Friday, March 7, 2008

About That "Dreaded" Vote of Confidence

The idea that a vote of confidence, the catchall term for any public announcement by a club front office backing its manager, is a kiss of death is one of those soccer clich├ęs, like "a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer" or "Steven Gerrard is a box-to-box midfielder", that fans and pundits repeat often enough that they have been accepted as truth, reality be damned.

I bring this up, because after Newcastle's heartbreaking/hilarious loss to Blackburn on Saturday, chief exec Chris Mort felt compelled to defend the seriously out-of-his-depth Kevin Keegan. And now that the Newcastle front office has publicly given King Kev the dreaded vote of confidence, or DVoC (pronounced dee-vock), conventional soccer wisdom says Keegan's days at Tyneside are numbered. Or are they?

Before we withdraw from our 401(k) and put down a couple of Euros at Betfair, let's look at recent DVoCs in English football, and how soon the axe fell thereafter.

  • Jose Mourinho
    DVoC issued: April 20, 2007
    League record at the time of DVoC (W-D-L): 22-6-2
    Left club by mutual consent on: September 20, 2007
    League record after DVoC (W-D-L): 5-7-2 (2-5-1 to finish 2006-07, 3-2-1 in 2007-08)
    Period of Dread: 153 days

  • Martin Jol
    DVoC issued: August 21, 2007
    League record at the time of DVoC (W-D-L): 1-0-2
    Sacked on: October 26, 2007
    League record after DVoC (W-D-L): 0-3-3
    Period of Dread: 66 days

  • Chris Hutchings
    DVoC issued: November 1, 2007
    League record at the time of DVoC (W-D-L): 2-2-7
    Sacked on: November 5, 2007
    League record after DVoC (W-D-L): 0-0-1
    Period of Dread: 4 days

  • Steve McClaren
    DVoC issued: October 18, 2007
    Sacked on: November 22, 2007
    Period of Dread: 35 days

  • Sam Allardyce
    DVoC issued: November 26, 2007
    League record at the time of DVoC (W-D-L): 5-3-5
    Sacked on: January 9, 2008
    League record after DVoC (W-D-L): 1-3-5
    Period of Dread: 44

Also of note, poor Sammy Lee didn't even get the benefit of the DVoC before being fired 14 matches into his Bolton stint, and two managers besides Keegan are currently serving Periods of Dread: Gareth Southgate, who received his DVoC on November 13, 2007, and Rafael Benitez, who got his on January 26, 2008. However, Middlesbrough has since lifted itself out of the drop zone, while the ownership is so unpopular that the supporters will throw a shit fit if Benitez is sacked for anything less than going Joey Barton on small Liverpudlian children.

The problem with using the DVoC as any sort of indicator or catalyst is that DVoC only comes at a time of crisis, perceived or real. It's not like Glazer needs to reassure Manchester United supporters that he's 100% behind Fergie. If a situation is bad enough that it warrants a DVoC, a firing is inevitable - the public show of backing merely gives the manager more rope with which to hang himself.

Then again, the DVoC might be significant for its effect on the team's mentality. If a situation is bad enough to require a DVoC, it's either horrible beyond repair or a temporary slump. If it's the former, there's no use keeping the manager around. If it's the latter, it reinforces the sense of crisis but still maintains the status quo, i.e. "The roof is leaking but we're going to keep the it exactly the way it is." At that point, it's probably better to give an ultimatum, or better yet, fire the guy and put him out of his misery.

My prediction? Newcastle will find itself in relegation zone and Keegan will make it to mid-April. Dennis Wise is handed the caretaker role to finish the season, and survive the drop on the final weekend.


The Fan's Attic said...

So when did Rafa get his vote of confidence from Hicks/Gillett? 2 months ago?

badly drawn boykins said...

I've gone in and added the link - G+H were compelled to show their support in the wake of the Klinsi brouhaha and the club's general sucky form in the league.