PATIENCE is a virtue, but the football industry thinks otherwise, especially when coaches are involved.
Footballers lose form yet remain at their clubs for years, but it is not so with coaches. Every day, football managers are sacked. While the players are given the carrot, the coaches get the stick. Hiring and firing coaches in football is an ugly trend that must stop.
It must stop because there is no clear indication that impatience with coaches is a guarantee for success.
Examples abound of several clubs that fired coaches with reckless abandon in a seemingly unfair manner.
Maybe Highlanders’ sacking of Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu and his backroom staff of first assistant coach Bekithemba Ndlovu, goalkeepers’ trainer Julius Ndlovu and welfare manager Vezigama Dlodlo exactly a month after posting a 1-0 Independence Cup triumph against Dynamos and days after getting the better of the same opponents in an abandoned league match that the Bulawayo giants were leading one nil, comes to your mind.
Or Bulawayo Chiefs firing of their assistant coaches Mark Mathe and Farai Tawachera, gaffers who were second in command leaving their Portuguese boss Nilton Terroso in charge, quickly crosses your mind. Following that Chiefs quickly reunited with their ex-head coach Thulani Sibanda who is now the assistant gaffer to Terroso.
What a recycling trend!
After leading a seemingly resurgent basement side Bulawayo City to a shameful 13 rounds of play, veteran local coach Philani “Beefy” Ncube, was also recently shown the exit by Bulawayo City who interestingly immediately hired Tawachera to take charge.
With a running contract just like the above-mentioned coaches, Rodwell Dhlakama was fired at Ngezi Platinum Stars, a development that saw the platinum miners hire ex-Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari and Bongani Mafu.
The financial implications on the clubs are a burden that they should look to lift off their shoulders. One opines that sometimes, money accruable to fired coaches is big enough to help strengthen the team.
Clubs caught in the web of hiring and firing of coaches are of different calibres: The most successful, the less successful, the average, the small, the big, and any other adjective you choose.
With Bosso enjoying a sound sponsorship that comes from Sakunda Holdings, Mpofu and his other fired colleagues are rest assured of a golden handshake. So was Tawachera and Mathe as Bulawayo Chiefs have been free spending courtesy of a seemingly lucrative sponsorship deal with betting company MOWS and their principal sponsor who is reportedly into mining.
Dhlakama is probably also smiling all the way to the bank because Ngezi Platinum Stars are undoubtedly one of the best sponsored local football outfits in a list that also includes Chicken Inn and FC Platinum.
Thus, there is sometimes a serious need for clubs to dig deep into human resources implications of hiring and firing coaches in football.
Of course, football clubs cannot totally avoid firing coaches, but one can argue that coaches should be given enough time to prove themselves or turn things around.
In 2020, reports emerged that Chelsea spent 26 million pounds to pay off their former manager, Antonio Conte, and his staff.
Conte was sacked after just two seasons at the club. In that time, he won the English Premier League in his first season and the FA Cup in his second.
Interestingly, the next manager, (Maurizio Sarri), only lasted for a season and after Frank Lampard just above one season. Astonishingly, Chelsea’s tendency to fire coaches has cost the club about £90 million.
This includes pay for Mourinho twice £18 million and £9,5 million, Felipe Scolari (£13,6m), Villa Boas (£12 million), among others.
Manchester United’s case is not different too. The club hired David Moyes after Sir Alex Ferguson retired as coach in 2013. However, the club sacked him after just 10 months. United reportedly paid about £5 million as a payoff. This fee did not include the amount paid to Moyes’ backroom staff.
Moreso, coaches are humans, too, and deserve to be treated as such. The psychological effect of a sack on these coaches is most times underestimated. A former Benfica coach allegedly “cursed” the club following his sack after helping the club achieve success domestically and in Europe. He allegedly said:
“Not in a hundred years will the club win a European title.”
Since then, it has been more than 50 years and six cup finals, and the club is yet to lift a European trophy. Although his case does not relate directly to patience with coaches, it does capture in its entirety how most coaches feel about being fired.
Furthermore, the psychological effect of a sack was laid bare by Van Gaal after the board terminated his Manchester United contract. According to ESPN, he said of his sack: “The way Manchester United have treated me was terrible.
“They have been mean and low.”
As earlier stated, the club’s impatience with coaches does not guarantee success. If it did, Manchester United would have won the Premier league within the first eight years post-Ferguson era. In that period of eight years, three football managers were sacked.
Some of the most successful coaches are beneficiaries of a hiring club owner who retained confidence in them.
Legendary Alex Ferguson, Jurgen Klopp, and Pep Guardiola are three notable examples.
Sir Alex Ferguson is arguably the greatest ever coach to grace the English league and the average footballers who turned out great coaches.
But he was a beneficiary of a patient club. It took Sir Alex Ferguson six whole years to win the English league title.
Today, he is arguably the greatest ever coach, but it took six years of patience from the club.
Klopp’s story at Liverpool is similar to that of The German international was without a trophy in his first three seasons as Liverpool’s coach. The club retained confidence in the coach despite losses in the Europa league (2015/ 16) against Sevilla and Real Madrid in the Uefa Champions league (2017/ 18). Klopp repaid the club’s faith when he won the 2018/ 19 Uefa Champions League trophy against Tottenham in the final. Also, he won the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup. The icing on the cake was Liverpool’s league victory in the 2019/ 20 season. That victory came after a 30-year league drought.
Pep Guardiola was an instant hit at Barcelona and Bayern Munich but had a disappointing first season at Manchester City. However, despite criticisms from various quarters, the club kept faith in him that his tactics would work in English football.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that a club will be successful the moment they sack a coach. If anything, sacking and hiring of coaches now and then makes the club unstable. Players have to adjust to different tactics frequently, a situation that may compel some to reconsider their stay.
Player power in football could also be why football managers are sacked.
In addition, the financial implications on the clubs are sometimes shocking. That a club like Highlanders, Bulawayo Chiefs, Bulawayo City and Ngezi Platinum Stars has to pay for services never rendered is not prudent.
Psychologically, it leaves coaches in a bad state, especially those who hold the club dearly.
In a nutshell, the unjust hiring and firing of coaches in football is an ugly trend; it must stop!