Mike Phelan became the third English Premier League manager in a fortnight to lose his job after being sacked by Hull City on Tuesday, leading to speculation about who will be next in a cut-throat world.
Fired after just 82 days occupying the role in an official capacity and with his side bottom of the table, Phelan joined Crystal Palace’s Alan Pardew and Bob Bradley of Swansea City in losing his job over the festive period.
All three were released from their duties with their clubs in the bottom four and in danger of a relegation from the English top flight which would have serious financial ramifications.
Bradley — who lasted just 11 matches and 85 days in the Swansea hotseat — had himself replaced the Italian Francesco Guidolin, axed in early October.
One who should be casting a nervous glance at the newspapers and the bookmakers’ odds on who is next for the exit is Watford’s Walter Mazzarri.
However, the 55-year-old Italian knows what pressure is having been in charge of Napoli and Inter Milan and appears unperturbed by questions about his future even though The Hornets have lost seven of their last 10 matches.
“I don’t feel under pressure because I speak with the owner every day,” said Mazzarri after Tuesday’s 0-2 defeat away to Stoke City. “We know what our objective is and we’re not only looking at the next five or six matches — we are looking at the next three years.”
While Mazzari may be confident, the words of his Stoke counterpart Mark Hughes in relation to Phelan’s departure were a cold dose of reality.
“Mike got the job in difficult circumstances and, in fairness, I thought recent performances from his team had markedly improved, which shows he was having an impact,” said Hughes, who is at his fifth EPL club.
“Obviously, we’re all judged on results, but it’s a shame for Mike, he’s a great football guy who knows his stuff. It’s just the Premier League for you. It’s ruthless and at this time of the year owners get panicky.”
Those clubs which have replaced their managers on the cusp of the January transfer window will hope a change halfway through the war of attrition that is an EPL season will pay off.
Sam Allardyce’s disastrous England tenure was even shorter than Bradley’s spell at Swansea but he has taken over at Palace looking to maintain his record of never having been relegated from the EPL.
Meanwhile, Swansea has turned to Paul Clement, one of the brightest English coaches around having worked as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
However, Geoff Bielby, chairman of the Hull City Supporters Trust, sounded a note of caution when he said the weakness at the heart of a club may not be the manager but the owner.
“If Mike Phelan’s dismissal is because the Allams have finally sold the club after 1,000 days since they said it was for sale, supporters will be sad to see Phelan go but delighted the Allams have finally departed,” he told The Times.
“If Ehab (Allam) has ousted Phelan and intends to stay, then Hull supporters will fear he’s not sufficiently qualified to appoint a new coach or manager.”