Issue England and City lack the mechanism

As told by Michael Wood

As Fabio Capello prepares his England side for the third game of a so far disturbing World Cup campaign he does so under an expectation from his employers that should his charges not progress then the Italian will leave his post.

The FA expect Capello to resign – sacking him after removing the clause of removal less than a month ago is out of the question – and will no doubt recall the lofty aims of reaching the semi-finals which were talked about in preparation for the World Cup. Those aims are very achievable for the England side – if not more – but first things first the lads have to string three passes together. When that follows everything else falls into place.

Bradford City last season played with a manager who had offered and withdrawn his resignation the previous season. Stuart McCall said he would leave the club if he did not take his team to the play-offs and he did not but the contract he had in place allowed him to resign – or not to resign – as he saw fit and when he was convinced to stay so he did until he felt that once again he could no longer achieve a play-off position.

The two situations have parallels and the employers in both cases could learn. If there is a minimum requirement for the position – and while these two cases have it as that requirement is set by the managers themselves one has to suspect that the employers have a similar set of aims – then there seems to be scope for including those requirements as a mechanism in the contracts of the manager.

Take Peter Taylor for example who has signed a one year deal with the club. Taylor has moved his family up North for the experience of being City boss but – seemingly in an effort to ensure he maintains a level of control – Mark Lawn has only offered a one year deal that hinges on the club achieving something this year. Taylor accepts this as part of the package of modern football but it strikes one as odd and unusual that a criteria for success should exists in the minds of the chairmen who may or may not offer a new deal at the end of the season and not in the public realm.

One imagines that as he watches today’s game Mark Lawn has in his head a set of achievements which Taylor must make in order to have a new contract offered. Promotion would almost certainly be on that list, a play-off place without promotion might be, cup runs might figure on the list. Come next March if City are hovering there or there abouts and his manager is doing well but only have two months of his deal left to run Lawn might decide to take the plunge and give him a new deal. Should the team fall – as happened before – then Lawn would regret that and should Taylor decide that his now bolstered CV could earn him more stability elsewhere then Lawn could rue not offering sooner.

The solution is in the problem. The set of criteria could be build into the contract as a mechanism. Imagine a deal on the table for three years, perhaps five, which includes the stipulation that various achievement criteria need to be met in order to have that contract roll over from one year to the next. The contract says you will be Bradford City manager next season if you achieve a top seven finish. If a manager did fail to meet the criteria then he could be offered a new deal but his old one would be as invalid as if the last year of it had just run out and the club would be free to find a replacement without the messy business of firing.

For the manager’s protection there is a punitive payment by the club should his contract be terminated giving him the security of not having to worry about being fired during the season for poor results and for the club there is the confidence that the man in charge – if successful – is tied to the club long term.

Best still for supporters the who-can-shout-loudest game of baying for a manager to be sacked is done away with. The manager has a job at the end of the season if he achieves various things otherwise he does not and all the shouting and hoo-har in the world would not change that.

The devil is in the detail. The mechanism would have to be said at a level that supported progress while recognising limitations. It need not be tied to league position either and could have the weight of cup matches won or home victories achieved in it if those were the requirements of the chairman offering the deal. Most importantly though it is transparent and makes a statement to all what the manager and the clubs aims are and what is considered to be performance rather than allowing managerial decisions to fall into the realms of personality and ego.

Fabio Capello aims for the semi-finals of the World Cup but is expected to resign should he not reach the last sixteen having taken the job from Steve McLaren who was paid off after his failing to make the European Championships last sixteen. If there is a minimum requirement for the England side to achieve under a manager then write that into the contract in a way that ends debate and sets in stone what is considered realistic and good enough.