The Myth of the Long Term Manager


In the conversation about who should take over at Spurs this offseason, many have made the argument that the club should be looking for "a manager who will lead the club and grow it for years and years to come," and treat the potential for this outcome as some innate quality that should be considered when choosing the manager.

I've heard Frank de Boer preferred over both Louis van Gaal and Mauricio Pochettino for this very reason.

The problem is: it's all rubbish.

Even setting aside the difficulty in divining what a manager's long term intentions may be, it just doesn't seem to be the reality of today's game.

Ask City fans if they've been happy with the past four seasons (2 managers, 2 League titles, FA Cup, League Cup)

Ask Chelsea fans if they've been happy with the past 5 years (5 managers, League title, 2 FA Cups, Champions League winners, Europa League winners)

Look at Jose Mourinho's résumé.

As much crap as Levy takes for firing managers, the average tenure of Premier League managers is now just over one calendar year, which is about 30% worse than the tenure of Spurs managers under Levy.

While everyone thinks of managers like Ferguson, Shankly, Nicholson, and Wenger, those are all coaches from a bygone era. What if that just isn't the norm anymore?

It took Alex Ferguson 7 years to win his first league title and 4 years to win his first FA Cup. What exactly would the next Manchester United Manager have to do to keep his job for that long without silverware? How long does Brendan Rodgers realistically have if he can't win anything?

The days of the long-term manager seem as long gone as the days of the one club player. When it does occur, it's notable for being the exception that proves the rule.

When Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal, Alan Pardew becomes the longest tenured manager in the Prem...if he even makes it that long. After him it's Big Sam, who has led three different teams in the past seven seasons and has at least some West Ham fans upset with the team's style of play.

What if the best managers just can't resist moving on to a "bigger" club and the biggest clubs don't have the patience for down seasons? Look at a list of the best current managers you can think of and ask yourself how long they've been in that position. You'll find that the average is insanely low.

This year's Champions League Final features coaches who have been at their clubs for 1 and 3.5 seasons. Yesterday's Europa League Final featured coaches who had been at their clubs for 1.5 and 5 seasons.

Of all the managers of the 11 clubs who made it to a UEFA Champions League Final over the past ten seasons, only Wenger and Klopp are still at the helm of their clubs. Of the past four UCL Finals winners, only Pep Guardiola made it to the end of the next season still with the same job.

The best managers in football right now are all either on very short leashes or have at least an eye towards their next step, and with the money now involved in football this makes sense. Brendan Rodgers may be the exception, as Liverpool's resources might make it a big enough club for him, especially as a Scotsman (edit: oops! Northern Irishman) who's not itching at the chance for SPL NIFL glory. Maybe Rodgers will stay at Liverpool for a long time and bring them many titles (there's a chance), but odds are he won't. It's much more likely that Luis Suarez goes to Spain and Steven Gerrard retires before any sort of permanence of Rodger's tenure sets in.

With the odds stacked against longevity, even if you could predict the manager's intent, it's simply foolhardy to consider it as a major selection criterion for the next Spurs manager.

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