Such has been the dramatic downturn in West Ham’s results and form after a promising start to this season that it was claimed prior to their recent trip to Southampton that the employment of their manager Manuel Pellegrini rested on its outcome.
The Hammers emerged victorious with Sebastien Haller scoring his first goal in nine games but you would be foolish to assume that the Chilean’s job is now safe and that the win was anything other than a stay of execution.
With an all-London affair with Crystal Palace coming up on Boxing Day followed soon after by a hosting of in-form Leicester it is not entirely unreasonable to suggest that the Premier League title-winner of 2013/14 could soon be out of a job if defeats are forthcoming and a man of such vast experience Pellegrini knows this himself. “You never know,” he responded when asked if he might be imminently sacked despite victory at St. Mary’s.
Yet even when recognising this – and more broadly, recognising the ruthless rules to which football adheres to – the empathetic, human side to us recoils at the prospect. Boxing Day may admittedly be one of the marquee dates in the sporting calendar but it is still Christmas right? And isn’t it utterly immoral to deprive a man of his employment at Christmas?
It is, unquestionably so, and Jose Mourinho would certainly agree with that. In 2015 the divisive coach was unceremoniously sacked by Chelsea a week before the festivities and just seven months after guiding the Blues to a league title. Three years later it happened again, this time with Manchester United playing the Grinch and dismissing him on December 18th.
At least, as a crumb of consolation, Mourinho was well prepared for being treated so contrary to the spirit of the season. He once recalled having his family Christmas dinner interrupted as a young boy by a phone call to his father, informing Felix that Rio Ave – the Portuguese club he managed – wished to terminate his contract. If nothing else this explains his offspring’s trademark scowl.
Sheffield legend Derek Dooley is another who presumably flinched at the sound of carols. Prior to becoming a distinguished chairman of the Blades, Dooley was manager at Wednesday having first played for the club as a striker until an injury turned gangrenous resulting in his leg being amputated. As Owls boss he was summoned to see the board on Christmas Eve 1971 expecting the discussion to concern potential transfers. Instead he left carrying a box of his personal belongings.
It wasn’t only the weather that was cold in Sheffield that afternoon.
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In more recent times Charlton’s Les Reed can lay claim to being a victim of a cruel seasonal sacking. Again it was Christmas Eve. Again it appalled anyone with an ounce of festive cheer in them.
More pertinently to Pellegrini’s situation there are also the numerous sackings that have taken place following a Boxing Day defeat. Since 2013 three gaffers have received an unwelcome late present on the 27th and special mention must go to Crystal Palace with Neil Warnock being one before the Eagles dispensed with Alan Pardew two years later on December 22nd.
Knowing this is almost enough to have neutrality swayed with the hope that Palace come unstuck this week as the Hammers depart with all three points, leaving Pellegrini free to enjoy his left-over turkey in peace as he – and every man – deserves.