Thomas Tuchel left Chelsea just 33 days into 2022-23, but who are the managers who’ve left their jobs the earliest in a Premier League season?
Excitement, optimism and the sense anything’s possible; the start of a new football season is an exhilarating and magical time… Until your team’s 3-0 down inside 15 minutes on the opening day of the campaign. Suddenly the following June can’t come quickly enough.
As much as we all look forward to the start of the season as football fans, the reality is that things quickly go sour for many, and in the cut-throat world of professional sport, poor results lead to departures.
Clubs rarely need a second invitation to ditch the man in charge these days; 2022-23 had 14 in-season manager departures, four more than any other Premier League season, so there’s every reason to believe that trend will continue over the coming months.
Interestingly, three of those managerial changes occurred inside the first 40 days of the season, so with the 2023-24 campaign drawing close already, we looked at the earliest departures in Premier League history.
Premier League Managers to Leave Their Jobs Within 20 Days of Season’s Start
Paul Sturrock at Southampton in 2004-05 (23 August 2004) – nine days
No manager has lost their job earlier in a Premier League season than Paul Sturrock, who was brutally dismissed by Southampton just nine days into the 2004-05 campaign.
Sturrock had only been appointed as Gordon Strachan’s successor in March 2004 and took charge for just the first two games of the 2004-05 season, losing 2-0 at Aston Villa before defeating Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at St. Mary’s.
Two days after that win, it was announced Sturrock was leaving by “mutual consent”. His entire reign consisted of 13 matches comprising five wins and six losses.
Sturrock’s replacement, Steve Wigley, only lasted until December. Harry Redknapp was then hired but failed to save Southampton from relegation.
Peter Reid at Manchester City in 1993-94 (26 August 1993) – 12 days
A poor start to the season and a change in City’s hierarchy had Reid – who was technically player-manager – “half expecting” to get the boot. But surely even he thought he’d get more than 12 days into 1993-94?
City amassed just one point from their first four matches. That came on the opening day when they drew 1-1 at home to Leeds United; three successive defeats followed, with a 2-0 loss to Blackburn at Maine Road proving the final straw.
Reid went on to continue his playing career after leaving City, soon rocking up at Southampton as they narrowly avoided relegation that season.
City finished two points ahead of Southampton, while across town Manchester United celebrated a second league title on the bounce.
Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle United in 1998-99 (17 August 1998) – 12 days
Just like he’d replaced Kevin Keegan at Liverpool as a player two decades earlier, Dalglish was heir to ‘King Kev’ again in the Newcastle dugout in January 1997.
However, Dalglish’s reign at St James’ Park was largely disappointing and he reached the end of the line less than two weeks into the 1998-99 season.
Draws with Charlton Athletic and Chelsea saw Newcastle make their move; Dalglish was out, and Ruud Gullit came in, though the Dutchman didn’t do much better than his predecessor as he ultimately resigned a year and a day later.
Dalglish didn’t manage again in the Premier League until January 2011 when he was hired for a second spell in charge of Liverpool.
Bobby Robson at Newcastle United in 2004-05 (30 August 2004) – 16 days
Freddy Shepherd was a controversial figure for much of his tenure as Newcastle chairman, but few decisions he made at the club were as seismic as dismissing the legendary figure of Bobby Robson.
As the story goes, Robson had started to lose the support of the dressing room. Another former Newcastle chairman, John Hall, later said in 2019 on the Everything is Black and White podcast that he’d “never forgive those players” who were deemed to have instigated the manager’s demise.
Newcastle failed to qualify for the Champions League in the 2003-04 season, and discontent festered over the summer.
They then failed to win any of their first four matches of the new campaign and the heat got to Shepherd, who pulled the trigger 16 days in. “I always said [sacking Robson] was like shooting Bambi. It was very emotional.”
Alan Curbishley at West Ham United in 2008-09 (3 September 2008) – 18 days
Remarkably, Curbishley hasn’t had a job in football management since leaving West Ham suddenly in September 2008 – perhaps it’s understandable if he’d grown disillusioned with the profession given the context of his exit.
Strictly speaking, Curbishley wasn’t sacked. He actually resigned and then succeeded in a wrongful dismissal case in February 2010.
He quit his role due to players being sold against his will, with those sales later deemed to be a breach of his contract by West Ham, who then paid Curbishley compensation.
Prior to his departure, West Ham had won two of their first three Premier League games. Although a difficult October followed, losing all four of their matches, the club went on to finish ninth in the table under Gianfranco Zola.
Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United in 2008-09 (4 September 2008) – 19 days
There was clearly something in the air in the summer of 2008… The day after Curbishley quit at West Ham, Keegan followed suit at Newcastle.
Not too dissimilar to the situation at Upton Park, Keegan was frustrated by the club’s work in the transfer market and later earned significant compensation.
Keegan felt he should have absolute control over signings and that the club “should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want”, with Spanish striker Xisco thought to be who he was referencing.
His resignation, 19 days into the season, was the first real moment of contention in a turbulent campaign for Newcastle that in hindsight would somewhat sum up Mike Ashley’s reign.
Chris Hughton took over in a caretaker capacity until Joe Kinnear was hired as interim manager in late September, but illness forced him to step aside – initially temporarily – until the end of the season.
Hughton was there again until the start of April, when Alan Shearer made his return to the club as interim manager with Newcastle battling relegation.
The club icon was unable to save them, and they dropped into the second tier for the first time since 1993.
Premier League Managers to Lose Their Jobs Within 40 Days of Season’s Start
Christian Gross at Tottenham Hotspur in 1998-99 (5 September 1998) – 21 days
Ruud Gullit at Newcastle United in 1999-00 (28 August 1999) – 21 days
Howard Wilkinson at Leeds United in 1996-97 (9 September 1996) – 23 days
Graeme Souness at Blackburn Rovers in 2004-05 (6 September 2004) – 23 days
Gianluca Vialli at Chelsea in 2000-01 (12 September 2000) – 24 days
Scott Parker at Bournemouth in 2022-23 (30 August 2022) – 25 days
Javi Gracia at Watford in 2019-20 (7 September 2019) – 29 days
Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace in 2017-18 (11 September 2017) – 31 days
Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea in 2022-23 (7 September 2022) – 33 days
Graham Potter at Brighton in 2022-23 (8 September 2022) – 34 days
Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham Hotspur in 2003-04 (21 September 2003) – 36 days
Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland in 2013-14 (22 September 2013) – 36 days
José Mourinho at Chelsea in 2007-08 (19 September 2007) – 39 days
Top-flight football can be a brutal world. As much as a quarter of the season can have passed by early October, and in some cases that’s enough time to completely derail an entire campaign. Acting quickly and early is the best way of getting back on track in the eyes of some club bosses.
In total, 19 managers have left their jobs inside the first 40 days of a Premier League season, and it probably won’t come as a huge surprise to see Newcastle (four) and Chelsea (three) make up nearly half of them.
Of course, Chelsea were behind the two most recent examples. They said auf wiedersehen to Thomas Tuchel just 33 days into last season, with Todd Boehly making his presence felt early into a first campaign that went on to be a bit of a mess in most senses.
Then, a day later, Graham Potter left Brighton to replace Tuchel at Chelsea. Unfortunately for Potter, magic was in short supply, and he only lasted in his post until early April.
But Tuchel and Potter weren’t the only managers to leave their jobs inside the first 40 days of the 2022-23 campaign; Scott Parker didn’t even make it to September.
Bournemouth suffered the joint-heaviest defeat in Premier League history on 27 August when crushed 9-0 by Liverpool at Anfield, and Parker – who’d led the club back to the top flight just a few months earlier – was sacked three days later.
Gullit is the only other to leave his post before September; that’s right, Newcastle managers left inside the first 40 days of a season in successive years, with Gullit – as already mentioned – initially joining them as Dalglish’s replacement.
Gianluca Vialli and José Mourinho were the other Chelsea managers to depart in the first 40 days, though one of the most memorable early-season departures came at Crystal Palace.
Frank de Boer was hired ahead of the 2017-18 season, taking over from Sam Allardyce after he ensured they avoided relegation in 2016-17. Palace lost their first four games of the season, and De Boer was dismissed for such a poor start.
That made De Boer’s reign the shortest in Premier League history in terms of matches (four), with Palace removing him from the role just 77 days into his contract; he’d previously only lasted 85 days at Inter the season before.
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