SPL sides not running the sack race as clubs favour managerial stability

With Christmas on the horizon, it’s a time of year where traditions tend to rear their head.

However the SPL is bucking one particular trend this year with season 2012/13 set to be only the second campaign out of the past ten where all 12 top flight managers have remained in their post until December 25.

The traditional sack race, a favourite market with punters at the start of the season, has been shunned in favour of a degree of stability.

The sack race

The term refers to the first manager to be fired or leave his position in a given season.

Historically October has tended to be a tricky month for SPL bosses, with five out of the past nine sack race ‘winners’.

You can breathe a sigh of relief if you make it through Halloween in the east of the country with Craig Levein and George Burley (Hearts), Tony Mowbray and John Hughes (Hibernian) as well as Marcio Maximo (Livingston) all saying farewell during this time.

In the past ten seasons only 2008/09 saw all 12 managers lasting until after Christmas with Craig Brewster being sacked by Inverness CT on January 19, 2009. He was replaced by current boss Terry Butcher but was unable to save the club from relegation.

As it stands

Despite spending his first full season in the Highlands gaining promotion back to the top flight, Butcher is the longest serving boss currently working in the top flight.

Elsewhere Dundee United’s Peter Houston has been in charge at Tannadice since replacing Craig Levein on an interim basis in December 2009.

Hearts, often a symbol for instability in Scottish football, have the newest SPL boss having appointed John McGlynn following Paulo Sergio’s departure this summer.

Bucking the trend

There are a few factors behind the current trend.

As so often in football, money undoubtedly plays a big part although this can to the benefit or the detriment of a coach.

Sacking a manager with time left on his contract can often be a costly business, leading to indecision over a manager’s future a la the SFA and Craig Levein.

On the flip side, financial constraints may force boards to be more patient with those in the hotseat and afford them additional time to turn things around.

Figureheads at SPL clubs have never been examined as closely as they have been in 2012 as they attempted to deal with a summer of strife in Scottish football.

The absence of oligarchs and large transfer fees is nothing new of course. Instead the lack of cash has forced clubs to accelerate the progression of youth players to the first team.

Less experienced squads coupled with novice managers has create what appears to be a relative sea of calm throughout the league.

And while chairmen have come in for plenty of criticism in the past 12 months, Celtic boss Neil Lennon feels many deserve credit for making brave appointments in recent years.

He told STV: “There's a lot of young managers there and a lot of SPL clubs have brave in their appointments.

"Regardless of what people say, I think we have a good product in the SPL here and that comes with young managers bringing fresh air to the game.

"Stability breeds stability and players understand the managers and what they want - it gets results."

Assuming Stuart McCall remains in place at Fir Park, seven out of the 12 SPL managers will have been in charge of their sides for at least two years.

Having gone through three managers in as many years between 2003 and 2006, Dundee United have achieved stability under first Craig Levein and then Peter Houston.

However the current Tannadice chief insists that stability is merely a by-product of continuing to achieve positive results on the pitch.

He said: "We need stability with managers and I think you always get more stability when the team's doing quite well.

“The main thing for me when I was appointed was to keep that stability going.”

Whether the current trend continues remains to be seen. As with players the SPL is often seen as a stepping stone to the riches of English football. Last term Derek McInnes’ fine work at St Johnstone led to a move to Championship strugglers Bristol City.

Alternatively with ten points separating 4th and 11th place in a congested SPL, clubs may feel they can afford to wait a little while longer before hitting the panic button.

With the issue of league reconstruction continuing to lurk in the background, for the moment at least there is some semblance of stability in the SPL.

Current SPL bosses

Aberdeen Craig Brown (December 10, 2010)
Celtic Neil Lennon (June 9, 2010)
Dundee Barry Smith (October 15, 2010)
Dundee United Peter Houston (May 25, 2010)
Hearts John McGlynn (June 26, 2012)
Hibernian Pat Fenlon (November 25, 2011)
Inverness CT Terry Butcher (January 27, 2009)
Kilmarnock Kenny Shiels (July 15, 2011)
Motherwell Stuart McCall (December 30, 2010)
Ross County Derek Adams (May 15, 2011)
St Johnstone Steve Lomas (November 3, 2011)
St Mirren Danny Lennon (June 7, 2010)

Sack race winners

2003/04 - Marcio Maximo resigns as Livingston boss (October 14, 2003)
2004/05 - Craig Levein left Hearts (October 29. 2004)
2005/06 - George Burley out at Hearts (October 22, 2005)
2006/07 - Tony Mowbray leaves Hibernian (October 13, 2006)
2007/08 - Charlie Christie quits Inverness CT (Aug 20, 2007)
2008/09 - Craig Brewster’s time at Inverness CT is up (Jan 19, 2009)
2009/10 - Craig Levein resigned as Dundee United boss (Dec 23, 2009)
2010/11 - John Hughes sacked by Hibs (October 4, 2010)
2011/12 - Jim Jefferies departs Hearts (August 2, 2011)
2012/13 - All 12 SPL managers still in place