Premiership Proves There Is No Substitute For Experience In Management

Alex StampCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2008

In these days of big bucks and high stakes, Premiership management has become a far more pressured and treacherous environment.

But, one glance at the Premiership table will tell you that those that thrive in this environment tend to have one particular thing going for them-experience.

The upwardly mobile teams in the Premiership tend to be the teams which are managed by men who have garnered experience of management before their current job—and in some cases garnered a lot of it.

If you examine the teams below, you can see men of experience are taking charge and leading these clubs' charge up the Premier League table. The prime example would be Martin O'Neill, who has been there and done it all with Leicester and Celtic, and now Aston Villa are reaping the rewards.

Or Steve Bruce, a manager performing a wonderful job on minimal resources-Wigan sit seventh in the table compared with relegation-threatened 18th when Bruce took over last year. Bruce is a relative veteran in managerial terms, having managed Birmingham City and Palace previously.

Perhaps the most deserving of praise is Roy Hodgson, who has transformed Fulham in under a year. The team were dead and buried when Hodgson took over, but after a miraculous last-day escape, Hodgson has assembled a team more than capable of a comfortable mid-table finish.

But Hodgson is one of the most experienced managers around, as spells at Inter Milan and the Swiss national team testify.

You can also look at the relative recoveries that Tottenham and Newcastle have made from early-season uncertainty under old heads Harry Redknapp and Joe Kinnear.

What this shows is that if you look beyond the current discourse of managerial hiring and firing then there is one fundamental lesson which must be borne in mind when selecting a manager: Experience is everything.

This rather flies in the face of this season's managerial appointments, where you can saw relative novices like Ince, Adams, or Sbragia being appointed.

Yet how many of these appointments can realistically expect to succeed?

Ince was sacked and replaced by a more experienced Sam Allardyce, while Adams is struggling at Portsmouth. Though Sbragia has started brightly in football, things can change very quickly.

They need only look at Gareth Southgate, a young manager who is performing a creditable job at Middlesbrough, but is coming under increasing pressure with the club hovering perilously over the relegation zone.

Truth is, Premier League chairmen are playing Russian roulette with these appointments. The hectic hustle and bustle of Premier League management is a hard place for anyone to succeed, but even harder for people with no experience to fall back on.

These chairmen expect success but are appointing men with no record of achieving it in management rather than opting for more experienced candidates. When these young managers struggle, they are often jettisoned quickly by chairmen keen to rectify their "mistake". As a result, far too many young managers' careers are damaged far too early, just ask Stuart Pearce or Paul Ince.

The real truth is that in the snake-pit of Premier League management, the men that succeed are not the "wunderkinds" of management. But simply the experienced heads that have been there and done it many times over.

In football there really is no substitute for experience.