Michael Laudrup once said that as a manager, no matter how well things have gone in the past, you are never more than five games from being fired. Anyone can lose two games, even three.
After four games, questions start being asked and dissent begins to be heard. After defeat number five, each upcoming game hangs in the air metaphorically like a guillotine.
If you’re philosophical about your predicament, you could always think the longer you go without a win, the closer you get to your next win, but try using that as a defence along with a nervous looking smile as you try to placate the your owner’s ire. It just won’t wash.
What makes a huge difference is the manner in which most of those defeats come. Hopelessness can be helpful when coming to make the decision whether to discard a manager, but without a crystal ball it’s difficult to be sure when is the right time to swing the axe.
“Four game Frank De Boer” didn’t get the luxury of having that fifth fixture. Or laden with the burden of it, if you look at it another way. De Boer’s demeanour as a manager doesn’t lend itself to easily ascertain how happy he’s feeling but in his short period in charge, worry was apparent.
Not that he isn’t capable of expressing happiness. I’ve seen at close hand how happy he can be as he headed to ball past me at the near post when he was playing for Rangers, but the last time I saw him genuinely happy was when he was wearing a cast on his foot and cutting about the Ajax training ground on scooter. THAT is pure joy.
Perhaps that’s the answer to troubled managers. Removing the dark cloud above them by letting them ride about on a scooter or a Segway. Have you ever seen someone on a scooter look like they’re under pressure? Me neither. Steve Parish could have just invested in a few motorised scooters for the coaching staff to get about on and he’d have saved himself a few quid by not having to pay off the Dutch legend so early into the season and handing a new contract plus a potential million pound survival bonus and salary to Roy Hodgson.
I was shocked by his departure, especially after Parish had tweeted the night before that they should all stick together to get through this tough time, but perhaps there was some small print I’d missed.
I quoted Michael Laudrup because the swift change of heart reminded me of his departure from Swansea City. Just six hours after shaking hands with his chairman Huw Davies agreeing to continue as manager, he then received an email that began “After having a think...“. Those thoughts resulted in a change of heart and he was gone. Parish must have had a bit of a think too.
It does seem madness to bring someone in to change the DNA of the club from one of pragmatism to pleasing on the eye, but that is something that is not done overnight.
Palace’s hierarchy might have been seduced by De Boer’s stature as a player but they have soon found out that it doesn’t always wash with a dressing room full of footballers.
It can be more difficult for managers who have had glittering careers to win over a dressing room. Whether you’re a name or not, your first job is to convince your charges that you are up to the job and will be good for them. From what it sounds like, it’s his relationship with the players is what cost him his job as much as any tactics or philosophy.
Four games and no goals scored is pretty damning and the stories of his new philosophy being put to the sword by second string sides in training won’t have helped his case, but we’ve all been in situations where players left out of that starting 11 renew their motivation during practice games. It’s always happened.
From outside Selhurst Park, the feeling has generally been the same. A belief that De Boer wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip and he should have been given the chance to turn things around.
I know it doesn’t look like it at the moment but what if Parish and the board deserve to be applauded for realising they made a huge mistake and moved to rectify it before the damage was irreparable?
We’ll only know come the end of the season if that will ring true, but the decision to remove De Boer might actually prove to be a sign of strength rather than one of incompetence.
If we look back to 12 months ago and the cracks were beginning to show in David Moyes’s reign, would it have been more beneficial to for both camps to admit that they hadn’t got what they’d bargained for and handed the baton on to someone more capable and up for the fight?
There has been people who have made firing managers a more exact science. Workings by Dr Tom Markham in 2012 came up with managers who were unfairly dismissed and those who had outstayed their welcome and I suggest you take a look at his article on sportingintelligence.com. The one thing it doesn’t take in to account is the expectations of clubs, but still makes for interesting reading.
In fact, Moyes comes out as one of the over-performers whilst at Everton but I think we can say that changed further down the line.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but perhaps if we had Parish as chairman last season, we might still be staring at our fifth defeat in a row right now, but it might be in the Premier League.