Thoughts on the sacking of Slaven Bilic

By Daniel Margrain

So yet another sacrificial lamb has been put to slaughter. The decision by the board of West Ham United Club to sack manager Slaven Bilic, is one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the club I have supported for 45 years. I’m really angry and disappointed by the reaction of the club and our “fans” to Bilic in the months leading up to his dismissal.

Many of these baying supporters that were calling for his blood, are the same people who two seasons ago were praising his abilities and asserting he was one of the most hard-working, committed and inspirational figures to be associated with the club in its history. Competent football managers do not become bad football managers overnight.

There is no evidence, whatsoever, that a change of manager improves the fortunes of a team in terms of results on the pitch. Although it’s tempting to believe that the appointment of a Sam Allardyce or any other manager with a reputation of keeping clubs in the Premier League is based on hard evidence, empirically this is not supported by the facts. There is a zero line of causality between the fortunes, or otherwise, of a football club and the figure who happens to be at the helm of said club at any given time – none, zilch, zero, nada.

I find it incredulous that football fans and pundits alike continue to place so much emphasis on the supposed significance a manager makes in relation to the respective success or failure of a club. It is no coincidence that almost every season, the same big clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal etc – with the greatest resources at their disposal, challenge for the league title.

These clubs invariably win silverware not because of the manager but in spite of the individual who sits at the helm. That explains, why Avram Grant, for example, holds the worst win percentage of league games of all permanent managers (18.92%) in the clubs recent history, but also, conversely, came within a whisker of winning the Champions League with Chelsea.

Yes, there are anomalies – Leicester winning the league under Ranieri and Clough’s numerous successes with limited resources come immediately to mind. But that’s all they are – exceptions to the rule. It has always seemed peculiar to me that in all other walks of life, we apply the law of probability to our reasoning but somehow professional football always appears to get a free pass.

Football managers who work at the highest level are a bit like politician’s – both come and go with frequent regularity, but the fans and the voting public respectively are invariably the ones who end up picking up the pieces of the failed decisions made by others bigger than them.

If the board at West Ham end up appointing David Moyes as the replacement for Bilic, as has been widely reported, and the club start to pick up valuable points, that will not be because of the new-found “innate genius” of the former. On the contrary, as I alluded to above, the evidence would seem to suggest that a similar set of results would – given a combination of time and luck – have happened under Bilic’s watch anyway.

Moyes’ recent managerial record has been appalling and yet nobody in the media appears neither to want to point that fact out, or why a proven failure is regarded as a suitable replacement for somebody who knows the club inside out. In no other walk of life is failure rewarded to the extent it is in professional football at the highest level.

The management merry-go-round in the high echelons of the game amounts to one of the greatest protection rackets going – that if we were to apply the same reasoning to say, banking – people would rightly condemn. But somehow this scandal, when attributed to the professional game, gets conveniently overlooked by media pundits and the wider public alike.

How have we managed to arrive at a situation in which fans exult an extremely passionate, capable, committed and loyal manager like Bilic as a genius one minute, but at the next are baying for his blood? What kind of society are we living in that regards that kind of behaviour and mind-set as being in any way acceptable, never mind rational?

Why is it apparently beyond the capability of football supporters to accept that there is a correlation between the financial resources clubs have at their disposal and the success of the said clubs on the field of play? The appointment by the West Ham United board of Champions League finalist, Avram Grant, is proof positive that managers do not make a blind bit of difference to the success of a club.

But West Ham fans and fans of other medium sized clubs of the Hammers stature, continue to place what are clearly unrealistic expectations upon the shoulders of their managers. Slaven Bilic is clearly a sincere and passionate man who is devoted to the Hammers. It’s about time, the board and fans alike begin to get a grip on reality and put an end to this ridiculous game of managerial merry-go-round that is plaguing professional football.

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13 thoughts on “Thoughts on the sacking of Slaven Bilic

  1. Its hardly been a minute since the West Ham fans have been baying for his head, its been 18 months! If anything Bilic got away with a lot more than Sam Allardyce ever did. The football at times under Slaven has been some of the worst I have seen on a consistent basis. Have you not seen the mistakes we have made week after week after week. Bilic has a better squad of players than Big Sam ever had, but he couldn’t get the best out of them.
    Are you seriously saying that if Pep hadn’t gone to city but lets say Allardyce had, they would still be playing that expansive passing game. If a manager doesnt make a scrap of difference in a teams fortunes why bother paying them vast amounts of money.
    And lets not feel sorry for these poor managers, lets have a whip round for Bilic I dont spose his compensation will feed him over the weekend.
    What a lot of drivel!!!!!

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    1. Professional players know how to play. They have been trained like dogs who jump through hoops to play in a way that has been ingrained in them from about the age of 10. Coaches coach on a daily basis to ensure fitness levels are maintained. Anybody with any basic football knowledge is able to cherry-pick the best players with virtually unlimited funds at his disposal. I go back to the point I made in my article, that if the manager is so important to the success of a club, how was it that the manager who almost won the Champions League with Chelsea took West Ham down? That tells you its the players. Managers often don’t even have a say in the transfer market. On to your point about City, yes, I am saying that they would have played expansive football under Allardyce. Why wouldn’t they play to their strengths. The best players are the most expensive. Clubs with the deepest pockets buy these better players which is why these bigger clubs win things. It’s not rocket science.

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  2. I agree with you much of the time when you discuss politics but I agree with Andy Grant in this instance. Bilic is a lovely guy but not a good manager. He was fortunate to have Payet for a season but he plays players out of position, displays no ability to organise or even train and condition a team. If the two Daves knew anything about football they would have let him go in the summer and researched/recruited a competent manager.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yossi – you’ve just answered your own question – and underlined what the author was saying. If we had 11 players on the pitch with the skill levels of Payet we’d have to spend 10s of millions to get them. Yet we all acknowledge that Payet was instrumental in that seasons results.

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  3. I WAS a West Ham watcher- until they sold Upton Park. I come from that area and the sell-out was deeply hurtful. Certainly, dumping a dedicated manager characterizes the club owners- but isn’t it the same right across the pro. game ?
    To my mind the game is rotten from the top down. ‘ The Fall of the House of FIFA ‘ is a good book, I’m told and I don’t doubt for a moment that FBI pressure on the CURRENT FIFA leadership caused it to flagrantly defy ITS OWN RULES and greenlight the illegal occupation of Palestine by neoZionism’s football clubs. It disgusts me.
    So too do the ‘ Match of the day ‘ pundits who actually praise ‘ taking one for the team ‘, use of the arms, shirt-pulling, time-wasting tactics and all the other sly methods of achieving a win at the expense of the spirit of the game. These are the arses who see nothing wrong in allowing clubs that aren’t even located in Europe to play in European competitions and have no criticisms of their FIFA bosses who enforce their TV-oriented rules on the game whilst openly crapping on the FIFA regulatory rulebook.
    The game is rotten. I’ve reverted to supporting amateur football.
    Bollox to West Ham.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said Colan. Incredibly there was a time when you could be superstar player for West Ham ( eg. Bobby Moore) and still earn no more than 10 times the average wage of a worker, hang out with them, engage in banter with them on the terraces during, before and after a game. The players didn’t cheat, they still managed to enjoy a superstar lifestyle but were rooted in the community. Football is killing itself, slowly but surely the game I love will die.

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      1. Chin up, Danny- the amateur game has a lot to offer. Big scarves, rattles, meat pies, flat ‘ats 🙂
        I player/managed my own Sunday club for three seasons. It cost me a ‘ bag ‘o sand ‘ every year but it was exhilarating . My players got immediately withdrawn for a yellow ( no ‘ taking one for the team ‘ in MY club ) unless I deemed it a ref’s error. They all paid a couple of quid to play which went towards the ref. and the pitch. There was some real talent there- but it was THE HEART which made the player. Check out your local league. If you’ve got the time and a little disposable income you can give David Moyes the finger and all that comes with him 🙂

        Come on the Trout Mask Replicas YAY !! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Some really interesting comments on here, some that I agree with (at least in part) and others less so. As I’ve not seen West Ham live “in the flesh” since the FA Cup replay v. Liverpool back in Feb ’16, I’m probably not qualified to comment on Slaven’s managerial abilities but I do follow several WHU pages on social media so am fully aware of all the criticisms of his tactical awareness. Anyway, another cracking article Daniel – even better than your recent tribute to Tom Petty !!

    Liked by 1 person

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