The final few weeks of the season can heap untold pressure on a manager, especially those chasing the holy grail of the 40 points mark. Here we look at the managers facing the drop and the probability of them being able to keep their side up.
With the title wrapped up and with just three games to go it is the race for survival where the real drama is taking place. With Q.P.R and Burnley now only able to gain a potential total of 36 and 35 points respectively they must be considered as good as relegated.
18th position is still very much open. Sunderland currently occupy the spot with 33 points but the four teams above them have every opportunity of being dragged into the battle. As much as anything, the mental stability of the men in charge of these clubs has been under intense scrutiny. It’s sink or swim time.
Here are the men at the helm who potentially face the drop this season.
Sherwood has perhaps provided the most column inches of any manager to what he’s actually done. He is the antithesis to his predecessor Paul Lambert. Fans at Villa Park had endured an excruciatingly boring season until his departure.
Not only was the football stale, the manager himself projected a dour demeanour and not even the introduction of Roy Keane as assistant could liven up proceedings. When he hurled that water bottle into Lambert’s nether regions, fans could be forgiven for indulging in a spot of schadenfreude. They had suffered a similar ache all season.
Sherwood was prescribed as the antidote to that. He is unashamedly self-congratulating and while it’s easy to dismiss his litany of clichés and sideline antics, he has undoubtedly livened up an otherwise boring season for the Villans.
Reaching the FA Cup final after a dramatic win over cross-town rivals and a hilarious pitch invasion is a good way to endear you to fans. Football should be fun and patrons of Villa Park could be forgiven for forgetting that during the latter months of Lambert’s tenure. Sherwood looks like he’s restored the joy and rescued the season. His long-term prospects are more uncertain. Then again, would you bet against him?
Carver is a Geordie through and through. But so is Alan Shearer and his attempt at keeping the Magpies up ended in failure. Although if that’s the criteria (and it seems to be) then why not give Ant & Dec the job. Really, they could hardly do any worse could they?
Newcastle are a club in turmoil. The fans have had enough. The chairman has had enough. The manager, it seems, has now had enough. If he is to be believed then the players too have had enough. He amazingly accused centre-half Mike Williamson of deliberately getting sent off so he could avoid the last few games.
It leaves one wondering if anyone is going to show up at Newcastle’s last three games. Carver walked from his only permanent managerial position at Toronto FC in the MLS after being fined $750 and receiving a sideline ban in 2009.
It seemed a petty reason to resign but Carver maintained his gripe was with the league and their punishment.
Owner Mike Ashley is famous for utilising ‘zero-hour’ contracts at his Sports Direct Empire. It looks like his most prominent employee could now be on a similar contract and the hours could soon be drying up.
Bruce always looks like a man under pressure. In terms of the Premier League he is the most experienced manager in the relegation battle. Although he has never suffered the ignominy of being relegated, he was dismissed from Sunderland in 2011 when they were in freefall.
One can only speculate what would have become of them that season if Martin O’Neill hadn’t stepped in. Two wins on the trot seemed to have given Hull some hope. Following another demoralising defeat to Arsenal, the Tigers meet fellow strugglers Burnley at the KC Stadium and face a trip to Tottenham before hosting Manchester United on the final day.
Bruce has despaired at the fans’ protestations against the club’s owner Hassan Hallam and his audacious bid to change the name to Hull Tigers. There could be a lot more than names to worry about if Bruce can’t put his experience to good use in the final few games.
Who could you rely on more in a relegation dog-fight than a man who has literally fought off a pack of wild dogs? Pearson claims he did as much in his pre-season holiday and he seems to have remained in a survivalist mind-set ever since.
Leicester fans won’t be complaining (apart from the one he told to “F*** off and die”) as the Foxes look like they may have done just enough to stay up.
The game against Burnley is crucial. Pearson has, whether by design or by chance, successfully deflected all the pressure onto him. It could prove to be a masterstroke.
After Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet you get the sense that the hierarchy at Sunderland were examining any potential saviour’s characteristics very closely before tasking Dick Advocaat with saving Sunderland’s season.
Advocaat certainly brings a cooler head to proceedings but his vast experience lacks any evidence that he can survive a relegation dogfight. He is adamant that he is not on Wearside for the long haul and is just focused on top flight survival before he slings his hook back to Holland.
That’s his brief and he intends to fulfil it. Sunderland have a tough run-in with an away trip to Goodison, a visit of a resurgent Leicester before two final away games at Arsenal and Chelsea.
Surprisingly QPR look ready to reward Chris Ramsey with a new contract, regardless of the club’s Premier League status. Ramsey was promoted to the job after Harry Redknapp hobbled off into the sunset in January.
It has been a monumental task for the inexperienced Ramsey. Chairman Tony Fernandes can be forgiven for taking his eye off the situation at Loftus Road after his own tragic and high-profile events at his airline business.
QPR look as good as gone and many of their high-paid players will be out the door. Ramsey’s task next season will look very different as he will be expected to gain promotion with a trimmed down squad that Fernandes hopes will be on a sounder footing financially to build on success rather than yo-yo between the divisions.
‘The Ginger Mourinho’ has to be commended on the job he’s done at Burnley. They only spent £4.5 million since promotion, so if Dyche had been given the resources to bring in a higher quality player one must imagine Burnley would be home and dry by now.
As it stands they are last and have been in the bottom three all season, despite never falling too far behind. Dyche has managed to instil an impressive work ethic and sense of belief in a team that really was doomed from the start.
He has performed admirably in difficult circumstances. Burnley would do well to hold onto Dyche and they would surely be the bookies’ favourite for an immediate return to the top flight.
Muiris Dunworth Pundit Arena