Former Sunderland midfielder Keith Armstrong has been relieved of his managerial duties by Finnish side FC Ilves after he spent Sunday afternoon waffling about football in a television studio instead of on the touchlines.
Armstrong, who has previously been crowned Finnish Manager of the Year on no less than three separate occasions, ducked out of Ilves’ important league match against SJK on Sunday to appear as a pundit on MTV3’s coverage of the Premier League clashes between Everton and Liverpool, and Arsenal versus Manchester United.
Ilves were only guaranteed a place in the Veikkausliiga (Finnish top flight) when another club went bust, but Armstrong has still managed to guide them to safety this season.
Still, his no-show of Sunday’s game against SJK still came as a “complete surprise” to the Ilves board, who duly sacked Armstrong the very next day.
The official statement from CEO Tom Erolainen read:
[FC Ilves] have terminated the contract of head coach Keith Armstrong.
We want to thank (Armstrong) for the excellent work he’s done as a coach of the Lynxes. Behind us is a magnificent season, which has given the fans and players a lot.
A common path is no longer found in the future. The team is now focusing firmly on the last matches of the Veikkausliiga season, as we seek to finish in sixth place.
However, Armstrong himself has argued that “the matter isn’t as clear cut as portrayed”, claiming that his assistant coach, captain and players were all perfectly aware that he wouldn’t be in attendance for the SJK match.
Armstrong also appears to believe it was unfair of Ilves not to amend his contract after getting the club promoted, as it was obvious the more intense top flight schedule would interfere with his media work and leave him out of pocket. As such, he is threatening legal action.
A counter-statement from Armstrong’s lawyer reads:
He was not financially compensated for loss of TV work. He took over a first division club who were unexpectedly promoted but his contract hasn’t changed.
He regrets the negative publicity this has attracted to Ilves, the league and Finnish football.
With the prospect of litigation dangling over their heads, it’s now being reported that Ilves may be willing to forgive Armstrong and overturn his sacking.