Early Doors

The sack race

Early Doors

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Great Britain's success at the European Athletics Championships can be attributed to the skills of an overseas coach. Nothing new there. Charles van Commenee, a speccy Dutchman, is the head coach of UK Athletics.

He is basking in some reflected glory after the country returned from Barcelona yesterday with a record haul of 19 medals. For a GB team that, it must be said, is some serious booty.

All this backslapping got Early Doors thinking on a train bound to nowhere early this morning. What if GB do spectacularly badly at the Olympics in 2012?

Will the learned coach, who by all accounts has an iron fist in a velvet glove, be dumped from his post? At least old Van Commenee will get two years to get it right, unlike in the unruly world of football.

One minute you are a winner, the next you are a wallflower, especially when you are trying to earn your bread from the world game.

Our hardy band of Premier League managers won't even get a couple of months at it if their best laid plans unravel before Blackpool turns on its lights. Some may see the Seasiders' manager Ian Holloway as the favourite to get the chop, but ED feels he is the last figure who should be waiting for a tap on his shoulder on some idle Monday morning in the bleak midwinter. His team are expected to fail.

Forget about being a brain surgeon, trapeze artist or a lion tamer, Premier League football management is officially the most stressful occupation in the world.

Some bookies are offering 40/1 that the Premier League will survive a season without seeing a sacking. There's more chance of Sol Campbell becoming a Weight Watchers spokesman.

Early Doors feel the 13/8 odds on offer for four to go is about right, but which four will it be? Cast your eyes over this quartet, and give us your thoughts, which we know you will when you've taken your morning medication in cyberspace.

The sack race - Runners and Riders


Roberto Mancini - Manchester City

If the Italian has assembled any level of intelligence, he must know the clock is already ticking down on when he will asked to clear his desk at Eastlands.

Gulf Arabs are not noted for their tolerance in football. Sheikh Mansour is one of the world's richest men. Such characters always strive to get what they want. Mancini, with or without his cute little knotted City scarf, is disposable. Mansour and his cronies might not see any of their cash back, but would like a Premier League title to show for their investment. That is unlikely to happen this season. The sacking of Mark Hughes last season was shameful.

Mancini can expect to be catapulted in mid-season if City are struggling. Or whenever Jose Mourinho becomes available to accept the job.


Chris Hughton - Newcastle United

The next worst thing to working under an Arab owner, is working under a Newcastle fan from the middle of the commuter belt. Or working under Mike Ashley (a Spurs fan until 2007).

Newcastle probably returned to the Premier League last season in spite of Ashley, who forked out only £4 million to aid their promotion bid while bringing in £20m from sales. He remains an unpopular figure in Geordieland. Ashley apparently once won over £1m on the single spin of a roulette wheel, but he daren't gamble on the club's survival.

Expect Hughton to go the way of Sam Allardyce if Newcastle are left deep in the mire early on, especially if Sunderland begin bounding towards respectability under big Stevie Bruce.


Roberto Di Matteo - West Bromwich Albion

Early Doors has shared a soft drink or two with the bewitching Roberto in the past. He was a class act as a player, and is obviously a thinker as a manager.

There is no doubt that Di Matteo knows his football, but the same could be said for Tony Mowbray, who arrived in the Premier League espousing some sort of Dutch Total Football philosophy a season or two ago before being left totally stranded at the bottom of the table. The Baggies could wait until the end of the season to sack Roberto, but history suggests their board know how to get the job done. Di Matteo must accept early on that Premier League survival is not about how you get there, but making sure you are the last team on the lifeboat. Pretty football is of secondary importance.

Alex McLeish - Birmingham City

There are a number of managers who would be the same price as Big Eck for the sack, but McLeish is the choice of Early Doors to be under some pressure this season. Why, we hear you ask? Well, simply because he was not the choice of owner Carson Yeung, another overseas owner with whims to satisfy. Yeung inherited McLeish and even though he has been willing to bestow riches on the former Rangers and Scotland manager, he is unlikely to be found wanting in hanging McLeish out to dry if Birmingham toil. McLeish has perhaps made a rod for his own back by finishing ninth last season. If he does worse with a few suitcases of cash to unload this season, he will be deemed a failure.

Early Doors has a lot of time for Eck and Di Matteo, but the advice to the men from the same city is to win, win and keep on winning. And that may still not be good enough to keep your jobs.


Love has been in air for Sol Campbell, and so has the whiff of a chicken dinner or three. Judging by some recent pictures, Sol looks like he has been eating pies for breakfast, lunch and dinner before settling down to a carvery in the evening during what has become a rather self-publicised honeymoon. A number of Newcastle fans have called him "fat belly" but instead of knocking off the extra pounds quietly in training, big Sol waddles straight into the debate. "It's pathetic," said Campbell.

"I had been training for three days - just three days. I am three weeks behind everyone else in pre-season. Don't they know I have just got married and been on honeymoon?

"I accept that the picture wasn't flattering, and I do need to catch up on my level of fitness, but the training kit was not very flattering and showed up all sorts of things.

"The truth is that I am now in better shape than when I started off back at Arsenal after a long lay-off. I got myself back into shape at Arsenal, and I think I had a reasonably good end half of the season."

Honeymoon or no honeymoon, Newcastle fans deserve better comments from their new central defender. Geordie fans loved Gazza mocking his belly. Sol, don't take life so seriously. You are a professional football player, so be professional. There is plenty of time to eat for fun after you retire.


Couple of matches in the third round of the Champions League qualifiers.

Hapoel Tel Aviv host the Borat-loving Akotobe Lento (yes, you heard right) of Kazakhstan trailing 1-0 from the first leg. Anderlecht hold a 3-1 lead over Welsh side TNS before their second leg in Belgium. If that doesn't light your fire, then there is always the tennis from Washington, San Diego and Copenhagen to fall back on.

Just to mark your cards, Copenhagen is the one with Caroline Wozniacki in it.

We only tell you this because she is a Eurosport blogger.

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