Marco Silva’s sacking as Watford manager after a poor run of one win in eleven games begged the question: how much power does a manager actually have.
The boss may be the person who holds responsibility for all matters surrounding the goings on at his club, but it increasingly seems that it’s the committee, owners, directors and club chairmen who hold all the aces.
The official reason for Silva’s sacking was a loss of focus and concentration after his public flirtation with Everton which led to Watford’s downturn in form. But there’s also reports of tension between Silva and the club’s board, the Pozzo family, who sanctioned the sale of players Silva wanted to retain whilst also taking control of all their signings, some of which Silva had not been informed of. The traditional concept of the manager managing a club has all but disappeared.
In Watford’s case it seems to be that the manager is there merely to coach the players, many of whom may have been signed by the men in the corridors of power. It’s not uncommon to hear the director of football take charge of the team selection on a matchday. That just isn’t the way to run any business, let alone one as lucrative and prestigious as football. The manager should be given full control of all aspects of the club with those above him there as a sounding board should the need arise. Otherwise what’s the point of having a manager at all?
At Newcastle, Mike Ashley is reluctant to give Rafael Benitez any money to spend on reinforcements whilst Antonio Conte at Chelsea was known to be unhappy at his board’s summer transfer dealings. The sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United – authorised against Conte’s wishes – is a clear example that it’s the owners that call the shots. How can these owners expect their managers to get the best out of a squad of players that may have been recruited by those above him. If the owners don’t trust the manager with buying and selling players, then how can they believe in him to be the man responsible for the long term future and stability of their club.
How many other businesses operate in this way – in any other job in any other normal walk of life the boss has the final say in everything his organisation does: from holding the purse strings and dealing with the money, to deciding who he wants to work for him and where and – most crucially – it’s his job to deal with the hiring and firing of his staff. In what other job do you see the manager fired when things go wrong?
There are, of course, some clubs where the manager is still able make the big decisions, with Jose Mourinho at United, Pep Guardiola at City and Arsene Wenger three big name bosses who are given that privilege where their club’s hierarchy have opted for a more hands off approach.
There are many more who could take a leaf out of that book and follow suit.