Jim Spence: New season and sack race is already under starter’s orders

© SNSCsaba Laszlo.
Csaba Laszlo.

The bookmakers’ odds are already laid on the first football manager to be sacked in Scotland, with Dundee United’s Csaba Laszlo attracting some serious money.

Nothing quite sums up the brutal nature of football like the public clamour to make a few quid on a man losing his job.

However, as Hyman Roth said in the Godfather: “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

Football folk know only too well the cut-throat nature of the game: one man’s demise is another man’s opportunity to replace him.

Various managers in and out of work will be keeping a watchful eye on the Tannadice situation.

Chairman Mike Martin has backed his man, as chairmen and women do everywhere, but managers aren’t daft and they know that results are all that matter.

Five-year plans are often shredded in five minutes and when the fans turn their fire on the boardroom the manager usually becomes toast shortly afterwards.

The sense of expectation at football clubs differs depending on history and the fan base.

Some fans are more demanding than others but it’s only a matter of degree, and ultimately failure to deliver on the pitch will see most fans happily call for the manager’s head.

No manager is ever bombproof.

Yesterday’s hero can become tomorrow’s zero in the blink of an eye.

With increased player power, the modern manager has to have the full package of skills to avert the sack.

A streak of authoritarianism, infused with the patience of an agony aunt, tempered by the wisdom of Solomon, along with the swift ability to immediately change tactics and systems when the points are in danger, are all requisites of the successful boss.

Those who have such qualities keep their jobs, those who don’t are soon handed their P45s.

The new football season is open for business. Now it’s just a question of who gets the chop first.


~ Out on the bike this week I passed deserted seven-a-side football pitches with their goalposts still up and tennis courts with their nets also billowing empty in the breeze.

We often talk a good game about facilities not being available for kids but both of the ones I passed were free and empty.

Not everyone is away for the trades fortnight so where are tomorrow’s footballers and tennis players?

Is everything now so structured that kids have to have their sporting activities supervised for them?

A frequent old excuse for failing to produce footballers in the modern age has been: “We take the goalposts down in the summer.”

It was always nonsense since the greatest exponents of the game used the old ‘jackets for goalposts’ method and in doing so produced legions of top-quality players.

Playing with mates without adults there to interrupt gave my generation the chance to grow and learn, and how to deal with everything from bullies to scraped knees.

It also helped decision-making and developed camaraderie and teamwork, especially when it came time to persuade the owner of the only ball to leave it with the rest of the group when he was shouted in for tea.