Is your club thinking of sacking their manager this late in the season? As Rob O’Connor points out, that doesn’t always work out well…
1) Egil Olsen, Wimbledon (April 2000)
Not long before Pete Winkleman tore up the roots in SW19 and ferried Wimbledon up the M25 to Milton Keynes, the Dons were one of the more staid and stable Premier League clubs.
Joe Kinnear, the man who in a later life would give interviews to the press about “Yohann Kebabs and Shola Ammomobi” (seriously. Youtube it), had built a team that in March 1999 sat 6th in the Premier League and had just forked out £7.5m for John Hartson from West Ham to push ahead into Europe. But when Kinnear suffered a heart-attack on March 3rd before a match against Sheffield Wednesday the club suffered a trauma from which it was to never recover.
Following a calamitous end to the season which brought precisely zero wins Kinnear stood down on health grounds to be replaced by Norwegian Egil Olsen for the start of 1999/2000, and the man who had led Norway in the 1998 World Cup duly ploughed the club headlong towards the relegation zone in what was a car crash of a season.
He was sacked with two games to go with the Dons teetering on a precipice, placing his assistant Terry Burton in the driving seat as Bradford City’s David Wetherall sent Wimbledon crashing down to Division One on the final day.
2) Chris Hughton, Norwich City (April 2014)
When Neil Adams replaced the sacked Chris Hughton in April 2014 he was handed one of the more peculiar briefs in football management; beat Fulham next week and then hope for the best.
Norwich had known from the day the fixtures were announced that by the time they walked off against Fulham on April 12th they would almost certainly have needed to gather all the points they needed in order to survive, before the season ended with games against Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Hughton was sacked after defeat to West Brom with the club in 17th, with the board investing insufficient belief in his ability to conjure the necessary points on the uphill home straight. For Adams then it was win or bust against the Cottagers, and the pressure proved too great as City went down 1-0 to leave themselves adrift. A surprise draw at Stamford Bridge followed, but it proved too little too late as the Canaries, with Adams still at the helm, were relegated.
3) Danny Wilson, Sheffield Wednesday (March 2000)
"It would seem to us that the club has virtually capitulated this season, started downsizing and is resigned to dropping down into the First Division", said former Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett in January 2000 after Sheffield Wednesday had just beaten Bradford City 2-0 at Hillsborough. The old adage that politicians know as much about football as footballers do about politics might have made the Wednesday board wary of Blunkett’s suggestion that “it would be best for the club if [manager] Danny Wilson was to leave”, especially coming as it did during a mid-season purple patch that saw the Owls collect 10 points from five games in January and December, and Wilson was duly given a vote of confidence.
But how quickly a vote of confidence becomes a stay of execution – five points from seven games followed, culminating in a miserable 1-0 defeat at struggling Watford, which left Wednesday exactly where they’d been for most of the season – bottom. Peter Shreeves was installed to try and salvage the Owls’ Premier League status but despite back-to-back wins against Wimbledon and Chelsea in April the club were relegated after drawing at Arsenal, one game from the season’s end.
4) Dave Bassett, Nottingham Forest (January 1999)
Nottingham Forest’s one-season stop-off in the Premier League in 1998/99 was a befuddling one. They had a fine August, pushing double-winners Arsenal all the way on the opening weekend at Highbury then winning two in a row to sit pretty on six points after three games. Fast-forward to the end of the season and they had an even stronger finish, wrapping-up with three straight wins in May to take maximum points from the season’s run-in.
Forest must have been operating on solar power, because everything that happened outside of these glorious summer months was an unmitigated disaster. September to April brought two wins, one managerial sacking and a relegation before the Easter eggs had been cleared off the shelves, and the unfortunate manager to get given the boot in the midst of it all was Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett.
In stepped Ron Atkinson for his managerial swansong before hanging up his camel-hair coat for good, but even Ron couldn’t arrest the decline, taking Forest back down to Division One with a 2-0 defeat at his former club Aston Villa.
5) Mick McCarthy, Wolverhampton Wanderers (February 2012)
There was a curious spell in the early part of this decade when West Bromwich Albion seemed to have placed a curse on Premier League managers. In the space of less than a year both Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo were given the chop from Chelsea following defeats to the Throstles and in February 2012 the same fate befell Wolves manager Mick McCarthy after a humbling 5-1 defeat in the Black Country derby at Mollineux.
There can rarely have been a more disastrous sacking in top-fight history, as replacement Terry Connor went on to rack up a grand total of four points in three months as the sorry Wanderers fell back into the Championship, but it was the heights from which they had fallen that really rankled for Wolves fans. Going into a third consecutive season in the top division having just secured a record 15th place finish, the way Wolves lost their bearings following McCarthy’s sacking was a sad sight, as an out-of-work Steve Bruce was rejected as a possible replacement on the day he was due to sign a contract, leaving an unprepared and unfancied Connor to try and steady the sinking ship.
6) Ståle Solbakken, Wolverhampton Wanderers (January 2013)
A continuation of the disordered thinking that had gotten Wolves into the Championship in the first place was never likely to get them back out of it, at least not in the direction they wanted. And so it proved when the board appointed Wanderers’ first overseas manager at just the moment when the club was at its most vulnerable.
Stale Solbakken never looked comfortable in the job but at least there was little suggestion that the club would slide through the divisions, until the Norwegian was sacked in January thus destabilising the club just further than recent traumas could bear. Dean Saunders did what he could in the second half of the season but with morale at an all-time low and the club rudderless, Wolves made an unwelcome entry into pub quiz trivia by becoming the first club in almost twenty years to fall straight from the 1st to the 3rd division.
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