Getting The Boot In Football Management – A Moral Dilemma

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Firstly, happy new year! Like almost everyone else i’m glad to see the back of 2016 and I have higher hopes for the year ahead, although i’m not naive enough to believe this year will not be without its challenges as we continue to deal with the fall out from the events of the year gone by.

So during the Christmas break, amongst the usual things such as spending time with family, eating and drinking too much and catching up on some rest, I did what I love to do at this time of year; I watched the football.

Don’t stop reading just yet if you aren’t a football fan, this isn’t really about sport… much.

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If you follow me on Twitter it is probably impossible for you not to be aware that I am a huge Swansea City fan. I’m not a lifelong fan, I wasn’t really that interested until around 7 or 8 years ago, but I was offered a complimentary seat at a game once and was immediately hooked. I guess some would refer to me as a ‘plastic’ fan but that’s basically a lazy label that a shit-for-brains troll might throw in because they don’t have the basic intelligence to come up with something more creative. Anyway, I digress..

If you are aware of anything to do with football you will know that my team is not doing very well and that is in itself an understatement. We are bottom but one in the Premier League and have just replaced our manager. I’m optimistic, but this isn’t really about that.

Since October 3rd 2016 to December 27th 2016, a total of 85 days and 11 Premier League Games, my team was managed by a chap called Bob Bradley, an American, with no experience of the Premier League and a patchy overall managerial career who was given a poor side and no transfer window to show what he was about. However, in his 11 games, he showed enough to prove that he was out of his depth through implementing poor tactics, apparently losing the dressing room, and making strange team selections.

Egypt's head coach Bob Bradley of the U.S. Looks on during their 2014 World Cup qualifying second leg playoff soccer match against Ghana at Air Defence "30 June" stadium in Cairo

Many wanted Bob Bradley sacked from the get-go due to a view he shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place, but I strongly resisted. I felt this guy deserved a chance. After 7 or 8 games I too was losing my patience. Then came late December. Swansea had conceded 6 goals in the last 2 games and had lost 5 games in the last 8. We were playing West Ham on boxing day and before the game started I tweeted “come on Bradley, prove us all wrong”. We lost 4-1. I had reached the point, like many, many others, where I wanted Mr Bradley to be sacked.

The day after boxing day, Mr Bradley was ‘at work’ having taken training, he was away from his family who were most likely the other side of the world, and I wanted him to lose his job. I hoped he would resign, but either way, I did not want him managing Swansea City anymore.

I’ve probably lost most of my HR readers by this point but if your still reading, i’m getting to the point.

This had me thinking, and thinking, and then thinking some more.

My view on employees having their employment terminated, is that it is almost always a tragic situation. Termination is a failure and for the purposes of this blog post, it doesn’t matter whose failure it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a necessary evil and it will always happen, indeed it comes with the territory in my job and there will always be a need to terminate someone’s employment usually either due to conduct or performance, but just because it has to happen, doesn’t mean i’m comfortable about it. It is not like me to want someone to be dismissed but i’ve understood it when it’s happened to employees in places i’ve worked or when i’ve had to take the decision to terminate someone’s employment myself.

So if my view on termination is as i’ve described above, why did I so passionately believe Mr Bradley should have been given the boot? Why did/do I think its unacceptable in normal employment circumstances to feel one way, but in a sporting/hobby context to feel differently.

I’ve continued to mull this over, and i’ve tried to justify it to myself with the usual “It’s fine, he will have a massive payout” and “it’s part and parcel of the industry” with both statements more than likely being true, but it doesn’t change the fact that someone was brought into a room, told he had failed, and informed he was losing his job, at Christmas time.

I’ve concluded, harsh or not, i’m kind of ok with it for the most part because the contractual process in professional sport is a world I don’t understand, and because it happens so frequently. 27 managers in the four professional leagues have been dismissed so far this season. So due to this being the way in which professional sport has become it is provided for in the contracts in place, hence the ‘massive pay-outs’ that are so widely publicised. I can take some comfort in that although it might be an ‘ignorance is bliss’ strategy on my part.

“Brian Clough didn’t worry again about finance after being paid off by Leeds; he used to say to me it was the best thing that ever happened to him” Neil Warnock interview in The Independent, worth a read by clicking here.

I’ve concluded i’m probably ok with whats happened because many dismissed managers find alternative work fairly swiftly and that contract terminations in football are not usually seen as career-ending incidents but are accepted as very, very normal.

And i’ve concluded i’m probably ok with it because I know it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. It just wasn’t nice.

And despite all that, i’m still uncomfortable with why i’m comfortable about it, if that makes sense.

I have no answers, just something to ponder on.

As a new years resolution, i’ve decided that in each blog post i’m going to embed a song I like that is probably, somehow relevant to the topic. So here’s Led Zeppelin with Dazed and Confused. An absolute classic.

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