Managerial Merry-Go-Round: Part 1

Replacing the Head Coach (manager) has become embedded within modern football culture. This season has already seen two of the most high profile managers sacked; Jose Mourinho (Chelsea Football Club – PPG: 1.96, Win %: 55) and Rafa Benitez (Real Madrid – PPG: 2.29, Win %: 68).

Unfortunately this turnover trend of managers is by no means a new phenomenon to hit the footballing community;


These findings become even more drastic and difficult to understand when you consider that to date, there is no concrete evidence which supports the continuation of the managerial merry-go-round.

Within football, head coaches are generally believed to be responsible for the team’s overall performance by Directors of Football (DoF), fans and the media alike. In reality, however, the title of head coach encompasses vast and varied responsibilities including; hiring and firing players, building and maintaining both squad harmony & coach-athlete relationships, planning, organising & delivery of training, talent nurturing and preparing team playing strategies for matches.  Therefore appointing the correct coach is critical to a club’s on field success and improved club ranking. Equally, appointing an unsuitable coach can lead to poor performances and financial loss (compensation for an early termination of their contract).


As a position which is seen to impact team performance to such a degree, clubs often decide to fire and replace a head coach. Thus, the turnover of head coaches has increased to the extent that it is now considered part of the modern football culture. However, much debate still remains within the research community as to the effect of replacing a head coach and whether or not it benefits team performance in any way. ‘Folklore’ within football advocates that firing a head coach leads to a ‘shock’ effect amongst players, resulting in improved team performance. Conversely, within research the three most generally accepted theories proposed to explain the turnover of head coaches are: (1) Scapegoating Theory – head coach turnover does not improve performance and is conducted to signal a reluctance to accept poor performance within the club from the DoF, (2) Vicious Cycle Theory – head coach change causes a decrease in performance due to disrupting the established processes and relationships and (3) Tenure & Life-Cycle Theory – new head coach creates new processes, which improves long term team performance.

The average reign of a head coach within England’s four professional leagues between 1992 and 2005, was reported at 2.19 years, whilst the average reign world-wide has decreased to 1.38 years. These latest reported figures demonstrate the extent of the high turnover and thus, the ineffectiveness of current head coach recruitment methods….

Part 2 of this article will include an in-depth analysis on the stats behind the coaching carousel that is world football, whilst also discussing the potential reasons behind the culture.


Cameron Campbell



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