost of Jose Mourinho in the Chelsea corridors as well as achieve results to placate the club’s ever-demanding owner.
It was a tough job, but then again Carlo Ancelotti could tell you that.
After continual hiring and firing at the club many wished Abramovich would pull the lever on his conveyor belt of managers and give AVB some time. After paying Porto $21 million to release AVB from his contract, shouldn’t the Russian oligarch show some patience and support his young manager?
On Sunday, Abramovich answered the question with an emphatic “No I won’t” – and a “No I won’t” that is hard to argue with for one simple reason.
Time is money
These days time is too valuable in the English Premier League to waste. AVB lasted only eight months at Chelsea but in football eight months can determine the future of a club. A poor run of form no longer simply upsets the fans, it can cost a club an absolute fortune.
Promotion to the Premier League is referred to as the golden ticket because it is worth around $150 million to a club while qualification for the Champions League has an estimated value of up to $100 million. With so much money at stake – owners cannot sit around twiddling their thumbs while they give managers time to prove themselves.
Managers need to get things right straight away, full stop. If they don’t sponsorship deals are threatened, fans stop turning up to games and talented players are more likely to snub them for a better offer.
It is not Abramovich who is accountable for the fate of AVB but the cruel mechanics of the Premier League.
Already this season we have seen Neil Warnock - who loyally led QPR into the top division last season – quickly disposed of because the Hoops were hovering too close to the relegation zone. Another manager with a solid track record – former Wolves boss Mick McCarthy - was also fired for poor results, although many would argue he had done well with one of the weakest squads in the division.
However, none of this matters when owners feel they are losing grip on their golden ticket. Sometimes it feels like teams fighting for survival ditch their manager because a change at the top usually results in short-term improvement. This is how fickle and shallow football has become.
But does this fickleness matter when the Premier League is so good?
Scandals and sackings included, this is the most entertaining season I can remember. The goals have been flying in, there is an intensifying battle between the two Manchester teams at the top and there have been some remarkable upsets too. The new wealth of Man City has drawn players such as Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and David Silva to the Premier League who dazzle us with their natural brilliance.
Fortunately new players have not prevented the return of Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes. Their loyalty to former clubs a valuable reminder that sometimes it is passion, and not money, which drives the actions of individuals.
While romantics might wish more decisions in football were guided by the heart and not the purse strings, Rangers fans would be the first to suggest a rethink. The Premier League is too lucrative to ignore financial gains. Owners have a huge responsibility to their club to keep the books in order and find the winning combination as soon as possible.
Their primary goals of winning and making money cannot be separated. Sadly, many managers will bite the dust because of it but we should not blame Abramovich for AVB’s short tenure at Chelsea. The game is to blame.
But isn’t it hard to hate the game when you love it more than ever before.