Football Italiano’s 500@five – Italy: A Coach’s nightmare

This morning’s papers were full of reports of Ciro Ferrara’s expected expulsion from the Juve bench. It almost seemed like the epitaph had been engraved and the coffin readied for the Bianconero manager. As was widely expected, Ferrara was dismissed by mid-day and Alberto Zaccheroni put in charge of the misfiring Old Lady. However, bets are already being placed as to how long Juve’s new Coach would be in charge as his coaching record is mediocre to say the least.


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As Mourinho put it on Wednesday: “a coach who starts and finishes a season on the same bench in Italy is a hero”. This has been no more evident than this year as from June up until now over 15 coaches have been forced to look for other job avenues. Inter, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Genoa and Sampdoria are some of the few sides who still have the same manager that they started the season with.

It is incredible when you compare the coaching scenario in Italy to elsewhere around Europe, and especially in England. The English media and almost all the coaches rallied behind Mark Hughes when he was dismissed by Manchester City last year. From an objective viewpoint there was nothing exceptionally wrong with Hughes’ sacking as his side had won once in their previous 10 games. However the City management was vilified and Sir Alex Ferguson also came out in support of his former protégé labeling his sacking as ‘unacceptable’.

Ferguson himself knows a thing or two about roughing it out in the coaching world. He may be the longest serving manager but he has found himself on the brink at Manchester United a few times during his career. Most notably in 1989 when the team went winless for seven games and everyone was baying for his head. However, 20 years on he is still in charge and leading the team to titles.

But this would have never been possible in Italy. If one was to look back at the history of Italian coaches you would realize that success and failure is defined instantaneously in the peninsula. All the great coaches of past and present have been the ones who have made an immediate impact on the team. Giovanni Trappatoni won the Scudetto in his first season at the helm of Juventus, Fabio Capello achieved the same for Milan and Marcello Lippi also followed suit at the Old Lady. Their maiden victories made it much easier for the fans and the presidents (one can confuse between the two) to give them time when things started going downhill.

And this in a weird way is the beauty of Italian football. The word persistence only applies to teams but not to coaches. The success of the team is always miles above the abilities of the coach. The English saying goes ‘don’t fix it till its broken’ but in Italy it is more of ‘fix it as soon as a crack develops’. Whether this attitude ends up doing more harm to the teams than good is a question which no one can answer but it certainly makes Italy a minefield for managers.

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