Sacking season

Kicked out? Hefty pay-offs must slightly ease the pain

I was lucky when I got the sack. I was still in bed that morning, blearily opening the Sunday papers that my dear wife had brought me.

Yes, my money column was there in the Sunday Times but, hmm, no sign of my piece in the Independent on Sunday. Have they changed the pagination, moved my column to another section?

There was a knock at the front door. Who can that be, so early in the morning? I could hear my wife letting someone in, making him coffee. When I came down, he was still there - a nervous Ian Jack, editor of the Sindie. Come to sack me. Wasn't that thoughtful, doing it face to face.

Another time we were in the Lake District when I got a call from the Mail on Sunday. The section editor of Night and Day, where I had been doing the TV column, wanted to see me. Put him on the phone, I said. His secretary said she couldn't. He needs to see me personally. But I'm 300 miles away, I replied. He still wants to see you, she said.

He came up in this chauffeur-driven Jaguar, which took eight hours as it was August bank holiday and they got lost. He wouldn't talk in front of my wife, or the chauffeur, so I was beginning to think, goodness this must be exciting. We walked together to the lake. Where he sacked me. Then he got back in his Jag and returned to London. Again, how kind, how considerate.

So I do feel sorry for all those Premiership managers who have been forced out of their jobs this season - José Mourinho at Chelsea, Sammy Lee at Bolton, Martin Jol at Spurs, Chris Hutchings at Wigan, Steve Bruce at Birmingham, Billy Davies at Derby. Will Big Sam be next? What a culling in so short a time. Plus Steve McClaren at England. Their exits were so public and humiliating, with the whole world knowing that the deed was being done before they'd been notified.

How can a piddling £2.5m pay-off possibly make up for the loss of face, sense of failure, awful ignominy? Quite a bit, actually. Being able to buy another luxury villa in Barbados must have slightly eased the pain for old Steve, bless him.

I got four weeks in hand, being just a freelance with no contract, and went around saying, "Oh no, I'm not hurt. It's not my real job. I just do it at weekends for fun. I'm lucky really, now I can go back to being a brain surgeon full-time."

All those managers will get jobs again - Bruce already has. They always seem to, just as the same old columnists reappear, even if they drop to Division Three (North). Which is no way to talk about the Cumberland News. Excellent publication. They have my number.

Which brings us to the England job, still vacant as I write. If it was in my gift, there would be only one obvious person - Fergie. I honestly think he'd do it better than anyone else. Right age, right experience, right temperament to knock the prima donnas into shape. Being Scottish would not be a handicap, as he has been in England for so long. He would also have the advantage, when wanting Man United players made available, of not having to deal with himself.

I think he might take it, but not now, perhaps after he's won another couple of pots. In the meantime, who is available?

Well, there's another Scotsman who might be out of work soon - dour, no-nonsense, prudent with money, control freak, excellent at not taking the blame, long experience of working in England. What do you think, Gordon? Just make sure you get a good contract . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 10 December 2007 issue of the New Statesman, How New Labour turned toxic