Sack Him!

"You'll Never Walk Alone", Shankly G...

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Barely a day goes by these days without there being some baying crowd calling for the head of a leader. It’s a curious thing, really. I think most people who accept the sentiment “we’re all human – we all make mistakes” as being true and yet to many (perhaps the few outside of the previous group) this sentiment seems to exclude bosses, managers, politicians and any person in a position of power. Why is this so?

The Problem

The person I am writing about in particular is the manager of Liverpool FC, Roy Hodgson. Hodgson has barely spent half a year in charge of Liverpool and yet there are many already calling for him to be fired from his job.

I find this rather sad, really. After all, Liverpool is my favourite football team – they are the team that I grew up supporting with my dad. In my living memory, achievements have been sparse (but great spectacles when they do arrive) and Liverpool’s performance in the league has always been a subject of great scrutiny. It’s under scrutiny currently because Liverpool find themselves in the worst position they have been in for quite some time, as they dangle perilously close to the relegation zone.

It’s rather sad because Hodgson inherited a Liverpool despondent of hope and fresh out of ideas from the previous manager, Rafa Benitez (who, subsequently, has been sacked from his latest job after half a season in charge), who left the club in a seemingly destitute state. Of course, it is not entirely his fault but the feeling is that there were signs showing and opportunities to be taken be heeded neither. Benitez, after some success and many seasons in charge, had to go.

In to this precarious situation steps Hodgson. Hodgson joined Liverpool after a successful season at Fulham FC where he revived their fortunes and took them to the heady heights of the Europa League Final. For what was arguably their best season in their history Hodgson was awarded the title of “Manager of the Year” by the League Managers Association.

The Hodg’s On!

Combining this with his experience in football on all levels and the general aura of respect he attracts, Hodgson seems like the ideal manager. Alas, Liverpool have not been performing well of late. Rather than blame the footballers themselves – the only people physically capable of winning football matches – blame seems to rest solely on the head of Hodgson.

What’s interesting is that the LMA, the same organisation that gave him the award only a few months ago, defends Hodgson. Indeed, there are other football managers whose positions look equally uncertain at the moment and are facing criticism in the press. Richard Bevan, the CEO of the LMA, today urged clubs to stop “scapegoating” managers. He may be right.

He cites research that shows that sacking a manager and then hiring a new one creates an initial boost in points before the club sinks back down to a level below the managerial switch. When you combine that with the monetary impact of prematurely terminating a contract, you have a recipe for for disaster.

The Hodg’s Off?

Could the Liverpool board be seriously considering letting Hodgson go? I always find it very weird that leaders should be sacked when their organisations need them the most. During the cold and snowy December of last year all of the airports in the UK experienced problems, usually because of the inability to clear snow of runways. It was common in the press to see passengers calling for the resignation of the politicians and airport bosses “responsible” for allowing such horrors to happen. Why? Seriously, why?

Indeed, there were mistakes. Once again, both the airport bosses and politicians failed to collaborate to ensure that airports would stay open and remain as unaffected as possible. It’s fair criticism to say that they should have and it even makes sense from a financial point of view. What is crazy is to insist that they lose their jobs, especially during this crisis.

“Crisis” actually means “turning point” or, in other words, a test of one’s mettle. Clearly, the bosses failed. However, this failure is not a sign of incompetence and certainly doesn’t form part of a trend. Indeed, if they were to fail to heed these warnings this year and again prove unable to deal with the situation then it would seem a good idea to seek a replacement. But we must keep in mind that these bosses are paid huge salaries, they are considered to be the pinnacle of management, and they are considered to be the best there is. The idea that you can simply swap one high class manager in for another is fantasy.

We All Make Mistakes

We do. We all make mistakes. And, we all like someone to blame when something goes wrong. Furthermore, when we do not know that person and that person doesn’t even seem like a “real” person (i.e. more of a faceless suit) it’s easy to take your frustration out on them. But we must be calm and rational and think about what we would do if this was a person we knew – a friend or relative. We would see they are like us – fallible – and can often take time to get to grips with things.

When it comes to football managers, sacking someone before they’ve even had the chance to rebuild a squad following a tumultuously bad season seems ludicrous. It is even more ludicrous when that manager is considered by the LMA to be the best manager of last season. In the case of Liverpool, Hodgson needs to get tough with them – he needs to sit down with the players and say to them “if you don’t respect me, if you don’t want to play for me, if you don’t want to wear that shirt with pride then I won’t make you.”

The Liverpool squad has sufficient depth and youth to find players who really want to play football for Liverpool. I suspect many of the seasoned players, regulars like Torres, Gerrard and Reina are starting to lose their passion for the club. If this is the case, it makes no sense to keep playing them when they’re simply liabilities.

In the case of the culture of sacking at the drop of the hat, people need to think about themselves as well. What would they think if they lost their job after one mistake? Some may think I am under-reacting to the failure of politicians and business leaders. Perhaps, but people need time to work and they need time to make things work. The constant replacement of leaders does nothing for stability and continuation of policy and ethic.

Of course, if you disagree you could just sack me and never visit the blog again – but what would that get you?