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Separating The Waffle From The Chaff: When Do You Sack The Manager?

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Manager sackings are increasingly prevalent in the footballing world, as is the propensity of drivel clung to by desperate managers in media interviews. Here, Marc asks: Are the two linked?

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Sacking a manager is a unique, contextually-relevant process that can be down to mad ownersdreadful form, or all of the above. However, there must be a reason for choosing to drop the axe at one particular moment. Focussing on cases past and present, I'll determine if and when you sack a manager by what they tell the media after games.

"If you're saying that was worse today, then you are certainly not a supporter of this club." Brendan Rodgers, 12.12.2009

It's an easy place to start, the case of Brendan Rodgers. Much discussed, and having gone down in Reading folklore, we begin with the aftermath of a December draw at home to Scunthorpe in 2009 that left Reading 21st in the Championship. Rodgers launched into a staunch defence of his team despite woeful form, with his decision to go from lamenting a defeat to Crystal Palace to being excited about a draw with Nigel Adkins' Scunny falling on deaf ears.

"We got what we deserved which was nothing" Reading 2-4 Crystal Palace (December 8th)

"I thought the boys played really well and the performance level was good" Reading 1-1 Scunthorpe (December 12th).

This, as we all know, led to BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor questioning the manager, and being told by Rodgers that he would be as far away from his team as possible in the preparation to next weekend's trip to Bristol City.

In fact, it was Rodgers who took no part as the Northern Irishman was dismissed from his post to allow Brian McDermott to rescue the Royals' season and finish 9th.

"We had done really well, we were the better team." David Moyes, 20.4.2014

When Manchester United lost to Everton in the back-end of the 2013/14 season, the last lingering hope of a fourth-placed finish was gone. David Moyes was sacked within days. Was that the reason he went after a defeat at Everton? Not for me.

The Red Devils rarely got close to fourth, the fact it was over with four games to spare shows that. What did it was how Moyes offered his side as the better team in what was a disparate display against The Toffees, a performance ripped about by Sky Sport's Gary Neville at the time.

So why didn't they sack Moyes after a defeat a couple of weeks earlier at home to Manchester City? Moyes offered very different opinions in that game.

"We never started well at all, we brought it on ourselves." Man U 0-3 Man C (March 25th)

"We've been the better team" Everton 2-0 Manchester United (April 20th)

Moyes was gone and to this day Manchester United have failed to really improve on the 7th place the Glaswegian left the then-Champions. Perhaps if he'd have been more understanding, Moyes would still be at the Old Trafford helm.

"If [the fans] think there's something better that's all well and good" Owen Coyle, 1.12.2013

Owen Coyle's 2013 departure from Wigan after a disappointing lower mid-table start to the season certainly led to a feeling of de ja vu at the DW after Uwe Rosler's recent removal. In this instance, the manager takes on the fans and defends his team.

"We have to be ruthless and more clinical." Wigan 0-1 Brighton & HA (23rd November 2013)

"If people want to be over critical that's the nature of football these days. I'm old enough to deal with it." Wigan 1-3 Derby (1st December 2013)

Looking at the results, the Derby game meant two losses in six and six points off the play-offs- hardly any worse than the four points adrift the Brighton defeat had left them. The key factor here is that Coyle didn't shirk any criticism after the loss to Brighton, but took on the fans and chose to imply that the blame lay elsewhere than the Scot's door for the Rams defeat. As is the way with these things, that was chosen as the moment that Dave Whelan knocked on the gaffer's door with an empty cardboard box- such timing is no coincidence.

"The best team won- they were stronger, faster and more inventive." Alan Pardew, 13.7.2014

Alan Pardew's interview after a 4-0 thrashing away to Southampton was decidedly determined, yet delivered calmly by a manager under severe pressure. It was a game that had all the hallmarks of an imminent sacking, fans on the managers back as they were beaten in the early moments and bottom of the league. Pardew acknowledged this, and accepted the peril of his team and own position at the club.

Pardew, however, saved his job with a brilliant run of matches after this game- still going to this day. That run was no product of this interview, but had Pardew come out and talked up his performance to deny critics and ignore the issues, he probably wouldn't have had the chance to create a second wind that, to this day, has kept him as Newcastle manager.

"We've had 60% possession, but was the quality really there? It's disappointing" Nigel Adkins, 8.11.2014

When Reading manager Nigel Adkins stood up to the media after a poor defeat to Charlton, we could have been witnessing the end of the Adkins era. Some may argue differently, but his media performance made few bones about our lack of cutting edge, a problem most Royals fans agree on.

Of course, external factors- ownership instability, injuries to name two- can be said to be saving his bacon for now, but Adkins was clearly distraught with his side.

Now, this can change. This could be his Crystal Palace moment. A defeat to Cardiff could be brushed off, leading to Adkins being dealt with in the same manner. Time will tell for the Reading boss.

*****

The post-match interview is for both the fans and the boardroom. The fans use it to gauge where the team is in the manager's mind. With criticism there is hope, because the message is that better can be done, and the boss has a determination to achieve better.
On the flip-side, we have seen what happens when managers say their team is doing well when the opposite is true.
If a team is playing well-below expectations, then manager's must acknowledge it. If not: something is seriously wrong, the plot is lost, and the sack is imminent.