Sir Alex Ferguson has blamed overseas owners for a spate of recent dismissals in the Premier League and beyond. The Scot, 69, has survived an incredible 1,023 managers in the football leagues during his 24 year tenure at Old Trafford, but feels new owners lack the patience of the past, leading to the rash of sackings.
It’s an interesting rant from the Manchester United manager, who has spent the past five years becoming the American Glazer regime’s lickspittle. However, Ferguson’s friends Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson were fired by new overseas owners at Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool in the past month.
Allardyce got his marching orders from the Venky Group, Indian chicken merchants who bought Blackburn in a £23 million deal in November. Hodgson fell after a period of fan pressure at Anfield resulted in the Boston-based owners wielding the axe.
The dismissals have clearly irked Ferguson though, whose old-school management friends are slowly falling by the wayside.
“Unfortunately it’s the climate of management nowadays and, over the last decade, it has got worse and worse,” Ferguson told American radio station, Sirius XM.
“I don’t think the game has the stable directorships it used to have, with clubs having the grandfather and father being chairmen for periods of 40-odd years.
“You have new ownerships now, people from abroad, the Middle East, the United States and Russia.
“You’ve got all different types of cultures coming into the game now and running football clubs, and I don’t think they have the same patience of older generations.”
Arguably, in the short-term thinking of the age, club owners do tend to bow to fan and media pressure more acutely than in the past. But it is not obvious that all premature dismissals are at the hands of owners “from abroad,” despite Ferguson’s overly nostalgic view. There seems little evidence that owners’ nationality has directly affected any hiring and firing decisions made at any level of the English football pyramid.
Indeed, Ferguson’s son – Darren – was recently dismissed by the English owner and chairman pairing of Trevor Hemmings and Maurice Lindsay at Preston North End.
Meanwhile, Chris Houghton’s successful reign as manager of Newcastle United was abruptly terminated by the English owner Mike Ashley. Similarly, Avram Grant’s tenure in charge of West Ham United is perpetually undermined by English co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan, who repeatedly brief the press about their manager’s job security. Or lack thereof.
Ferguson was of course himself sacked as manager of St Miren in 1978 (we can presume no overseas owners there), officially for breach of contract but more probably because the former Rangers player had already agreed to join Aberdeen as coach. But the coach feels that the environment has become harder for managers, who are now given less time that before to succeed.
“It’s not an easy industry to work in nowadays, particularly for younger managers looking to gain experience and confidence. You know, time is a great thing for managers.
“If they are given time, they can get their philosophy across to the football club and lay the foundations, but they are just not getting that time.”
He may have a point. Ferguson was famously given four years before winning a first trophy at Old Trafford and six before United became English champions for the first time in 26 years. By contract Hodgson got less than six months to turn around the worst Liverpool squad in a generation.
Yet Ferguson’s volley against foreign owners appears to fly in the face off his own behaviour in recent months. The Scot has openly courted the Qataris in recent times, taking United on a short-notice trip to a Doha training camp last January, appearing at the ‘Aspire’ conference last autumn and publicly backing the country’s successful World Cup 2022 bid.
Rumours of a Qatari bid for United – or investment in the Glazers’ debt – persist in the face of the country’s sport-based post hydro-carbon economic strategy. As one United fanzine recently put it – its not hard to add two and two and make five when it comes to Ferguson’s behaviour.
More to the point, the legendary United manager has not once criticised the debt-laden business model brought to Old Trafford by the Glazer family. It leads to an obvious accusation of hypocrisy. It seems, when it comes to Ferguson, foreign owners are bad – unless its his foreign owners that is.