In such uncertain times clubs should alight from the managerial merry-go-round
Time to sack off the sackings
With the population of England and Scotland once again confined to barracks, it is hard to summon up the mental energy to care about which footballers may be on the move this month.
There are more important things to worry about than whether Jesse Lingard's career would be revitalised by a loan spell at Brighton or Sheffield United.
But the January transfer window is open and the show must go on, even if we're not standing outside our homes once a week to bash pots and pans in a display of gratitude to key workers such as Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola and Kia Joorabchian.
While it may be business as usual for these super-agents and their golden-egg-laying clients it could also be the perfect time to freeze another wing of the football-news industry: the sacking of managers.
I would love to see the game's authorities try out a real-life thought experiment in which no club would be permitted to change its head coach for the next three years.
Any kind of stability is welcome in these uncertain times – we'll all remember 2020 as the year that, shockingly, Bournemouth parted company with Eddie Howe – and our hard-working football managers deserve a little more patience.
It has always been a precarious job. We are often reminded that Sir Alex Ferguson's career at Manchester United would have been cut short after just three years if Mark Robins hadn't scored a crucial goal in an FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest in January 1990.
These days, though, a manager's future might be determined by a dubious VAR interpretation of the handball rule, a goal chalked off because the striker's nasal hair strayed offside, or the absence of a couple of key players due to a breach of Covid-19 protocol.
Even those managerial appointments which appear to be part of a club's cool-headed, long-term strategy turn out to be anything but.
Midway through his second season at Chelsea, Frank Lampard is prominent in the sack-race betting despite overseeing a 17-game unbeaten run between September and December. My personal hunch is that Lamps would work well alongside director of football Steven Gerrard but that's a debate for another day ...
Lampard's side lost at Arsenal on Boxing Day when, had the outcome been the other way around, Mikel Arteta may well have been out of a job after almost exactly 12 months.
The Gunners had six permanent managers between June 1966, when Bertie Mee was appointed, and the end of Arsene Wenger's reign in May 2018. Sheffield Wednesday, in contrast, are currently looking for their tenth boss in 11 years and their third of the 2020-21 season.
Now is the time, then, to sack off the sackings and alight from the managerial merry-go-round. Instead, let's board the managerial rail-replacement bus service from Truro to Edinburgh Waverley. We're in it for the long haul.
Offering every boss a safe seat in the dugout until January 2024 could have a number of beneficial consequences.
The managers themselves might be less inhibited by the understandable instinct for self-preservation.
With the Sword of Damocles sheathed and safely locked away in a glass display case, perhaps gaffers would feel more inclined to take off the handbrake, try out some funky new formations, unleash talented youngsters, or show more faith in those squad members who have been dismissed as luxury players in a pragmatic world.
Phrases such as 'player power' or 'losing the dressing room' would be excised from the footballing lexicon. If a manager is unsackable then there is little point in sulking, plotting or downing tools in an attempt to get rid of him.
And, fanciful though it may sound, perhaps this arrangement would provide a morally improving lesson for football club owners.
Swapping managers on a regular basis in order to distract from the more fundamental problems at a club is a well-established ploy.
Deprived of the power to make superficial, crowd-pleasing changes, owners might start to tackle the underlying issues at their clubs or, at least, start taking a more diligent approach to the recruitment of a new coach in the first place.
Now and then the oligarch class needs a gentle reminder that taking the easy option isn't always the best thing to do – whether it is retreating to a lavish underground bunker in New Zealand or bringing in Guus Hiddink on a six-month rolling contract.
Of course there would be one or two practical problems if a moratorium on getting rid of managers was actually introduced.
It would, sadly, signal the end of Watford's innovative policy of giving the role to any continental European male between the ages of 35 and 60 with whom they strike up a conversation in the M&S Foodhall at Luton Airport.
And, given the highly-strung nature of some clubs' supporters, there is undoubtedly the potential for (hopefully) bloodless coups.
Do we really want to see a ragged, replica-shirted militia storming the manager's office in order to overthrow the self-styled 'commander in chief and gaffer for life' Alan Pardew?
Or jubilant looters emerging from a training-ground canteen bearing aloft a gilt-framed, life-size portrait of Mark Hughes, resplendent in full-dress training kit with a Rumbelows Cup medal pinned to his chest?
Come to think of it, it's a ridiculous idea. A no-nonsense approach is required – I'm going to sack myself and bring in Tony Pulis, fresh from his 45 days as Sheffield Wednesday boss, to take charge of the rest of this sentence.
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