The football world was rocked when Frank de Boer was sacked by Crystal Palace after just 77 days and five games in charge, which included four straight Premier League losses. The whys and the wherefores of De Boer’s dismissal have been endlessly discussed, although, but, for one terrible backpass and an equally horrendous miss at the other end, the Dutchman might still be in the job. Still, as he licks his wounds, and thinks about how he is going to spend the doubtless large compensation cheque that Palace have given him, De Boer might take solace that he is not the first Premier League manager to get sacked quickly. He might also derive comfort from the fact most of those other managers managed to subsequently rebuild their careers.
Les Reed was the previous holder of the record for the shortest reign as a Premier League Manager as he was dismissed after just 7 games. However, he still holds the record if we count the number of days at the helm. Nicknamed variously “Santa Clueless” and “Les Miserables”, an unofficial online poll voted him “the worst manager of all time”.
Reed had a career in coaching with the FA before joining Charlton Athletic as assistant to manager Iain Dowie. When Dowie was sacked, Reed was appointed in his stead on November 14, 2016 but his tenure only lasted 41 days until his eventual dismissal on December 24. During that period, he presided over one win (a narrow 1-0 victory at home to Blackburn) and a home draw with Everton. However, all the other games were lost, with the heaviest defeat coming in a 5 – 1 thumping away at Spurs, which was quickly followed by a three goal home defeat to Liverpool.
However, the most disappointing result was a one nil home defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, a team 53 places below them in the football pyramid at the time, in the Quarter Final of the League Cup. Reed’s fate was sealed with a 2 goal loss away to Middlesbrough. Reed has rebuilt his career subsequently, going on to be the Director of Football at Fulham, and then joining Southampton as Head of Football Development and Support, where he now sits on the board.
Bob Bradley was not only the first American to manage in the Premier League, he was also the first US citizen to coach any team in Europe. Bradley formerly managed the US and Egyptian national teams before spells in Norway with Stabꬱk of Norway and Le Havre in France. When he was appointed manager of Swansea City on October 3, 2016, it was not to universal claim. The Swansea supporters’ trust – who own a 21% stake in the club – complained they had not been consulted about the appointment, whilst many fans and pundits argued he only got the job because of his nationality – Swansea City have American owners.
In his 11 games in charge, Bradley saw his team win just two matches (at home to fellow strugglers Sunderland, and a nine goal classic with Crystal Palace) draw a further two games, and lose the rest, giving him a win percentage of just 18.18%. In the process, Swansea conceded a record 29 goals, with the largest defeat a 5 – 0 crushing defeat at Tottenham. The final nail in the coffin came with a 4 -1 home defeat to West Ham on Boxing Day, leaving the team second from bottom in the Premiership, and forcing the club to bring down the curtain on his spell as manager next day, after just 85 days in charge. Swansea went on to appoint the-then Bayern Munich assistant manager Paul Clement as manager, who was eventually was able to steer the team to escape relegation, whilst Bradley has subsequently been named as manager of Los Angeles FC, an MLS expansion team which will start play in 2018.
Terry Connor’s playing career was spent playing for a variety of league clubs, he moved into coaching, eventually winding up at Wolves where he became assistant manager to Mick McCarthy. When McCarthy was dismissed, Connor was appointed in his place on February 24, 2012, despite being, as he later admitted, temperamentally unsuited to management.
When Connor was appointed, Wolves were in 18th place in the table, struggling to avoid relegation. 13 games later the team had not only finished bottom of the Premier League, but had amassed only 25 points, one of the lowest tallies in their history. Those 13 games yielded just 4 draws and no wins, with the biggest losses being 5 – 0 defeats at home to Manchester United and away to Fulham. Wolves have since been relegated to, and promoted from League One and now play in the Championship with regular opponents Ipswich Town, where Connor has resumed his role as assistant manager to his old friend McCarthy.
Jacques Santini came to Spurs with a glittering reputation, described in 2002 by France Football as the best French coach, and, in 2003, as the World’s Best National Coach. When he was appointed Manager of Tottenham Hotspur on August 1, 2004, all then augured well. However, on November 6, 2004, he was gone after just 13 games in charge, citing personal reasons, although it was widely reported that he was ousted after a power struggle with the club’s sporting director, Frank Arnesen.
Few mourned his passing. The team struggled to score under Santini, managing just six league goals, and only recording wins against Newcastle, Birmingham and Everton, coupled with League Cup victories against Oldham and Bolton, whilst a series of disappointing draws and defeats culminated in a 2-3 home loss to Charlton. Spurs went on to have a succession of managers before finally finding stability and a degree of success under Mauricio Pochettino. Santini went on to manage Auxerre before another boardroom struggle forced him out.
Chris Hutchings made a mini-career after assuming the role of manager after Paul Jewell left the role. It happened when the pair were together at Bradford City and later again at Derby County and Ipswich, but it was at Wigan Athletic that Hutchings earned his place in the record books. Appointed at the end of the 2006-2007 seasons, Hutchings managed just 13 games in charge before he was sacked on November 5, 2007. The team actually started the 2007-2008 season reasonably well, but a run of 5 successive defeats, including a 4 – 0 loss at Man United pushed Wigan into the relegation places and sealed Hutchings fate. Under Hutchings, Wigan won just two games and drew two, but lost the rest of their fixtures, including a League Cup defeat at home to Hull City. Six years later, Wigan famously won the FA Cup and were relegated within 4 days, and now yo-yo between the Championship and League One. Hutchings apart from Derby and Ipswich also managed Walsall, and now plies his trade in non-League football.
Sometimes it is just the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time. If De Boer needs further consolation then the case of Brian Clough from the pre-premiership era may be instructive. Appointed manager of champions Leeds in July 1974, he famously only lasted 44 days before he was ignominiously sacked. Three months after his dismissal he joined Nottingham Forest then languishing near the foot of the Second Division. In the subsequent 15 years, Forest won promotion to the First Division, the Championship, back-to-back European Cups, 4 League Cups, a Full Members’ Cup, and the Anglo-Scottish Cup. Leeds won precisely nothing. So good luck Mr. De Boer and better luck next time; there surely will be a next time and things could work out very well for you there.