There was an interesting story that emerged from the Championship recently when Reading announced they had appointed Mark Bowen as the club’s new manager. He replaces Jose Gomes, who was sacked with the Royals languishing in the bottom three, and clearly the club’s big cheeses decided that a change was needed to prevent the club from getting sucked into a relegation battle.
Indeed, according to the latest betting odds at betting.betfair.com/football/, Reading are one of the favourites at 13/5 to suffer the dreaded drop to the third tier of English football. What is intriguing about Bowen’s appointment is that he was formerly part of the ‘upstairs’ team at Reading, originally as a technical consultant before being promoted to the position of sporting director.
‘Madejski Stadium’ – Mark Hillary via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The role of sporting director is one that is widely used on the continent and in particular in German football, with the official Bundesliga website at bundesliga.com/en/news/ confirming that ‘…in terms of hierarchy within a club, the sporting director sits between the head coach and the chairman. The person in the higher position has the ability to hire and dismiss any of those below him.’
In theory then, Bowen could have sacked Gomes in order to take the hotseat at the Madejski Stadium, which seems plausible given that the Welshman has reached the age of 55 without ever managing a side before. It’s an accusation he denies of course as he said that ‘I had no say whatsoever in Jose Gomes’ dismissal’, which can be viewed in more detail on skysports.com/football/.
Either way, it’s always fun to reminisce about the times when football owners, chairmen and decision-makers have decided that enough is enough and they are the only person that can lead their club to glory.
As the following rogue’s gallery attests, good luck Reading!
The Ego Has Landed
Typically, an individual capable of sacking their manager before heading into the dugout themselves is somebody that ‘rates themselves’, let’s say diplomatically. At least Bowen has top-level football experience; none of the examples below had barely kicked a ball in anger.
One of the shining examples of this is Michael Knighton, whose disastrous spell as boss of Carlisle United almost saw the Cumbrians relegated out of the Football League altogether. A sluggish start to the 1997-98 campaign saw Knighton have a brainwave: he sacked Mervyn Day and appointed himself as the club’s new manager. Cue plenty of befuddlement among the Carlisle playing staff, not to mention a rather nonplussed reaction from their supporters.
The move, as you might expect, proved disastrous, with the Cumbrian outfit relegated back to the old Division Three and then in dire trouble at Christmas in the fourth tier before Knighton relieved himself of his duties having won just 19 of his 68 games in charge. Carlisle survived – just – under Nigel Pearson’s leadership, with goalkeeper Jimmy Glass’s injury-time goal on the last day of the season one of the most iconic moments in football.
Ron Noades was another cash-rich owner who fancied himself as a manager, taking the reins for two games as a caretaker at Crystal Palace back in 1998, while former American football pro Terry Smith appointed himself as the head of a ‘coaching council’ at Chester City despite no previous soccer experience. The club was relegated from the Football League, and financial hardship meant they subsequently went out of business before being reborn years later – Smith notable by his absence.
The best modern-day example of this phenomenon is undoubtedly Glenn Tamplin, the owner – and former manager – of Billericay Town. The steel magnate pumped some of his considerable wealth into the club when taking over in 2016, overhauling the facilities and paying for a new pitch to be laid. He also bankrolled the singing of former Premier League stars Jamie O’Hara, Jermaine Pennant and Paul Konchesky.
But that involvement alone wasn’t enough for Tamplin, who installed himself as manager in time for the 2017/18 season. Then came the fun part. A run of awful form in February 2018 saw the owner/manager sack himself, notably after an exchange of views with his players when he asked them to give up a week’s wages due to their poor performances. But in classic Tamplin fashion, he rehired himself just 48 hours later. By April, he was again heading for the exit door.
So perhaps the takeaway message, Reading fans, is to have everything crossed for the rest of the season.