Open any management book and you are likely to find a chapter on how important it is to make mistakes.
Time and time again the best CEOs and management consultants tell us if we are not making mistakes then we are not pushing hard enough and it is only by making mistakes that we learn.
We might consider sport to be different than business but it isn’t and leading a football club is really no different than managing a business.
It is about identifying and bringing together a group of individuals whose talents mesh to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. It is about focusing on a goal and creating a plan to help achieve the goal.
So if football management and business management are so similar then why are so many managers tossed aside and never return to the level they achieved previously?
Is there a football manager out there who could be termed as successful who has not been fired at some stage in his career? Sir Alex Ferguson was fired by St. Mirren, Arsene Wenger by Monaco, and Jose Mourinho by Chelsea.
A quick review of a list of former Premier League managers produces close to 150 names. Managers who at one time or another were deemed qualified to be in charge of a Premier League side.
Now a few were true temporary appointments and some resurfaced at another club only to be fired again. But nonetheless when you consider that the Premier League is now in its 19th season that is an average of 8 managers a season who have a Premier appointment (or two) on their resume but will not return.
That is not a statistic that will encourage the latest victim of the Premier League managers-cull Robert Di Matteo.
The decision to fire Di Matteo follows on the heels of a two other odd dismissals. Chris Hughton was let go by Newcastle even though he helped to stabilize the most turbulent of clubs and brought them back to the Premier League with a minimum of fuss and little drama.
With Newcastle sitting in mid-table at the time he was terminated it made it difficult to reconcile the decision. Blackburn followed up with firing Sam Allardyce – a veteran manager who had guided Blackburn into safe waters after they flirted with the relegation zone during the 2009/10 season.
Some could point to a bad run of results for West Brom under Di Matteo – 7 defeats in the last 9 Premier League matches. No doubt Di Matteo made mistakes but to think that a manager with less than four years of experience would not is clearly ridiculous.
But he was good enough for West Brom to hire from MK Dons of League One in the summer of 2009 with only one season of experience under his belt.
He was good enough to take West Brom back into the Premier League and he was good enough to win at the Emirates and Goodison Park this season and leave Old Trafford with a point – WBA the only team so far to do so.
West Brom may now only sit above the relegation zone on account of goal difference but they are only a couple of wins away from 10th spot as well. Close to two-thirds of the Premier League are looking downwards with some trepidation with 12 or 13 rounds still to play.
Here’s hoping that another team sees not only the error made by West Brom but also see the benefit of hiring a manager who made his mistakes somewhere else.
Robert Di Matteo and the brand of football he promoted deserve another chance in the Premier League.
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