For his first managerial job, Jaap Stam hasn’t taken an easy option. A Premier League and Champions League winner as a Manchester United player , the Dutchman has entered the dugout in a league with little job security and where the financial stakes are among the highest in football.
Looking around the League Championship, English football’s second tier, the Reading manager knows his illustrious playing career will count for little if there’s a slump in form.
Six of the league’s 24 managers have been fired this month as clubs chase a place in the Premier League and a $200 million-plus jackpot.
“I can understand all the teams want to go to the Premier League as quick as they can because there’s a big pile of (cash) over there,” Stam said. “Managers need to have time to work on the team to get a certain chemistry within the group to eventually be promoted.”
Two months into the season, only one Premier League manager has lost his job. Two were booted out by second-tier clubs within a few hours on Tuesday.
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Walter Zenga, a former Italy goalkeeper, lasted 87 days at Wolverhampton Wanderers before the club decided being 18th in the 24-team division was not good enough. Gary Caldwell led Wigan back into the League Championship from the third tier but has been dismissed from his first senior managerial role after 18 months.
October started with Aston Villa firing Roberto Di Matteo, who won the Champions League during a brief spell as Chelsea manager in 2013. Alan Stubbs (Rotherham), Nigel Pearson (Derby) and Paul Trollope (Cardiff) joined Di Matteo in the ranks of unemployed coaches.
Every team apart from Rotherham to fire their mangers this month has played in the Premier League. A team can make about 170 million pounds ($208 million) from the Premier League even if it is immediately relegated again thanks to the valuable television contracts and “parachute payments” to soften the blow for demoted teams.
Thai-owned Reading is one of 11 Championship teams with foreign investors seeking the prestige of a place in the top division. Four of the six teams to fire coaches in October are under overseas ownership, with Wolves and Villa the latest Chinese acquisitions.
Wigan has enjoyed recent success, winning the FA Cup in 2013, but was relegated the same season from the Premier League and plummeted to third tier. Caldwell, a former Scotland midfielder, was fired on Tuesday with Wigan second-from-last after 14 matches.
“We deservedly won the League One title last season,” said Wigan chairman David Sharpe, whose grandfather Dave Whelan owns the northwest team.
“However, we have not managed to carry on that momentum into this season and, after careful consideration over a period of time, I feel that we need to act now in the best long-term interests of the club.”
Reading was relegated from the Premier League in 2013. It is now eighth in the Championship, only a point from the playoff places, so Stam should be safe for now. A bad run of results can change everything, especially at a team that is working for its fourth manager in two years.
“Everybody working in the Championship knows that that (being fired) is possible,” said Stam, who has previously worked on the Ajax coaching staff. “But if you are afraid of getting sacked then you don’t need to do this job.”