Former Catania manager, Rolando Maran, would have never thought his second term as manager would have lasted as long as it did. Originally, the Italian was removed from his post in October after a poor start to the season but he was then reinstated in January. He did no better on his return with just one point in the last eight, leaving the side seven points adrift of safety. Last season, Maran guided the team to their highest finish in Serie A as they finished 8th bagging a club record 56 points in the process but after a disastrous campaign this year they now they look set for relegation and Maran once again finds himself out of a job. The question that many wonder is this: should managers ever return to their old club and why do clubs feel the need to fire managers at the wrong time?
There is a list of coaches who have come back to their clubs either as players or in previous management. Jose Mourinho is one who did so last summer and is in search of more success and he is not the only one whose return prompted success. In 2006, Tony Pulis returned to the Britannia to manage Stoke City. He guided the Potters to promotion and built up the clubs foundations making them a non-movable block in the Premier League. Pulis brought in home grown players such as Ryan Shawcross, John Walters and Matthew Etherington after criticism from the chairman in his first spell that he didn’t ‘exploit the foreign transfer market’. He took the team to an FA Cup final in 2011 and they even featured in Europe. But many have failed.
Kenny Dalglish went back to Liverpool in 2011, 26 years after he took initial charge. In his first spell he won three league titles and two FA Cups and remained in charge after the Hillsborough disaster which this past weekend has been remembered with a delayed kick off to remember the 96. On his return, ‘King Kenny’ guided the team to a League Cup triumph but he couldn’t push them into the Champions League and was remembered most for his inaugural campaign to support Luis Suarez after racially abused Manchester United defender, Patrice Evra. He may have won a trophy unlike Roy Hodgson who he replaced but he missed out on the biggest prize of all – a place in Europe. The club’s best interest would have been to stay in Europe and reap the financial benefits rather than add the ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup to the large trophy cabinet at Anfield.
Another manager who failed to reignite the fire he left burning on his exit was Kevin Keegan. The Toon army were delight when King Kev returned for his second spell in charge of Newcastle in 2008 but having been out of the game for three years, Keegan wasn’t quite the manager he used to be and appeared to struggle back at the club. In his first spell, Keegan transformed Newcastle into title contenders, famously losing out in the 1996-1997 title race to Manchester United after blowing a 12 point lead in the final weeks of the season. When he returned in 2008, Newcastle had just dismissed Sam Allardyce as manager and with owner Mike Ashley needing to get the crowd back on side, Keegan was the perfect fit. However his reign ended in disaster after being unable to adjust to modern day football and eventually falling out with Ashley, leaving the club under a cloud less than a year later just as the 2009 season kicked off. Newcastle would eventually replace him with Joe Kinnear then later Alan Shearer in a campaign that would eventually end in relegation for Newcastle. Fans were left wondering if this would have happened if Keegan was still in charge and if his sacking at a strange time had any effect on the overall season.
Sacking your manager at the wrong time can spark major problems for a club but yet it still happens to regularly. At the bottom of the table, the prime aim is to stay in the top flight. Last weekend the belief had gone at Carrow Road as Chris Hughton was given the boot by Norwich after their 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. The Canaries then travelled to Craven Cottage this past weekend under their new manager Neil Adams but were beaten by Fulham 1-0, the team everybody thought were dead and buried. Now they are one of the favourites to go down with tough fixtures against teams in the top five. At this point in the season it seems odd to break up the relationship between the manager and his players for somebody new in hope that they can pull off a miracle in under two months. Neil Adams, the new boss at Norwich, is a well-known figure at the club but this must be a task too difficult to convert his ideology into the first team in just four games where they must pick up points. Another managerial sacking which can be questioned was the removal of Michael Laudrup by Swansea. Although he was achieving little in terms of league position, Laudrup still won the League Cup the previous year and the depth of his squad was being challenged by the Europa League. The Swansea board were still unimpressed and handed the job over to Gary Monk. The decision was made in February, with the Swans in the knockout stages and looking on course for safety. They are now out of Europe after losing to Napoli and are in the relegation mixer. They’ve picked up a mixed bag of results but they are straggling on 33 points and are not out of the woods. These decisions may come back to haunt Swansea and Norwich boards at the end of the season if either a relegated but that will be something they will have to live with.
Post by Richard Waterhouse