So it’s the final roll of the dice time for Premier League chairmen who see their sides perched perilously close to the relegation zone, lurking close to a slip through the trap door, away from the jewels and riches that come from being in the league of the English football elite. However it’s probably not the final roll of the dice, who would bet against at least one of the clubs who have recently changed their manager from doing so once again before the season is out.
In the past few weeks we have seen Crystal Palace, Swansea and Hull dispense of the managerial services of Messrs Pardew, Bradley and Phelan, and with the installing of Marco Silva on Humberside it would appear that at least two of those three decisions are high risk, akin to the high-stakes rooms in Las Vegas casinos.
Bob Bradley was replaced just 85 days into his stay in south-Wales by Paul Clement, a man interviewed for the role before Bradley was appointed, but also a man yet to prove himself in the managerial hot-seat. There is no doubting of his coaching credentials as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but how much of that is going to assist him in steering a poor, leaderless Swansea side who look like they are lacking in direction and focus, as well as quality, away from relegation. His short reign at Derby last year was probably ended prematurely, with the East-Midlands side sitting in fifth when he was sacked, but with only 33 games under his belt as the boss he is going to be under pressure from the off to prove that he is more than just a number two. They say you need to manage over 100 games to be able to prove yourself as a manager, let’s see if Clement makes it that far.
Unlike Clement, Marco Silva does have significant experience in the dugout but his spells in Portugal and Greece are hardly ideal preparation for taking the reigns at Hull, where the frosty relations between owner and fans make the winds blowing in from the North Sea look positively tropical. Off the field issues led to Steve Bruce’s departure on the eve of the season, whilst Phelan was left with only 13 fit players at the start of the campaign, although he did begin superbly picking up the manager of the month award for August. Since then however things have been bad, owner Assem Allam has put the club up for sale, with fans protesting and threatening to boycott games, with performances on the pitch leading them to the bottom of the table. The Premier League is a notoriously hard league to get to grips with, just ask Pep, and with the cut and thrust of a relegation dog fight, Silva is going to have to hope that the arctic blasts help him to develop a thick skin.
What makes the appointment of Silva even more worrying for Hull however is the prospect of what happens next season. If Hull do go down as is looking likely, then the task of bouncing back is going to be Herculean compared to trying to keep them up this season. The Championship is a ruthless league, even for experienced campaigners in it, and the only thing that is worse for a chairman than being relegated from the Premier League is not bouncing straight back up into it. Hull have proven in the past that stability after being relegated has given them a good platform to bounce straight back, Burnley have also shown this with Sean Dyche, and it’s looking like Newcastle will do the same too with Rafa Benitez. But would Silva be, or even want to be retained if he can’t keep Hull up.
The most solid of the appointments looks to be Big Sam, who proved last year at Sunderland that he is capable of keeping a team up. He also showed at West Ham that he can bring a relegated side back up from the Championship. But surely with the squad that he has inherited, he is hopeful more of emulating Tony Pulis’s success during his spell at Selhurt Park than what he achieved last season at Sunderland. However for Swansea and Hull it definitely looks more like a case of chairmen going ‘All in’.