Life Expectancy of a Scottish Football Manager

There is an old saying in football that you have got to be mad to be a goalkeeper.  The same must surely be true of managers; or at very least you must be mad to think that going into management will lead to secure long-term employment.

The departure of Pedro Caixinha as Rangers manager after less than a year in the Ibrox hot seat brings the total number of managerial departures in the Scottish Premiership this season to four and we’re not even one third of the way through the campaign yet; put another way, 25% of the Premiership managers in place when the League Cup kicked off back in July have either been sacked or mutually parted ways with their respective former employers.

Ian Cathro was the first to go following Hearts failure to progress through the Group Stage of the League Cup, followed by Lee McCulloch and Jim McIntyre who paid the price for poor starts to the League season, before finally being joined on the managerial dole queue by Caixinha whose inevitable sacking came after totting up one too many disastrous results; not to mention his bizarre handling of the media.

Bye bye Pedro. 7 months of your weird and wonderful ways was just too much for some.

Interestingly, and perhaps a sign of the times we currently live in, only Jim McIntyre held his position for more than a year having spent three years at Ross County during which time he lead the club to a memorable League Cup success in 2015/16 before his departure this September.  Of the other three, Lee McCulloch lasted 9 months at Kilmarnock, while Cathro and Caixinha both only lasted 7 months at Hearts and Rangers.

The ‘Life Expectancy’ of a Scottish Premiership manager is therefore not too high at present and Table 1 highlights that only four current managerial incumbents have been in position for longer than 18 months.  In fact, if Pedro Caixinha’s 7 month stint at Rangers is included, then the average ‘Life Expectancy’ of a Scottish Premiership manager currently stands at 21.25 months; less than two years.  Considering that many experts agree that a manager needs at least one season to make the side his own, the remaining time doesn’t really allow for a great deal of error before facing the axe.

Current SPFL Premiership Managers
Club Manager Duration (months)
Aberdeen Derek McIness 54
Celtic Brendan Rodgers 17
Dundee Neil McCann 6
Hamilton Martin Canning 34
Hearts Craig Levein 2
Hibs Neil Lennon 16
Kilmarnock Steve Clarke 1
Motherwell Steve Robinson 8
Partick Alan Archibald 57
Ross County Owen Coyle 1
St Johnstone Tommy Wright 52

Table 1: SPFL Managers time at current club

However, time in the job is not a luxury that has been afforded to many managers in Scottish top flight football since the turn of the century.  From the 2000/01 season – that’s 17 full seasons and 1 partial season – 19 clubs have contested the Scottish top flight under its different guises, employing an incredible 129 managers between them during their time in the top League at an average of 6.79 managers per club.

SPFL Manager Life Spans since 2000/01
Club Season’s in Top Flight Number of Managers Average Time at Club (months)
Aberdeen 18 6 36.67
Celtic 18 6 34.83
Dundee 10 6 18.67
Dundee United 17 10 22.00
Dunfermline 9 6 16.67
Falkirk 6 3 19.33
Gretna 1 3 4.00
Hamilton 7 3 24.67
Hearts 17 16 16.19
Hibs 15 11 18.64
Inverness CT 13 7 17.57
Kilmarnock 18 10 25.50
Livingston 6 7 8.00
Motherwell 18 11 17.64
Partick Thistle 7 4 17.50
Rangers 14 7 26.00
Ross County 6 3 20.33
St Johnstone 11 5 28.00
St Mirren 10 5 30.00
6.79 21.17


In total, those same 19 clubs have employed 176 managers since 2000/01 including spells outside the top flight.

The average managerial ‘Life Expectancy’ from 2000/01 to present is pretty similar to that of the current batch of Premiership managers coming in at just over 21 months.  However, it must also be noted that this figure takes into account any period before the 2000/01 season if the club was in the top flight with the same manager who started the started the 2000/01 season which may slightly skew the results.

Cheer up Alan: This is what it looks like to be the longest serving Scottish top flight manager. 57 months and counting.

It is little surprise that the safest jobs in the country currently belong the nation’s top two clubs, Aberdeen and Celtic, and for once it is Aberdeen who come out on top.  Since the start of the 2000/01 season the both Aberdeen and Celtic have employed 6 different managers, however, Dons managers have narrowly outstayed their Parkhead counterparts by an average of just over one month; mainly thanks to Ebbe Skovdahl who was in place prior to 2000/01.

The least secure jobs in terms of managerial longevity belong to Gretna and Livingston.  The now defunct borders club went through three managers during their single top flight season, while Livingston hired 7 different managers in just 6 seasons in the top league.

However, it is Hearts (16) who have gone through the most managers since the turn of the century followed not too far behind by Edinburgh rivals Hibs (11) and Motherwell (11).

As previously mentioned, Caixinha’s sacking brings the number of managerial departures this season to four, the same number as the whole of last season and one more already than the 2015/16 season.  Should things continue like this then 2017/18 may well end up breaking the unwanted record of 7 managerial changes in a season as seen in 2001/02.  On that occasion both Hibs and Motherwell changed managers twice in what turned out to be successful attempts at beating the drop.  The same could not be said for St. Johnstone who also changed manager that season but succumbed to relegation.  In fact, since 2000/01 75% of clubs relegated from the top flight changed managers during the season.  A stat which is perhaps not too surprising as it tends to be under performing managers who are sacked rather than those at the top end of the table.  Fans of Hearts, Ross County, Kilmarnock and Rangers will be hoping that their clubs have acted early enough to help them avoid the dreaded drop.

While the betting will have started in earnest on who will succeed Caixinha at Ibrox, it will be equally as interesting to see who the next manager to fall is and how long the likes of Steve Clarke, Owen Coyle or Neil McCann last in their jobs.  The odds may not be stacked in their favour forever but for the sake of continuity and allowing time for development, here’s hoping they all get a good run in the job.


  • Since 2000/01 72% of Scottish Premiership managers have been Scottish, 15% from the rest of the UK, 11% from Europe or elsewhere (we’ve had a Brazilian don’t you know), and 4% from the Republic of Ireland.
  • 14 different nationalities have managed in the Scottish Premiership.
  • Scots have won most Premiership titles (8 / 47%), however the Northern Irish are close behind (7 / 41%) and will likely equal Scots this season.
  • Ronny Deila is the only manager from outside the UK to win the Premiership title.
  • Jim Jeffries (4) is the manager who has had the most Premiership jobs – includes two spells at Hearts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.