It’s one of football’s uncomfortable truths that often the biggest stories off the pitch are those that involve failure and despair, rather than any concerning success and contentment.
Take the subject of the managerial sack race for example, a narrative that rears its ugly head seemingly earlier as every season passes.
There are several factors that are involved when weighing up the likelihood of a forthcoming managerial departure: a team’s early form, club stability, transfer activity (or inactivity), the board’s recent history of sackings and, maybe most important of all, the pervading sentiment of the fans.
Given the above, it’s understandable that Sunderland’s Dick Advocaat is where the current focus of attention on this topic lies.
His side lie joint-bottom of the table with only a single point from the first three games, a period during which eight goals have been conceded.
As for club stability, well Advocaat himself is Sunderland’s tenth manager in 13 years, and the fifth in six years under the current ownership. Stable isn’t the term that many would use, despite the club now competing in their ninth consecutive Premier League campaign.
And while the jeers emanating from the stands during Sunderland’s 3-1 loss to Norwich in their first home game of the season were directed more at players and even owner Ellis Short than Advocaat himself, the first crowd rumblings under his reign were apparent.
Maybe more surprising is the news that similar disenchantment could be heard from the stands at the Boleyn Ground this weekend, where Slaven Bilic’s West Ham side were falling victim to the attacking strengths of the Premier League’s newest arrivals.
Given their 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth was only Bilic’s third Premier League game in charge, added to the fact that his first was a memorable win over Arsenal, not to mention the Croatian’s status as a former crowd favourite during his playing days, the jeers that greeted some of his substitutions might surprise many by their early arrival.
One potential factor for such dismay could lie in the sense that many fans remain disgruntled by the Hammers’ meek early exit from the Europa League, a competition that was evidently not as welcomed by the club as it was by the eager West Ham fans who made the long trip to Romania.
Although David Sullivan and co are not renowned for sacking managers during a season at West Ham – only Avram Grant has been the victim of that scenario, and that was with just one game to go after relegation had been confirmed – the fear of moving into their new stadium as a Championship club next season is sure to play on the minds of the board and fans alike.
Nonetheless, at 3/10 to still be manager in August 2016, the odds favour a Bilic prolonged stay.
Similar can’t be said of Advocaat, whose odds are 2/1 that he’ll still be on Wearside, compared to 33/100 that he’ll no longer occupy the manager’s chair at Sunderland come this time next year.
Given that he was persuaded to stay on for one more year after initially announcing his retirement, his departure come the end of the season seems inevitable. More worrying for Sunderland fans though will be whether he even makes it as far as next month.
For one additional factor not mentioned above that also comes into the situation is the appetite of the manager to stay on.
If Advocaat feels that, by September 1st, the transfer demands he made so explicitly when being persuaded to stay on have not been met, then Short could well find himself looking for yet another manager – yet this time it won’t be him who has done the pushing.