Why the number of managerial changes in Scottish football is not a concern

Neil McCann's last game in charge at Dundee was a 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock. Picture: SNS/Craig Williamson
Neil McCann's last game in charge at Dundee was a 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock. Picture: SNS/Craig Williamson
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Dundee’s sacking of Neil McCann brought the number of departures in the SPFL to 12 but it is a number which shouldn’t be concerning, Joel Sked writes.

• READ MORE: Jim McIntyre the front-runner as Dundee sack Neil McCann

Following Neil McCann’s departure from Dundee, the number of clubs in the SPFL that will have a different man in the dugout from the start the season has risen to 13.

As many as nine of the changes can be seen as sackings.

With such a spate of exits it is unsurprising to hear concerns expressed in the media, mainly by the managerial fraternity. Yet, much of what has been said has been generalisations. There has been the usual bemoaning of lack of time or patience, or of directors panicking.

On Tuesday night, BBC Sportsound started by discussing the breaking news of McCann’s sacking from Dundee.

Former Hibs, Falkirk and Inverness CT boss John Hughes asked “when are we going to come up with some sort of contract to protect managers?” before putting forward the revolutionary, albeit idealistic, idea of a transfer window for bosses.

As well as being idealistic it is nonsensical.

Yes, it would give managers a bit of protection so they know they have time to put across their ethos and experiment without the spectre of the sack hanging over them. But equally, it could be forcing a situation where a manager is clearly failing and continuing to harm the club who have to wait weeks and months to fix a mess.

There are a myriad of other issues. It moves uncertainty to a short window during the season, it prevents managers out of the game getting back into a job for a defined period of time and it would simply frustrate players, fans and even the management. It’s unrealistic and unworkable.

Meanwhile, speaking to the BBC, Peterhead manager Jim McInally laid some of the blame at the door of directors.

He said: “Chairmen seem to get themselves into a hole at times. They keep digging and all of a sudden the only way out is to sack the manager. There is a massive weakness in a lot of boardrooms.

“It is criticism that they can’t take and they are maybe not close enough to their manager to understand why things have happened.”

Essentially, he is saying they are swayed by fan opinion and don’t understand the game.

There are circumstances where a better understanding would be of assistance. Perhaps a team are playing well but results are have not quite clicked, a new system is being bedded in or a key player or two are missing and would make all the difference.

It’s a relationship McInally, currently the longest-serving manager in the SPFL, has cultivated at Balmoor since 2011. Yet, with the team’s failure to win promotion from League Two last season following relegation from League One, given their budget at that level, it’s perhaps not the time for McInally to lecture other clubs on how they should deal with underperforming managers.

• READ MORE: Did Celtic star mock Neil McCann over Dundee sacking?

And that’s exactly what the vast majority of sackings have been for.

One Dundee fan summed that up perfectly, replying to the club on Twitter following McCann’s dismissal: “Gutted it never worked out for McCann, but it’s a results based job and the results have been p**h. Good luck for the future Neil.”

There was a solid argument to be made that Dundee United, Dundee, Dumbarton and Partick Thistle should all have parted company with their manager at the end of last season. Csaba Laszlo had failed to steer United to promotion, while across the city McCann had shown little sign of improvement at Dens Park with the same failings continuing to show.

The former Sky Sports pundit may have told referee Steven MacLean that his decision to give Kilmarnock a penalty for a dive by Jordan Jones could cost him his job. A more likely reason was the continued poor results.

Alan Archibald oversaw relegation at Thistle as his side went down without a fight and similarly Stephen Aitken was in charge of Dumbarton as they meekly dropped out of the Championship when his ‘play for 0-0’ tactic at home to League One Alloa Athletic failed to secure the desired result. Keeping the Sons in the second tier wasn’t quite the work of miracles as some made out and fans had become fed-up with the football on show.

Paul Hartley was allowed to completely reshape his Falkirk side, but rather than lead to optimism within the fan base it brought with it concerns.

If anything, the board in these instances displayed patience, support and that loyalty quality which is often said to be lacking.

Fans do play a big part in the future of a manager and certainly influence in the board’s decision. That is nothing new.

They perhaps don’t have that ‘football understanding’ but when a sizeable majority are booing, complaining and wanting a manager out then they perhaps have a point.

On the face of it, Alan Stubbs’ sacking at St Mirren was the most harsh. After all he was only four league games into his Buddies career. But when issues are so glaring and when there is a such a downbeat feeling as to his management, the club could have taken more of a risk not sacking him, replacing him when it was only too late.

From the outside looking in such a high number of managerial changes is not a good look for Scottish football and it is easy to jump to conclusions. Yet, delve a bit deeper and there is more method than madness.

Rather than clubs face criticism for sackings they should face questions about their hiring process to begin with.

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