Outside the Box: Short haul in top flight is the custom after this summer


The sacking of Tony Pulis at the end of last week means that the average length of tenure for Premier League managers stands at an all-time low; and not just because Sir Alex Ferguson has finally moved on.

By the start of next season, average service of the 20 bosses expected to be in place will be little more than a year and a half. Malky Mackay at the newly promoted Cardiff City will find to his surprise – and possible concern – that he has immediately shot into the top five veterans, by virtue of having survived in his job for two full seasons.

Martin Jol (assuming he does not leave Fulham), Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew and the new daddy of them all, Arsène Wenger, are the long-servers above him; only Pardew (just) and Wenger have done more than two full years. Even 10 years ago, the average going into the 2003-04 season after three new summer appointments was three-and-a-quarter years each.

Little reward for Parsons

Among those who will have mixed feelings about Pulis's departure from Stoke City are the former chief scout Lindsay Parsons, sacked earlier this month for a breach of contract believed to have been connected to an interview he gave to an evening newspaper making clear the divisions at the club.

The two men had worked together for many years, at both Bristol clubs, Gillingham, Portsmouth, Plymouth and in two spells at Stoke. But Parsons, 67, became increasingly disillusioned with Stoke's recruitment policy and told the Gloucestershire Echo: "We've had loads of disagreements because I don't like the way they play and I will never change on that. I have been told that the players I've recommended have been too small for Stoke, but I don't go along with that. Look at Lionel Messi; he is different class and is he too small? I have recommended players like Cheick Tioté, [Hatem] Ben Arfa and Demba Ba, but they have not been signed by Stoke and have done well for other clubs."

Daly bred to make history

Almost 25 years after Graeme Souness caused a sensation at Rangers by signing the former Celtic striker Mo Johnston, the Ibrox club have finally bought a player who will become the first Catholic born in the Republic of Ireland to play in their first team.

The Dundee United forward Jon Daly was born in Dublin but says he sees no problem with the move. Had he not signed for the club, history might have been made instead by the young Cobh-born goalkeeper Alan Smith, who has been on the bench for the first team and was spotted by Alan Kernaghan, a Rangers scout who himself represented the Republic at full international level, after playing for Northern Ireland Schoolboys. A number of Catholics have played for Rangers since Johnston, although they have been mainly Spanish or Italian.

Last season the Spanish striker Fran Sandaza, who has since left the club, caused a stir by claiming he had been advised not to make the Catholic sign of the cross.

Sharing common interests

As the campaign against excessive increases in the cost of park football grows, local councils up and down the country are being urged to mark out pitches on open spaces to allow free participation.

In one successful experiment, the Blackheath Peoples' League are into the sixth week of their summer season as a six-a-side competition played on common land with posts, cricket stumps and even jumpers for goalposts. And no referees; the organiser, a Norwegian, Stefan Imeson, who teaches at a local school, says: "The football is competitive but players treat each other as grown-ups. If we have a dispute over a throw-in or whatever, one side or the other concedes."

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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