Why the media have made managers' jobs impossible

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After Brendan Rodgers’ sacking by Liverpool, a staggering statistic emerged in the press: Arsene Wenger had been in his managerial position longer than the other 19 Premier League bosses combined. It demonstrates the constant chopping and changing that football clubs have now become accustomed to using in the pursuit of success.

Managers, as they would in any business, ask for time to be able to implement their own philosophies and ideas on a playing squad that they have shaped. However, they are no longer being given this time with imminent success being demanded. In fact, just one poor run of results and a manager can find his job under threat.

The current case of Garry Monk highlights that better than any other. Four games into the 2015/16 Premier League season Monk was being talked about as a potential England manager with Swansea riding high in the table after a scintillating comeback victory against Manchester United. However 5 league games without a victory and an exit from the Capital One cup at the hands of Championship Hull followed and suddenly Monk’s job appeared under threat. The change of opinion in less than two months shows the fickle nature of football.

When Monk was appointed in February 2014 many were unconvinced by Huw Jenkins’ decision with the Englishman still forming part of the Swansea dressing room. However, having saved the team from relegation in his debut campaign, Monk guided the South Wales side to an 8th place finish in the 2014/15 season with 56 points, their highest ever tally in the top flight. Many expected the Swans to push on to even greater heights this season and an opening day draw at Stamford Bridge – a game they should have won – and victory at home to Louis Van Gaal’s Red Devils suggested this was possible. The team appeared in good shape with last season’s signing Lukasz Fabianski looking solid in goal, Ashley Williams continuing to ably marshal the defence, Jefferson Montero terrorising defences and Bafetimbi Gomis a constant goal threat.

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However, the goals started to dry up and performances dropped off culminating in a turgid home defeat by Stoke. Despite this just being a short 5 game period the knives suddenly appeared to be being drawn for the Englishman. This was followed by rumours that Monk didn’t turn up to training later in the week, something that the club immediately denied.

But what fuelled this talk of Monk being under pressure? The fans were not questioning their manager and his methods and neither was the chairman. It was, quite simply, the media creating hype.

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The job of journalists is to sell newspapers or create interesting television bulletins so expecting them to simply write match reports is unrealistic. However, openly scrutinising someone else’s job to such an extent appears extremely unfair.

Monk’s Swansea ended their poor run with a 2-1 victory at Villa Park, a result that increased the pressure on opposition manager Tim Sherwood. With Villa struggling in the relegation zone, questions on Sherwood’s position were naturally raised. However, his post-match interviews all focussed on his job security rather than the game of football that had just unfolded. What journalists actually achieve from this is unclear as Sherwood, like every other manager who is put in the same position, said he wasn’t worried about losing his job and would continue to carry on as usual. Of course, we now know that Sherwood has left Villa but at the time of these interrogations that wasn’t the case.

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If anything, it appears that such responses are used to beat a manager with should he lose his job in the following week. When Brendan Rodgers faced similar questioning after a 1-1 draw with Everton, he, like Sherwood, said that nothing had changed and he wasn’t fearful of losing his job. Later that afternoon, Rodgers was sacked and all of the news items ran with the story that he said he wasn’t going to be sacked after the game. It was almost like a section of the media expected him to admit he thought he was going to get sacked prior to it happening.

This incredible scrutiny on mangers is extremely difficult to deal with and every game is now analysed in great depth and each poor result increasing the pressure faced. The problem is that journalists have to make everything more dramatic and this doubt starts to rub off on fans and boards. Once managers have lost these two sets of allies, their job is untenable. The major problem that managers are facing is that increased media scrutiny means fan and chairman pressure is heightened and at a quicker rate. The result is that the role of the media is making managers jobs impossible.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Tomos Kay

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