The beach towels are packed away, the running shoes have somehow found their way out of the closet and the brand new stopwatches are ready to roll.
Preseason is here. Welcome to a soccer players nightmare.
Most English Premier League sides returned to training this week as managers, players and the coaching staff are preparing themselves for the long, hard slog between now and the end of the season in May 2014.
But it is perhaps, surprisingly, some of the managers who are already beginning to feel the strain of life in England’s top flight.
This may be crazy to talk about six weeks before the season even begins, but the odds are already out on which managers will be fired first in the EPL.
Preseason has just begun. But so has the dreaded sack race.
With the new bumper TV deal landing EPL clubs a cash windfall, last season saw intense pressure heaped upon the shoulders of managers. Some chairman actually resisted the urge to fire managers as they didn’t want too much upheaval leading to relegation.
But the upheaval has been immense since the last ball of the 2012-13 season was kicked on May 19, 2013. Of the current 20 EPL managers, 10 weren’t in charge of their current sides for the start of the 2012-13 EPL campaign.
So they’ve had their settling in period or summer of bedding in. The honeymoon is over and plenty of head coaches will be sweating in the English sun when August 17 arrives.
Let’s see who the contenders are to win the dreaded EPL ‘sack race.’
Steve Bruce (Hull City)
Yes, he just got Hull City promoted. But Bruce’s squad is in need of a major overhaul to compete in the EPL. They were the surprise package of the Championship last term and if things go pear shaped early on, expect Bruce to make a sharp exit.
Paolo Di Canio (Sunderland)
The eccentric Italian manager could guide Sunderland to the top six… or they could crash and burn. Di Canio has overhauled the squad and isn’t making many friends with the playing squad previous manager Martin O’Neill assembled. Di Canio has until Christmas to turning the Black Cats into a top ten team.
Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)
Newcastle United’s controversial appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football has left Pardew in an incredibly tough position. Couple that with the Geordies relegation threatened season last-time out, and Pardew could be packing his bags by November. Plenty of new signings didn’t perform from January onwards, Pardew needs them to improve or his it out.
Mauricio Pochettino (Southampton)
This is a bit of a long shot but the Argentine manager knows he must deliver a top ten finish for the St. Mary’s outfit. Southampton are planning to splash the cash between now and August and their ambitious chairman wants to kick on and challenge for a European spot. If they falter after a relatively easy start to the campaign, Pochettino could be packing his bags.
Martin Jol (Fulham)
Last season was a peculiar one at Craven Cottage. At times Martin Jol’s Fulham side looked like world-beaters but on other occasions they were reminiscent of an average League Two outfit at best. Jol is walking a tight-rope as fans are getting restless with the lack of progress on the banks of the River Thames.