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14/11/2008 No.21
rendspotting Football/Rugby
Dan Roebuck
Friday Nov 14, 2008
Football is a results business so Mark Hughes has cause to be worried if the movements in the Sack Race market are anything to go by. Less than a month since the last change at the helm of a Premier League club and attention has turned to Eastlands after Manchester City lost their third consecutive league match against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

Sky Bet slashed the price of the former Wales coach to 7-4 to be the next top-flight manager to leave his post while Victor Chandler and William Hill offer the top price of 10-3 about Hughes, who has usurped Gary Megson, now trading at 9-2 (Hill's), as the market principal.

Ladbrokes looks sure Hughes is not in for a long stay at the world's richest club, quoting 13-8 he will not be City manager at the close of the January transfer window and just 5-6 that he will have left the job by the start of the 2009-10 campaign. The Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg said: "With the huge riches at Mark Hughes' disposal comes pressure. The new backers will be keen to see a return on investment sooner rather than later."

Should City's results continue to be poor - they host Arsenal and Manchester United on successive weekends after Sunday's game at Hull - Sheikh Mansour is unlikely to accept the possibility that City could finish in mid-table and he could dispense with Hughes' services. Why let your manager spend in January if you're not convinced he can do the job? So the 13-8 Ladbrokes offers that he is gone by the end of the first month of 2009 looks a fair bet. The fact that a number of bookmakers are already betting on who will be the next City manager - Sky Bet make Jose Mourinho the 4-1 favourite - also suggests the layers are expecting a change soon. Whether Hughes will be the next managerial casualty is debatable, though. Megson, unloved by sections of the Reebok crowd but backed by the Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, is unlikely to go. It's also doubtful Gianfranco Zola, an 11-2 (Hill's) shot to be the next top-division manager out, will leave West Ham. The Upton Park club are struggling financially and could not afford to get rid of the Italian.

But further down the list there are managers whose reign could be about to end. Paddy Power and Chandler quote Tony Mowbray at 10-1. Given that the West Brom chairman, Jeremy Peace, sacked both Megson and Bryan Robson after they failed to keep the Baggies in the Premier League, it is possible the former Hibernian manager might not last the year. Tony Adams trades at 16-1 (Sky Bet and Hill's) and the former Arsenal captain could find himself out of Fratton Park should new owners come to Portsmouth.

Results have not been great for Sunderland either recently, and while it is unlikely the Black Cats board would sack Roy Keane, who is 16-1 with Sky Bet but just 6-1 with Hill's, it is conceivable he could walk away from the club. Keane is yet to sign an extension to his contract which is up at the end of the season.

Paddy Power has opened a market on how many more Premier League managers will go this season, quoting two as the 5-2 favourite and none at 9-1 - the latter looks unlikely to pay dividends.

Interestingly, Hill's quote whoever the next Newcastle manager is at 25-1 to be the next Premier League boss to go, even though his identity is unknown. Alan Shearer is the latest man to be punted to succeed Kevin Keegan permanently: the BBC pundit was backed with Sky Bet and Hill's this week, and he was gambled into as short as 3.0 (2-1) for significant money on Betfair. However, he has subsequently drifted to 8.0 (7-1) on the betting exchange, with the caretaker manager, Joe Kinnear, resuming favouritism at 4.5 (7-2).

One managerial vacancy that could be filled soon is at QPR, where Gareth Ainsworth is 6-4 (Sky Bet) to get the job permanently. It is hard to imagine Roberto Mancini, now the 11-10 (Sky Bet) favourite, standing for Flavio Briatore's alleged insistence on meddling in team affairs but Ainsworth, you feel, will almost certainly take a back seat.

Mark Hughes to leave Manchester City before the end of January at 13-8 (Ladbrokes)
Gareth Ainsworth to be the next manager of QPR at 6-4 (Sky Bet)
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