The majority of football betting markets focus on the performance of individual teams or the players involved – be that a punt on a team to win a match or competition, a player to score first or finish the season as the top scorer, or one of an ever-broadening range of stats based bets, including corners, bookings, passes and more besides. In the modern age of bet builders, the chances are good that you can find odds for almost anything you can imagine happening in a game.
But what about the men on the sidelines? Those souls who have opted for a career in the pressure cooker environment of football management, masterminding glory and despair as they go. Is there a way to bet on our suited, track-suited, or trendily-attired heroes/villains? There certainly is, with the two most popular markets being ‘Next Manager to Lose Their Job’ and ‘Next Manager to be Appointed’, the second inevitably coming hot on the heels of the first in the endless managerial merry-go-round.
Other less frequently offered options include predicting the next club of a manager – usually only available for the biggest names – and specials such as. “Will there be a female manager of a Premier League men’s side by 2024?”.
Here, we look at each of the main markets in turn and highlight any useful strategies which may help punters betting on those unfortunate managers to receive their P45 or, more cheerfully, be handed the reins of a football club.
Most Common in The Premier League
The ‘Next Manager to Leave’ and ‘Next Manager to be Appointed’ markets are most commonly available in relation to Premier League managers. Some bookmakers may cover the Championship or major European Leagues, but you will usually struggle to find odds listed for leagues lower down the footballing pyramid.
Away from the club game, many bookmakers will provide odds on the next England Manager, with odds often available whilst the current manager remains in post. For other nations, UK Bookmakers will usually only list odds as and when there is a vacancy.
The Sack Race
No sooner has the first ball been kicked in earnest of a new season than odds are available on the race that no one wants to win. Stemming from the days when dismissed workers were, quite literally, handed a sack to pack up their belongings, this market, of course, requires you to predict the next manager to leave their post.
That “leave his post” phrase is key here, as the manager does not need to be sacked in order to count as a winner. You are betting on the next manager to leave his post – whatever the reason. Whether sacked, leaving to take up a position at another club, or simply throwing in the towel because he has had enough, so long as he is the next manager to leave from the moment you place your bet, your wager will be a winner.
One thing to be aware of here is the wording of the market. Some bookmakers will label the bet “Next Premier League Manager to Leave Their Post”, whilst others may be titled “Next Premier League Manager to Leave His Post during the 2023/24 Season”. The first bet type is open-ended, whilst the second will include the option “No Manager to Leave His Post”. In the latter scenario, if your selected manager leaves his job the day after the season ends, your bet will be settled as a loser, whereas in the open-ended market, you would be paid out.
When viewing the ‘Next Manager to Leave’ market, all managers will be listed – no matter how improbable their departure may seem. Taking the Premier League Market in November 2023 as an example, odds ranged from 6/4 for Paul Heckingbottom at struggling Sheffield United to 200/1 for Manchester City supremo Pep Guardiola. Interestingly, No Manager to Leave was also priced at 200/1 – confirmation of the precarious lives Premier League bosses lead.
The good thing about this market is that it effectively never ends. As soon as one manager has been dismissed, the odds are recalculated, and the betting on who will be next for the chop begins again. No fewer than 14 managers were sacked during the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, providing plenty of opportunities to seek out some favourable punts.
The Sack Race: Factors to Consider
So that’s the market, but what should we consider when weighing up a potential bet? As with most areas of betting, there are a few elements worth weighing up, with the following being amongst the most significant:
First up, the obvious one. Managers flying high in the upper reaches of the Premier League are unlikely to find themselves under pressure. However, it doesn’t take many poor results for that hot seat to become a little warmer. It is, however, important to assess a side’s results against their expectations. Generally speaking, managers solely tasked with remaining in the division are granted more leeway than those expected to achieve Champions League football. Newly promoted clubs, for example, will likely expect strings of defeats throughout the season. Pressure tends to build far more quickly at a high-profile side. Eight defeats in ten is not the same at Manchester United as it is at Luton Town.
This could be viewed as the key factor in the sack race market. The owners are, after all, the ones who wield the axe. Many owners are famously patient, allowing their managers time to mould a side – Arsenal are perhaps a decent example of this, given the longevity of Arsene Wenger and the backing of Mikel Arteta at a time when sections of the fan base were turning against him. To other owners, patience appears to be an abstract concept.
Roman Abramovich is one famous example, with the Russian oligarch rattling through 14 managers during his 19-year stay at Chelsea. However, even Abramovich can’t lay a glove on trigger-happy Gino Pozzo at Watford. Since purchasing the Hornets in 2012, the Italian businessman has hired and fired no fewer than 21 managers.
Next, we have the managers themselves. Do they have a track record of never remaining in the same place for too long, almost regardless of how successful they are? Over to your Jose Mourinho, who rarely lingered in one place for more than three years, in his never-ending mission to prove himself to be ever so special across the continent. Or perhaps a manager may have his head turned by a bigger club.
Managers doing a fine job at successful – but relatively small – Premier League clubs are prime candidates to leave of their own accord. Graham Potter of Brighton is a good recent example, having jumped ship to experience the Chelsea ejector seat in double quick time. Of the current Premier League managers, Roberto Di Zerbi, again of Brighton, and Thomas Frank at Brentford would seem the most likely to ultimately move into the big time. Then, of course, there is the lure of taking charge of a national side, which many managers find hard to resist.
Time in Charge
If a manager hasn’t been in post for long, on balance, they are less likely to be sacked – unless they happen to be employed by Watford. Having appointed a manager, many chairmen won’t want to immediately lose face by sacking them within a matter of months. Barring exceptionally poor results, newly appointed managers may have a relatively longer stay of execution
Stage of Season
A string of poor results may be tolerated towards the start of the season. However, as the campaign progresses, and it becomes increasingly apparent that a club is likely to fall short of its objectives – be that a top-four finish or, more often, if relegation is looming large – owners seem to adopt the approach of having nothing to lose by trying something different.
One less obvious factor is whether a club can actually afford to sack their manager. In the modern era of astronomical managerial salaries, the eye-watering prospect of paying a compensation payment may force struggling clubs to stick with their man.
Next Permanent Manager
Every managerial departure creates a vacancy, and quick as a flash, the good old bookmakers will have a betting market available for who will become the ‘Next Permanent Manager’. Unlike the sack race, which covers the whole league, these markets will necessarily be club-specific, e.g. ‘Next Permanent Manager of Sheffield United’.
Again, the wording is crucial here, with “Permanent” being the all-important term. Having dispensed with the services of their manager, many clubs will appoint a temporary caretaker boss whilst they undertake their recruitment process. With most bookmakers, Caretaker Managers will not count in this market, no matter how long “temporary” turns out to be. Only if signing on the dotted line as the Permanent Manager will the individual in question be classed as the winner. Other firms, meanwhile, stipulate that a Caretaker Manager will be settled as a winner if they take charge of the club for ten or more matches. Always check the terms and conditions to ensure you know exactly what you are betting on.
Something else to be aware of here is that the term “manager” can be taken to cover “head coach”, which is becoming increasingly common in the modern era. It is also feasible that a club may appoint an individual as a Director of Football whilst also handing him the duties of taking charge of first-team affairs. Whatever the title, this market will almost always be settled in relation to whoever is tasked with selecting the team.
When pricing up the ‘Next Manager to Leave His Post Market’, the odds compilers have a set field to work with, i.e. the managers of the 20 Premier League clubs. The ‘Next Permanent Manager’ market requires a little more imagination. Sometimes, the rumour mill will have moved into overdrive long before a manager departs, leading to a prohibitively short-priced favourite and a short-lived market.
However, on the back of more surprising departures, far more guesswork will be required – leading to a list featuring Sam Allardyce and almost every other out-of-work manager on the planet, not to mention a whole host of comedy-value punts. Eddie Howe may have ultimately secured the job at Newcastle but, before his appointment, he featured in a market alongside Gazza and the marginally less likely managerial duo of Ant and Dec.
Be Careful if the Manager is Still in his Post
If a manager has actually been sacked or left his post for whatever reason, you probably won’t have long to wait until your Next Permanent Manager bet is settled. However, at the bigger clubs, many bookmakers offer odds whilst the current manager remains in situ. Looking at the situation in November 2023, Jurgen Klopp, Eric ten Haag, and David Moyes all remain in full-time employment, but odds are widely available for the Next Permanent Manager of Liverpool, Manchester United and West Ham.
When considering betting on these markets, you must ask yourself how long you are prepared to wait for a potential payout. No matter how likely it seems that a manager may be about to leave, it doesn’t always work out that way. Step forward Alex Ferguson, who announced in 2001 that his departure from Manchester United would be imminent, promptly sparking a flood of bets on the likes of David O’Leary and Walter Smith. Unfortunately for punters, Fergie backtracked on his decision, ultimately sticking around for another 12 years before being replaced by David Moyes – no need to worry about where you put that O’Leary slip…
Next Permanent Manager: Factors to Consider
Barring any concrete knowledge, in terms of confirmed interviews or direct quotes from potential candidates, predicting who may ultimately land a top job can be a little tougher to predict than the sack race. Nevertheless, there are several factors which may point you in the direction of a winning bet:
Size of the Club
All manner of names will enter the betting whenever a manager loses his job, but the list can often be cut down by immediately ruling out those candidates who seem a poor fit for the club. A side struggling towards the foot of the table will struggle to attract a high-profile boss more associated with competing for silverware, whilst, at the other end of the scale, the top six clubs are unlikely to opt for a risky unproven tactician. In general, clubs outside the top six, or those smaller in profile, are more likely to give a chance to an up-and-coming but relatively unproven boss – whether from the lower English leagues or abroad.
Quotes from the Club
Everyone will have their take on who should take charge of a managerless club, but the only voices that really matter are those involved in making the decision. Clubs will rarely come out and name a specific individual, but quotes can often be informative. Should a chairman come out and suggest the club needs a “safe pair of hands” or a “manager experience in this situation” you should be inclined to ignore the more exotic names in the betting list and focus on steady, unglamorous managers in the mould of a Sean Dyche or Sam Allardyce. Conversely, if those in charge suggest they are looking for a man to “establish a clear footballing identity”, that should sway you towards the more modern style of coach, most likely with an established expansive, high-pressing style of play.
Traditional Style of Play
The tradition of the club is also something to bear in mind. Spurs, for example, have long been associated with at least attempting to play a free-flowing game – to the extent that many of the fanbase fully expect to witness an attacking brand of football. Fan power and tradition can influence a club’s managerial decisions.
Another thing to consider is the type of manager the club has gone for in the past. If the hierarchy has always previously opted for an established name, they will most likely do so again. Others may consistently show an inclination to take a chance on an up-and-coming European name. When assessing the markets for these sides, pay particular attention to over-achieving managers at mid-level clubs in the German, Italian, Spanish, and French top flight.
Be Prepared for Market Fluctuations
Whatever your approach when selecting a Next Manager bet, prepare yourself for one of the most volatile markets in the footballing world. Rarely are odds so dramatically affected by the rumour mill. An ex-player spotted within hailing distance of the city in question, big names discovered on a flight list, or an out-of-work manager sporting a black-and-white striped tie can all send the odds crashing. In the world of social media, it doesn’t take long for any information to hit the masses, inevitably resulting in a flood of money for a certain candidate and an ensuing snowball effect.
Sometimes, these rumours will be on the mark, but just as often, they will be without any real foundation. It is far from unusual to see two, three, four, or even more candidates trade at odds-on before an appointment is made. If you have good reason to believe that the short-priced favourite is unlikely to be the man for the job, there may often be excellent value lurking further down the list.
An alternative approach is to track the rumours and quickly back the candidate in question before the odds begin to plummet. The aim here is to subsequently lay the same contender at a shorter price on the betting exchanges and secure a return, whether they get the job or not.
Whatever your approach, don’t worry too much if it all doesn’t go to plan. There will be another manager sacked soon enough.