Why other Premier League clubs should follow Stoke City's example
Modern football, certainly at the elite level, can be a cruel, ruthless and harsh world in which to carve out a long-term career, especially if you are the manager of a Premier League club.
Maybe it is the incomprehensible amounts of money involved in the game, maybe it is the pure emotion that football evokes, or maybe it is just a reflection of modern societies impatience and demand for instant success – but, whatever it is, football is unlike any other business. It is notoriously reactionary. The board, the supporters, the media – we are all extraordinarily fickle at times and we concede ourselves to knee-jerk reactions. A couple of wins and all is well, three defeats later and the world is about to come to an end.
It is interesting that much of the criticism that emerges when a club is struggling tends to be directed at the manager, rather than the players or board, and it is usually the man in the suit standing forlornly on the touchline that will be axed and cast aside first. Who would actually want to be the first team manager of a professional football club? Statistics demonstrate that on average Premier League clubs retain their managers for less than two years before wielding the axe or receiving a resignation. In short, if you run an elite football team then you are lucky to see out two full seasons.
The managerial merry-go-round is already in full flow, Francesco Guidolin survived just seven games of the new season before being sacked by Bob Bradley and 15 other clubs have already replaced their manager since the start of the season, so perhaps the experience of Mark Hughes at Stoke City is significant.
The Welshman is the second longest serving Premier League manager having just entered his fourth season with The Potters (Arsene Wenger leads the way and is approaching his twentieth year with Arsenal) and his position came under increasing pressure following a poor start to the new campaign. Stoke picked up just one point from their first five fixtures, conceding four goals in three of those matches leaving the club propping up the league table. Throw in the fact that Hughes’ team hardly ended last season in fine form, (they won just two of their last ten fixtures and lost three consecutive games by four goals), and the frustrations and concerns of the supporters were entirely understandable.
Another club might have panicked. Another club might have sacked Hughes before the situation deteriorated. But, refreshingly, Stoke chairman Peter Coates decided otherwise.
Coates instead looked at Hughes and saw a man that had achieved back to back top ten finishes. He saw a manager that had brought the club within a penalty shoot-out of reaching the League Cup final last season. He saw a man who had re-moulded Stoke from a physical, direct team into one that looks to play attractive, tidy football. Probably most importantly, he saw a manger whom he had appointed three years ago, in the process sacking the guaranteed safety provided by Tony Pulis, to take the club forward onto the mythical ‘next level’.
The Stoke board decided to break the mould and keep faith in their under-fire manager. Performances were poor but the club kept their nerve, came out in support of Hughes, and allowed him the time to turn things around. The result? The Potters are now six game undefeated and have climbed up the league into the relative safety of mid-table with the club now eyeing up the possibility of Europa League football rather than nervously glancing over their shoulders towards relegation. Surprisingly, those that were calling for the manager’s head are now noticeable only by their absence.
Change is no guarantee of success in football and it is refreshing to see a Premier League club stick by their manager, allowing him the time to turn the corner. Stoke certainly made the correct decision in backing Mark Hughes when the going got tough – perhaps it is something that other clubs should consider doing before choosing to wield the managerial axe when a poor run of form transpires.
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