THE BLOG

Managerial Merry-Go-Round Lacks Variety

17/12/2013 15:35 GMT | Updated 16/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Andre Villas-Boas and Steve Clarke became the latest casualties of a ubiquitous perversion of Christmas cheer this weekend. Whilst Clarke departed West Bromwich Albion with something of a whimper, losing 1-0 at Cardiff City to record a fourth successive defeat, Villas-Boas' reign at Tottenham Hotspur ended in tumultuous fashion with a 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

But for both men, it is a case of 'goodbye but not farewell'. So clique-infested is the managerial merry-go-round that they will be back before you know it.

In many ways, Clarke's departure was the more surprising. The former Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool assistant coach largely impressed during his first foray into management, leading an unexceptional Albion side to a club-record eighth place in 2012-13 after Roy Hodgson was poached by the FA. This season, he has struggled to live up to expectations: that, and the fact that Victor Anichebe is no Romelu Lukaku. Nevertheless, his side's slump in form hardly amounted to a crisis.

But Clarke, despite his understandable insistence that he has "unfinished business" at the club, should not worry. If recent trends continue, he could well find himself at another Premier League side before the campaign is out.

When Tony Pulis' seven-year reign at Stoke City ended, many believed he and his attritional football were gone for good. But, if nothing else, the 55-year-old is an organiser and a fighter, and Crystal Palace hired him for these qualities after Ian Holloway's resignation. The Premier League was bereft of a baseball cap for just over seven months.

His replacement at the Britannia Stadium, Mark Hughes, is arguably just as fortunate to still be managing in England's top division. The Welshman managed Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Fulham - very briefly - with mixed results, before saddling Queen's Park Rangers with high-earning veterans. Nevertheless, his Premier League experience was almost certainly in his favour when Peter Coates came to select Pulis' successor.

And who can forget Steve Bruce? The current Hull City manager has done superbly to guide the unfashionable Tigers back into the promised land with a squad best described as workmanlike, but it is worth noting that whilst he excelled at Wigan Athletic, he suffered relegation with Birmingham City and struggled with expectations at Sunderland.

In a nutshell, you don't have to be exceptional to stay on the Premier League managerial merry-go-round.

Some would argue Villas-Boas is just that: exceptional. The 36-year-old Portuguese averaged 1.83 points per game in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, higher than any Tottenham Hotspur manager in the modern era, and became the youngest coach to win a European competition when guiding FC Porto to Europa League glory in 2011. Many argue that he is tactically naïve and has plenty to learn about man-management, but it is hardly the stuff of an also-ran.

Whilst it seems likely that he will return to Porto, he may choose to stay in London, hovering around Upton Park as West Ham United and Sam Allardyce flounder in the absence of Andy Carroll. Clarke may do so, too. Messrs Gold and Sullivan are largely patient with managers, but will be wary of allowing the season to drift towards calamity, as they did under the disastrous tutelage of Avram Grant in the 2010-2011 season.

This safety-first approach will only be concretised by the example of Paolo di Canio, whose spell in charge of Sunderland combusted with such ferocity that the remnants can still be found within the Stadium of Light. He was a veritable risk, a conscious departure from conventionality, and his vivid failure is likely to deter chairmen from opting for the risky option.

So what happens next? Clarke could easily find himself at Upton Park if Allardyce's fortunes do not improve, while it is believed that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is casting coquettish glances at Swansea City's Michael Laudrup and Southampton's Mauricio Pochettino. Meanwhile, Martin Jol, recently dismissed by Fulham, is rumoured to be in contention for the Albion job along with former Manchester United coach Mike Phelan.

Villas-Boas, meanwhile, is likely to look further afield for a return to management after a testing two-and-a-half years in England.

But he can be comforted by the fact that as soon as a side suffers a run of poor results, a job opportunity within the Premier League is likely to pop up. Such is the vicious and unforgiving way in which the cookie currently crumbles in the world of football management.