I shouldn’t have listened to him, really.
To be honest, both were as safe a bet as you could get in German football for this particular market, with a recent history of lurking between (relative) calamity and catastrophe, as well as managerial instability.
As Jens Keller had been at Schalke since December 2012, and Mirko Slomka had only been at HSV since February, I agreed that it seemed more likely that Keller would go first, especially since he’s been on the proverbial hot-seat since almost his first game at the club.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, both clubs sacked their managers before the eighth game of the season.
The first to do so were Keegan’s old club, HSV. Rooted to the bottom places since Slomka took over (as they were for much of the past few seasons), they managed to somehow avoid relegation by drawing twice in the play-off with Greuther Fürth, staying up on away goals. He actually only managed the club for eighteen games (he lasted until mid-September), but with only three wins and five draws in that period, the board expected better. Is that fair, though?
The problems at Hamburg run a lot deeper than the manager, and continuously switching the manager is a symptom of the wider problems at the club. The club has a ticking clock in the stadium which counts how long they have been in the Bundesliga for (they have never been relegated). It’s hard not to feel that the clock will have to be reset at the end of this season. They were very lucky it hasn’t been already, with some of their slapstick performances.
Schalke managed to hold on a bit longer, before sacking Keller a few weeks ago, with the somewhat surprising announcement that Roberto di Matteo would take over the reins. What is important to point out is that Schalke’s inconsistency still regularly sees them relatively high up the table (Keller had a win percentage of over 46%), and with a win against Hertha on Saturday they moved up to eighth in the league (before the Sunday games were played). They are also still in with a good chance of qualifying from the Champions League group stage, although they were embarrassed by Dynamo Dresden of the Third Division in the domestic cup.
Moving on from two sacked managers who could reasonably argue the case for more time, to one who can’t. Coming up to the end of his fourth year in charge in December, a certain Alan Pardew Esq has to be on borrowed time.
Before his appointment, I said we should give our managers at least three years in the job, so we could start to see settled teams and playing styles – we have usually been guilty of the opposite, and sacking managers constantly leads to those in the big seat taking increasingly short-term decisions to save their own necks.
Through gritted teeth over the past few seasons, I maintained that we should keep him and see what he would build. As Spring 2014 came and went, though, it became increasingly obvious that both the players and he were on auto-pilot. As soon as the final whistle went on the 2013-2014 season, he should have been given the boot. Every game since then, despite a nervous win at home against Leicester, it’s become increasingly clear that we are currently a bad team. Some of that is the tactics. Some of that is certainly the players.
And some of that is also the fault of Ashley and those higher up, it must be said. But, until either Rangers get in the Champions League again, or someone offers Ashley his money back and a route out of our club, we have to accept that he is staying.
Sure, his decisions are focused on benefiting himself at the expense of the long-term future of the club, but the current manager has proven incapable of motivating the players any more, and we will continue to struggle until that is resolved.
Ashley can presumably see this, also. Let’s hope he can see it before it’s too late. After all, as stubborn as he is, he isn’t gonna get his money back if we’re in the Championship.