at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
They are falling like flies.
All across the football world, managers are being put to the sword. As certain as death and taxes, there will always be some poor sod sitting on the bench thinking that all is well, when the board is busy sharpening the knives behind him.
Mark Hughes thought he had time to get to Christmas, but time waits for no man, least of all a manager.
Even the local lot are not safe any more, as Roger Palmgren found out when he got his “Dear John” letter from AmaZulu on Monday.
It seems like yesterday that he was beaming away in pre-season, eyeing a place in the top four. As the saying goes, who would be a manager?
Sundowns boss, Johan Neeskens, who has probably produced more league wins than he has flashed smiles this season, had a full go at the media this week, blaming scribes for coaches being under pressure in South Africa.
Considering that he has a salary budget that could cover the running costs of half the Premier Soccer League, it is rather rich of the non-flying Dutchman to pass the buck for his underwhelming results.
Were it not for the sheer size of his severance package, he may well have been a spectator at last night’s cup final in Durban. Other coaches with far better results are not as lucky as the surly Neeskens.
The popular Roberto Di Matteo was given the harshest cut of all; how many reigning European champions have been fired for having a bad month? What makes Di Matteo’s exit more puzzling is the guy roped in to replace him.
When Jose Mourinho, ever the one-line king, was told Rafa Benitez was taking over at Stamford Bridge, his response was typically dismissive.
“Who, the fat guy?” he sneered.
Truth be told, Benitez is on a hiding to nothing at the Bridge. The Chelsea fans haven’t forgotten his “plastic chirps” about them when he was in charge of Liverpool, and the players are still mourning the loss of their pal, Roberto.
And on top of all that, he has been charged with getting the best out of the dud in the team, Fernando Torres.
Springbok rugby fans thought they had it bad when Heyneke Meyer persisted with an out-of-form Morne Steyn, but just imagine being Benitez, and being told you have to get the £50 million flop firing again. Fat chance.
He has more hope of converting John Terry into a Jehovah’s Witness than getting Torres to scare the opposition anytime soon.
Torres is a lost soul, desperately trying to find his mojo – and locate a net somewhere.
And somehow, Benitez has to rekindle a fire that is so feint it may have disappeared altogether. But, that is the lot of a manager.
Even Arsene Wenger has started to show signs of cracking up.
Much like Neeskens, he should know infinitely better than to try to argue with a journalist. A scribe’s opinion on just about anything is forgotten as soon as a reader turns the page.
But for Wenger, declaring that he doesn’t care when fans sing “You don’t know what you’re doing”, and that he doesn’t owe them an explanation, suggests the beginning of the end for the Frenchman.
The only one who seems impossible to sack is Sir Alex Ferguson. Not everyone’s cup of tea, his career certainly makes for impressive reading, with twenty-six years in that fickle industry a real wonder. Adding countless trophies, an all-star cast of former players has passed through his watch.
Rivals have come and gone, but the dogged pensioner has remained.
And now that he has been cast in bronze at Old Trafford, they will never, ever get rid of “Ol’ Red Nose”.