- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

Worried about job security? Try being a coach in the English Premier League.

The pay may be good, but be prepared to suffer a bruised ego. There have been eight coaching changes in the 20-team league since the season started in August.

The most recent firings were of Tony Adams at Portsmouth and Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea. Adams survived just 105 days on the job; Scolari got through seven months of a three-year contract.

Scolari’s exit was a stunner. He came in with gold-plated credentials, having won a World Cup with Brazil. He was replaced by Guus Hiddink, who becomes Chelsea’s fourth coach in 16 months.


And to think: D.C. United has had just five coaches in 14 years.

When Chelsea could only tie Hull City at home, Scolari was shown the door. And there’s no trickier club to coach than Chelsea, with its hard-to-satisfy Russian billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich. Scolari got fired with Chelsea in third in the standings. His predecessor, Avram Grant, was fired after losing the title race and the Champions League last season by a whisker to Manchester United.

“This is the ultimate results business, where 90 minutes is the test of planning, coaching [and] preparation,” wrote Sue Bridgewater, a marketing expert at England’s University of Warwick, in an e-mail.

Only four coaches in the EPL have had their jobs more than three years: Liverpool’s Rafael Benitez (four years), Everton’s David Moyes (seven years), Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger (12) and Alex Ferguson (22 years) at mighty Manchester United. According to a study by Stefan Szymanski of the City University London, the current 20 EPL clubs have gone through an average of nine coaches since the league was founded 17 years ago. Since Ferguson began his unprecedented reign, 153 coaches have lost their jobs.

With TV rights bringing in billions of dollars, coaches are given little time to build cohesion and look to the future. They must continually buy and sell players to get immediate results in order to stave off relegation. The club owner with roots in the community and a lifelong love for the team often has been replaced by the overseas billionaire who arrives with mixed motives.

“The coach does the job in the full glare of the media spotlight, and this has been intensified by 24/7 sports news and the need to find interesting stories,” Bridgewater wrote. “The length of time the coach has to get it right is going down. … Sometimes poor performance may [come] down to finances and other factors, but the coach may still pay the price even if these factors are the reason that results aren’t good.”

While most coaches are watching their backs, at the other end of the spectrum stands Ferguson, who has ruled at United like a colossus. And to think that his job was saved by Mark Robins’ goal in a January 1990 FA Cup game against Nottingham Forest.

With his team riding a seven-game losing streak, Ferguson’s job was on the line, but Robins’ goal in a 1-0 win kept Ferguson in his post. United went on to win the Cup - and Ferguson has ruled ever since.

Ferguson has since led the team to 30 other trophies, including 10 EPL titles, two European Championships and five FA Cups. These days, it’s rare for a coach to get the three-year probation period that Ferguson enjoyed.