Imagine this for a moment.
You’re tasked with moving to a new country; relocating your entire life. You spend years playing at the highest level, before years of studying the processes of coaching and management. Your job is to work in one of the most competitive sporting leagues on the planet. You have to control the Instagram-enhanced egos of two dozen footballers, while installing your own alien methods in a group of people that are richly immersed in a different way of plying their own trade.
Your bosses don’t understand a single thing about the intricate details of the job you’re taking on, yet have the final say on your every step. Sponsorship and media pressure begin to pile on as you face adversity, but it matters little because your vision for not just a first team, but an entire football club, is to run over the length of the contract you’ve been given. Yano – because that makes sense.
Frank de Boer was given his marching orders after ten weeks. The Dutchman is one of many apples plucked from the Ajax coaching tree. It’s one of the best youth systems in the world and operates completely around a certain style of play that must be learned over time and integrated into academies. This makes them ready to slot into first teams – the entire premise of youth development.
At the time of his sacking, Crystal Palace were six points behind Arsenal. Now, that’s a skewed barometer because Arsene Wenger wouldn’t lose his job if he played himself at left back. The point remains though – over the course of a season, you’ll finish where you’re meant to.
A slow start is usually indicative of turbulence and a period of integration.
It hardly comes as a surprise that an Ajax-based philosophy would cause indifferent performances after the same team was managed by Sam Allardyce – a man with a completely different approach to the game.
Appointing a manager is not like getting in a freelancer. It’s accepting and welcoming their approach, philosophy and ideas over an extended period of time. However, so great is the threat of a drop in revenue that relegation is treated like the end of the world. It does seem to completely evade the money-men that a club-wide philosophical shift would eventually create stability in the long-run.
Football isn’t about the long-term anymore, and we’re all to blame. Ever-changing, knee-jerk reactions to one-off results is what’s trendy these days. In the past, football wasn’t about that, and some of the best managers to grace Europe wouldn’t have produced the silverware they did for big clubs had the modern approach to hiring and firing managers been prominent back then. It’s all about immediate results because boards change their minds seemingly on a weekly basis in relation to what’s acceptable.
Going back to the initial contract negotiations, I’m fairly sure de Boer spoke about wanting to change the club’s outlook and detailed how long it would take. That’s all he knows and that’s not a knock.
You almost never see a manager stay at a club when someone else comes knocking. The compensation isn’t enough to turn any club off.
With that being said, why do these board room big boys offer coaches multi-year deals when four results is all you’re going to judge them on?
Consider it a disclaimer that these managers are well paid for their endeavours, but they’re still people at the end of the day. The sad thing is that most of them love what they do. The saddest thing is that they’re not given the time to do it anymore.
A sport that was once held together by passionate intangibles is now being dictated by balance sheets. The surplus is the shiny new stadia; the deficit is the erosion of football’s integral human element – a concept that escapes the comprehension of billionaires.