This is the month that twitchiness among chairmen hits epidemic levels as the league table begins to take shape and the casualty rates soar.
If there are no dismissals between now and the end of the month, it will be
the first time since the formation of the
The statistics do not lie – more managers leave their jobs at this time than any other month outside of the closed season.
A total of 21 have been removed in the top flight since 1994, the majority pushed after a start which leaves their club reluctantly accepting that the best way to avoid relegation is to make a change.
This year it is the turn of
The manager himself often creates the November cut-off point. “Let’s see where we are after 10 games” is the common refrain used after a poor run at the start of the season. Well, the Premier League season is nine games old now. This weekend could prove decisive.
Last season, Steve Bruce was November’s highest-profile managerial departure when he exited Sunderland. Bruce, who also decided to leave Birmingham for Wigan in November 2007, says managers are well aware that this is a perilous period.
“It’s not a statistic that surprises any of us. We’re all aware that October and November can be the tricky months,” he says. “According to the League Managers Association the average lifespan across the divisions is 14 months, which is ridiculous really.
“What every manager wants is that good start. The last thing you need is for the pressure to start building, especially from the people who employ you. You want to feel you have that backing from the board and the supporters to turn things around, but we all understand everything is driven by results.
“The difference now, of course, is you have the 24-hour news channels and constant coverage so that intensifies the pressure even more, and at the Premier League level it is so tough for those newly-promoted managers.
“You look at Nigel Adkins under pressure at Southampton after two back-to-back promotions. He has excelled to fulfil his dream of managing in that division, but beyond the top of the Premier League it is incredibly difficult to get results, especially for a newly-promoted club and you would hope everyone would see that it can take a long time to adjust.
"It’s only clubs at the top, perhaps with the exception of Chelsea, where you get the stability everyone is looking for.”
Not surprisingly, the records confirm those deepest in the relegation mire tend to go first. Billy Davies (Derby), Paul Hart (Portsmouth), Chris Hutchings (Wigan and Bradford) and Alain Perrin (Portsmouth) succumbed to a league position their boards decided made their positions untenable.
The LMA can point out that there is little evidence such swift sackings make much difference.
Of the last 10 November dismissals of managers in the bottom three, only three of those clubs stayed up. They were Wigan after Hutchings’ exit in 2007, Portsmouth post-Perrin in 2006 and Coventry, who asked Gordon Strachan to replace Ron Atkinson in 1997.
Tottenham Hotspur are the most prolific managerial assassins in this month. They have made three sackings in November in the last 18 years, Ossie Ardiles, Gerry Francis and Jacques Santini the victims.
Illustrious names such as Roy Hodgson (Blackburn), Roy Evans (Liverpool), David Pleat (Sheffield Wednesday) and Atkinson again (Sheffield Wednesday) vacated the premises in this month in the 1990s. Mike Walker also left Everton in November.
It is not always a panic-stricken board responsible for November’s high departure rate, however.
The higher rate of vacancies inevitably means others are lured from more comfortable roles. Harry Redknapp, for example, left Portsmouth to join Southampton in 2004.
But it is easy to see how a chairman is seduced by the prospect of a new direction. November board meetings tend to involve reassessments of a club’s ambitions and determine the budget ahead of the opening of the January transfer window.
There is also an inevitable debate about who is most qualified and trusted to spend any funds available.
Boardrooms tend to believe a three-month threshold is long enough to give the impression they have given their manager ample time to prove themselves, and when those optimistic mid-table predictions from the summer have been revised to the more sober target of survival, the mood darkens on the position of the manager.
December, with 14 dismissals in the Premier League era, has the second-highest casualty rate.
“I’m not convinced the transfer window coming in and chairman thinking about January has much to do with it,” says Bruce.
“The pressure starts to build and the biggest issue is whether a board is prepared to withstand that. If you get results, you get more time and if you have a bad start nowadays you’re less likely to. It’s as simple as that.”