If Sir Alex Ferguson‘s retirement after 27 years in charge of Manchester United in 2013, David Moyes leaving Everton after ten years there to take over and United firing Moyes less than a year later doesn’t sum up the changes in English football in recent years, little else will do so quite as well. While managers were once given years of patience to build their squads, sign players and implement long-term plans, in recent years the financial stakes of survival or victory have become so high that owners have grown impatient, firing managers who cannot immediately guarantee results. Chelsea, for example, under the ownership of Russian multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich, have had eight different managers in the past ten years (on top of those eight, Ray Wilkins also served as an emergency manager for one game, and Jose Mourinho is currently on his second stint with the team).
Despite my use of Manchester United and Chelsea as examples, it is almost always the clubs at the bottom of the EPL table who set records for shortest managerial tenure, in their desperation to stay in the league and avoid losing all of the money that comes along with the status as an EPL team. With such intense pressure, it is perhaps forgivable that owners could panic and act so quickly if they are sure the manager they have recently hired is not a good fit. It is nevertheless alarming when managers are hired and fired so quickly, and a sure sign of trouble and panic for that particular club, as most of the clubs on this list were relegated in the same season.
T9. Terry Connor, Wolverhampton Wanderers, 13 Premier League games
In 2012, after Wolves fired Mick McCarthy, they sat in 18th place, and were set for relegation. Instead of hiring an experienced manager to lead the team, they chose Connor, who had no experience managing an entire club. Instead of pulling out of relegation, Wolves failed to win a single one of the 13 games Connor managed, earning four draws and nine losses total, and the team plummeted to last place and relegation. After the season, Wolverhampton hired a new manager but kept Connor on as an assistant, before he departed in November of that year to re-unite with McCarthy at Ipswich Town. The following season, 2012-2013, saw Wolverhampton fire two more managers and get relegated down to League One, the third-highest division, but the team won League One this year and will be playing in the Championship again next year.
T9. Rene Meulensteen, Fulham, 13 Premier League games
After firing Martin Jol, Fulham appointed Meulensteen as manager in the hopes he could rescue the team from their 18th place position. While Meulensteen had briefly held managerial roles in Norway and Russia, the bulk of his experience came as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. After continuing to perform poorly, however, the club panicked and fired Meulensteen in order to hire Felix Magath to manage for the last twelve remaining Premier League games. Fulham, however, finished 19th out of 20 teams and were relegated down to the Championship.
T5. Paolo Di Canio, Sunderland, 12 Premier League games
Remembered as much for his fascist leanings as the poor football Sunderland played with him in charge, Di Canio was an unmitigated disaster. Though he was able to win two games and draw two others, enough for Sunderland to place 17th in the 2012-2013 season and avoid relegation, he allowed many experienced players to leave in the summer, including current Liverpool starting keeper Simon Mignolet, and signed fourteen new players instead. Sunderland got only one point in its first five games to start the 2013-2014 season, and Di Canio was quickly fired for poor results and complaints from his players about his brutal treatment and criticism of the team. New manager Gus Poyet, however, was able to lead Sunderland back up to 14th by the end of the season.
T5. Iain Dowie, Charlton Athletic, 12 Premier League games
After managing Oldham Athletic and Crystal Palace with some success, Dowie took over at Charlton and was given significant funds to buy new players. Despite bringing in big-name striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on a free transfer and a young Scott Carson on loan, the team had a terrible start to the season and sat firmly in the relegation zone. The team made it to the quarter-finals of the League Cup, but it was not enough to satisfy ownership, and Dowie was fired. Dowie took on two other managerial roles before focusing on a career as a pundit with Sky Sports. Charlton’s woes that season, however, were far from over, and will be continued later on this list.
T5. Chris Hutchings, Bradford City, 12 Premier League games
After Paul Jewell moved from Bradford to take a managerial role with Sheffield Wednesday, the club promoted Hutchings, his assistant, to take his place. Hutchings, lacking any experience, led the team to just one win in his 12 Premier League games, although he also helped the team make the semi-finals of the Intertoto Cup (a since discontinued summer tournament for European teams who failed to make either the Champions League or UEFA Cup/Europa League). The team, who were enjoying only their second season in the Premier League after existing outside of England’s top league for seventy-seven years from 1922-1999, then panicked and fired Hutchings in the hopes a new manager could save their season. The team nevertheless finished the Premier League season in last place, and have not been promoted back since. Bradford City were finally promoted up to League One in 2013, the third-highest league, after six years of League Two play.
T5. Chris Hutchings, Wigan, 12 Premier League games
Seven years later, Hutchings found himself in circumstances very similar to those he had at Bradford. Hutchings again succeeded Paul Jewell as manager, who had resigned after keeping Wigan in the league the previous year, and after twelve Premier League matches, the same number as he had at Bradford City, he was fired on November 5th, almost seven years to the day that Bradford fired him. This time, however, Wigan actually enjoyed a strong start to the season, even briefly standing first place in the table after three games in August, before losing six straight games to seal his fate. Wigan then hired Steve Bruce, who led the team to a solid 14th place finish.
T3. Jacques Santini, Tottenham Hotspur, 11 Premier League games
After managing France to an underwhelming quarter-finals appearance in Euro 2004, Santini accepted the job to become the new Spurs manager. Santini, unlike the other members of this list, actually sat mid-table when he left, with three wins and four draws in his eleven Premier League games, although his team had also scored only six goals in those games. He was also not fired by the team, but rather resigned from the club, citing personal reasons. He later revealed that he left because his relationship with club sporting director Frank Arnesen was often difficult, as the team reportedly broke personal promises to him made during the hiring process, and he felt he did not have control over the team’s transfer policy. Martin Jol succeeded Santini as manager, leading the team to a comfortable ninth place finish that year.
T3. Sammy Lee, Bolton, 11 Premier League games
After Sam Allardyce left Bolton, Lee, his assistant, took over the manager’s role. The move, unfortunately, turned out to be a mistake, as Lee was unable to duplicate any of his predecessor’s results and managed only one win in the eleven games he managed before being fired. Unusually, however, this poor run did not dissuade Bolton or their fans from Lee, as he received applause from fans upon his return to the Reebok Stadium in 2008 as an assistant to Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, and the club later hired him back in 2012 to run their academy. Bolton survived the 2007-2008 season by finishing 16th, and also made the last sixteen of the UEFA Cup that year.
2. Paul Sturrock, Southampton, 9 games
Southampton had arguably the ugliest managerial situation of all time in 2004. First, existing manager Gordon Strachan was forced to retire in February after the media learned he intended to resign at the end of the season to take a break from managing. Sturrock, who had managed Plymouth Argyle for four years, came onto replace him, but only brought poor results and dissatisfaction from his players and the team’s board. Sturrock was thus fired just two games into the 2004-2005 season. After firing Sturrock, Southampton then hired Steve Wigley, who did little better and was himself fired after fourteen games in charge (just barely missing out on this list). Even hiring Harry Redknapp couldn’t save Southampton in the 2004-2005 season, and the team was relegated after 27 years in England’s top league. The team did not return to the Premier League until 2012.
1. Les Reed, Charlton Athletic, 2006: 7 Premier League games
Clearly Charlton had not learned their lesson in 2006 when they fired Iain Dowie (tied for 5th on this list) and hired Reed. Reed had been Dowie’s assistant, and succeeded Dowie after he was fired. Winning just one game in charge, Reed also had the dubious distinction of managing the team when they were knocked out of the League Cup by Wycombe Wanderers, who were in League Two at the time. After frequent media attacks, including nicknames like “Santa Clueless,” Reed was fired, thereby ending his reign as Charlton manager, the shortest in English Premier League history. As for Charlton, Alan Pardew was hired but ultimately unable to save Charlton from regulation. The club was relegated again to League One in 2009, but returned to the Championship in 2012.
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