The perils of Football League management
Ever heard of Fred Everiss?
Possibly not, but he has the distinction of managing a club from the top four divisions longer than any other person. Everiss was appointed secretary-manager of West Brom in 1902 and held the post until 1948, although in a move that might seem eerily familiar to supporters of certain clubs it was the directors who often picked the team.
Everiss tops the longest-serving list on the League Managers' Association (LMA) website. The highest placed current Football League manager is Crewe's Dario Gradi and even that is something of a cheat given that he is only holding the reins for Gudjon Thordarson. The period at the helm referred to relates to the 24 seasons Gradi was in charge between 1983 and July 2007.
In fact 1902, as it turned out, was a good year to be appointed a manager. Sam Allen lasted 31 seasons at Swindon and Syd King 30 years at West Ham.
Why the history lesson?
Well, as we move into 2009 I thought it was time for a little reflection. Uppermost in my thoughts was the number of Football League managers who parted company with their clubs over Christmas.
Leeds opted to dispose with the services of Gary McAllister on 21 December and Colin Calderwood was given his cards after Nottingham Forest's 4-2 Boxing Day defeat to fellow strugglers Doncaster.
Calderwood's future had been the subject of speculation for some time but I cannot help but sympathise with the timing of his dismissal. Turkey left-overs and the boot in the same day, not exactly merry Christmas, though I suppose that football clubs cannot allow the season of goodwill to have much impact when tough decisions have to be made.
Barnet boss Paul Fairclough announced that he was standing down at the League Two club after almost five years in charge at Underhill on 27 December.
Then, on Sunday, Paul Jewell decided that enough was enough at struggling Derby and resigned.
Bournemouth didn't want to be left out either so they sacked Jimmy Quinn after just 121 days in charge at Dean Court with just minutes left of 2008.
Further investigation showed that 19 Football League clubs have either sacked or lost their manager so far this season (with Bournemouth sacking two managers).
We are roughly halfway through the season. There are 72 Football League clubs. Maths, as with many subjects, has never been my strongpoint but I make that to be 26.38% of Football League clubs that no longer have the managers with whom they started the season.
The 2008-09 season, incidentally, kicked off on 9 August. Between then and Jewell's resignation on 28 December a manager has lost or left his job on average every 7 days.
Four Football League clubs - Hartlepool, Blackpool, Forest and Derby - are currently looking for a new man to try to revive their fortunes.
Forest are in talks with Billy Davies, while Charlton only gave the manager's job at The Valley to Phil Parkinson on a permanent basis on Wednesday.
Thordarson has only just taken over at Crewe and the same applies to new Swindon boss Danny Wilson, who wasted no time in finding a new job after Hartlepool dispensed with his services after two-and-a-half years at the helm.
A study conducted by the LMA and Warwick Business School analysed trends in football management between 1992 and 2005 across the top four divisions.
The study suggested that, broadly speaking, the amount of time a manager lasts in a job was coming down, it was 2.72 years in 1992 but 1.72 in 2005.
Exactly how many Football League managers are sacked per season does fluctuate but according to LMA's 'seasons movers ' section the figure has not dropped below 30 since the 2004-05 campaign.
This is not because they put in more hours or travel more or have to deal with more off-the-field matters. It is because expectations have changed; there is an unbending desire for success.
The season Accrington won the Conference they trailed the leaders by 13 points at one stage and a supporter pinned a notice on the home team's dug-out. It said: "Go now Coleman and take the rest of your scouse mates with you."
Of all the managers in the Football League only Hereford's Graham Turner has been in employment at his current club longer than Coleman, who took over at Accrington in August 1999 - and since 1998 Turner has been chairman at the Bulls.
"In society in general you have got a culture of wanting everything now, paying later," Coleman told me. "Chairman are put under increasing pressure but a team is rarely built overnight."
Coleman feels that radio phone-ins and website messageboards, where users can post anonymously, have increased the pressure on chairmen to act when times are tough.
Moore agrees that supporters can have an impact.
"When supporters start shouting for a manager's head you need a strong chairman and I don't think there are too many of them around," said Moore.
"Once supporters turn on the players and then the manager it is not too long before they turn on the chairman - and then it is goodnight."
As such Moore is adamant that there is no more important relationship at a club than that between chairman and manager.
A manager needs time to build his own team and familiarise them with the way he wants them to play.
"I think it is crazy when people get the bullet after six months," said Moore. "If you can build a team in six months then you are another Sir Alex Ferguson - and there are not many of him about."
Coleman points to his first season in charge as an example of the benefits that can be reaped when a chairman holds his nerve. Stanley were a Northern Premier Division One side. He had a good squad and a large wage bill but his team struggled initially and were 17th at Christmas.
"Anyone with itchy fingers was going to pull the trigger then," said the 46-year-old.
Accrington went on an unbeaten run after Christmas and won the league on goal difference. Coleman eventually took Stanley back into the Football League.
"At Accrington I have found that you can raise people's expectations but you cannot lower them. The more you deliver, the more people want," added Coleman.
Likewise, listening to Moore I got the impression that he thinks many supporters fail to understand that success at a club does not necessarily equate to pushing for promotion.
"Sometimes you have to look at gates and revenue and work within those restraints. It is very difficult," said Moore, who took Rotherham from League Two to the Championship.
And both believe that the instant pressure to deliver does not allow young managers to deliver their skills and grow into what is a most demanding job.
"The problem is that they don't get the time," said Moore. "A young manager who does not get it right can be out of work in six months - and then where is he going to go?"
Coleman reckons he has made hundreds of mistakes at Accrington but has been able to learn from them and become a better manager.
Eventually he sees retired players coming into the game as first-team coach with an elder statesman figure helping them rather than as an out-and-out manager.
The era of Fred Everiss is long gone and management in the Football League is a tough and unforgiving profession.
Who knows how many more will be gone by May, but consider this - how many clubs will really benefit from sacking their manager this season?