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Are long contracts the way forward for managers?

This week Alan Pardew, manager of Newcastle United, and his management team have joined chief scout Graham Carr in signing contracts with the club until 2020. That is a massive eight-year contract. Is that the way forward? Newcastle’s thoughts behind this are that Manchester United and Arsenal, arguably the two most successful clubs of the Premier League era, have been able to achieve what they have due to the stability gained by keeping a manager and his back-room staff for significant periods of time.

Ferguson has been at the Old Trafford club for nearly 26 years, during this time Newcastle United have had 23 managers (including caretaker managers), nearly one for each year. In this period Newcastle have won nothing, well, they have won the Championship (or First Division) twice, but to have done that, they’ve needed to be relegated, and a club of Newcastle’s size should not be playing outside of the top league in English football. So you can see the logic behind the decision. Newcastle have not been the most stable club, and you can applaud Mike Ashley and his board for trying to provide the continuity for success.


However, is this going to work? Or is it just going to result in Newcastle having to give Pardew a massive pay-off when Newcastle aren’t doing as well as expected in a couple of years time?

The average length of tenure for a manager is around two years, so arguably Pardew is almost at the time when other managers are beginning to lose their jobs, yet, he has just been given a contract four times the length of this average. Surely just giving a manager a long contract is not enough to guarantee success? If Newcastle were to tie me to an 8 year contract, then I’m pretty sure it’d end in disaster. Now, admittedly, they have more hope with Pardew and based on his previous season in which Newcastle finished a very credible 5th they will be hopeful of improvement.

However, just a quick look through the history books sees that George Burley achieved this with Ipswich Town. Would an 8 year contract have made Ipswich a force to be reckoned with? It’s hard to say, but it’s doubtful. Admittedly, Newcastle are a bigger club with more money, but my point is that for success, you don’t only need to have belief and faith in a manager, but you also need a very talented guy in charge. Ferguson is arguably the greatest manager of all time and before he came to Old Trafford he’d already won the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup with Aberdeen and beaten Celtic and Rangers to three Scottish Premier Division titles. Alan Pardew has won the F.A. Trophy with Southampton. Is he the right man for the job?

The key here is not to be too quick to judge. Ferguson was in charge for nearly four years before he won anything, and nearly seven years before his first league title. Pardew has yet to be in charge for 2 full years, and just a season (albeit a successful season) and a half prior to this one. This means Pardew should be given until at least the end of the 2013-2014 season until he can start to be judged, and probably longer. Whether he is the man for the job remains to be seen, but he needs Ashley and Llambias et al to give him the support such a large contract warrants. If they do, Pardew could surprise us and rival Ferguson and Wenger with a Newcastle United dynasty, or, he could be sacked in a year or two with the Magpies mid-table. Interesting times ahead in the North-East.