I was down in Devon last week, enjoying an electronic fast with no computer, TV, radio or phone. It was good to get away from the endlessly recycled rumours and the bickering on fans forums about whether Gianfranco Zola should or should not be sacked. When I returned home on Friday I learned that Zola was still the manager of Birmingham City and Gary Rowett was Derby’s new manager.
An article discussing the rapid turnover of managers in the Championship said Derby’s owner “gobbles up managers faster than Pacman.” It also quoted Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, who said, “The statistics prove the clubs that are successful are careful in the appointment of their managers and then provide them with time to achieve the long-term objectives of the club . . . Time is the rarest commodity in the game. [Managers are] simply not being given the time to deliver.”
Similar views were expressed in an article saying that Pep Guardiola’s zonal theory will take time for Manchester City to learn. “Sacking managers has economic consequences and makes player recruitment over the long-term chaotic. But there are also tactical implications. Short-termism breeds simplicity and conservatism. Few managers, knowing the sword is dangling over their heads, are going to take tactical risks, or are going to seek to impose a system that takes time for players to assimilate. Everything will be simplified; nobody will look beyond the next game.”
I agree that managers are not being given enough time to develop and said so when Rowett was sacked. In a post on the Blues Trust website, I wrote, “Young managers, like young players, make mistakes and learn from experience. Rowett transformed a dispirited group of players and changed a relegation threatened team into playoff contenders. He has done well and could develop into a very good manager.”
So what do I think about Zola? My gut feeling is that he is a lovely man but unlikely to develop into a brilliant manager. But my natural inclination is to believe that managers need to be given time to show what they can do. So I’m not in favour of sacking him now. That may be because of my relief after the team’s performance against Newcastle. I went to the game fearing we’d get hammered and went home happy with the draw.