We are fifteen weeks into the 2023/24 season and to date no Premier League manager has been sacked.
Though this isn’t unprecedented, it’s certainly a highly unusual state of affairs, and because we’re talking about people’s livelihoods it’s also a very welcomed one. Long may it continue that clubs take a more measured approach in their hiring and firing of coaches.
Patience, after all, is a virtue.
Better yet, as we encroach into December, with Christmas songs prematurely being aired in supermarkets, it can be said that football is emerging from the other side of ‘sacking season’, that time of the year when owners traditionally press the panic button and begin coveting funky young managers from the continent. Or Sam Allardyce.
In times gone by, the Premier League’s ‘sacking season’ has seen off many a decent man, along with a fair number of ill-considered appointments, and typically when one goes, others swiftly follow, the first sacking usually prompting a domino effect.
That at least is the common conception, that failing, flailing coaches tend to pick up their P45 in the autumn, and it’s easy to see why the months of October and November are viewed as being particularly precarious for under-achievers in the dug-out.
It’s an enticing narrative after all, that a club begins a campaign full of optimism and expectation, only to encounter difficulties from the off.
Owners – as well as fans too, we have to take some of the blame – naturally enough become agitated at this, but what if it’s merely a temporary blip? What if the poor results are partly down to summer signings not yet gelling?
About ten games in however, we have endured enough, and as it becomes ever clearer that a team is in serious trouble, inhabiting the bottom three with their football odds tumbling, the axe duly falls.
It is exceedingly rare incidentally for sackings to occur prior to mid-September. Indeed it has only happened twice in the past decade, both times last season.
Yet when studying the last ten years of top-flight comings and goings, what quickly becomes obvious is that first of all a ‘sacking season’ does exist. It is not merely a lazy trope as another manager, widely backed in the online betting to get the boot, does indeed get the boot.
But here’s the twist, here’s the kicker.
It is not in autumn when under-performing managers should get especially jittery. It is across the months of December, January and February.
That’s because in the past decade 78 managers have been fired from their post. Not included in that list are interim bosses or gaffers who have resigned.
From that number, 20 have been shown the door between mid-September and mid-November, confirming to an extent that club owners do admittedly get twitchy a chunk of the way into a season, as the stereotype insists.
Yet that figure pales to the 38 top-flight managers sacked around Christmas time and beyond. That’s nearly double. That’s nearly four coaches per season seeking new employments at the start to a year.
It is an immensely encouraging development that so far all 20 Premier League clubs have stuck with what they’ve got. It suggests lessons have been learned. It’s just an altogether more sensible model of business.
But it’s not accurate to state that the latest ‘sacking season’ is nearly over. Instead, it lies in the near-distance, its axe-heads being sharpened as we speak.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*