Stuart Pearce recently lost his job at Nottingham Forest. His position became untenable as results on the field of play were somewhat poor. It is the nature of the manager's role in a football club. Your head is on the chopping blocks if you don't get the result.
I generally do not agree that poor result is anyone person's fault although I understand the concept of taking responsibility. It appears to be conventional wisdom that this is what Managers sign up to. Take up a role even if it is at a crap football team, results stay the same or worsen, you are out of a job.
However, it appears there is always a reluctance by the Chairman or the Board to pull the trigger and understandably as a result of the money involved, there is little chance that the manager will volunteer himself for the chop. Appears some managers have in the past like Ian Holloway at Crystal Palace last season. But he appears to be in the minority. From what I read, there are a number of reasons why clubs are usually reluctant to sack their managers
1) The pay off (reluctance to pay or difficulty in agreeing the pay off amount) Like in most commercial contracts, the party that cancels is obliged to compensate the other party. It appears most Clubs don't want to pay a big fat wedge to a departing manager who for all intents and purpose has failed. For example, there was speculation last year that the West Ham owners were reluctant to pay off Big Sam something in the region of £5m as they felt that the money could be used to improve the playing squad. It appears Sam dodged the sacking bullet as a result of the sum involved.
2) Emotional reasons - the Stuart Pearce case comes to mind. His appointment was steeped in emotion. Psycho as he is affectionately known was a club legend. Although he has had an indifferent managerial career (in my opinion) there was the expectation and the hope that his reign will be a success. Unfortunately it didn't happen as planned. From media reports emerging following his sack, it is clear this was one decision delayed for emotional reasons.
3) Absence of a suitable alternative - Although not substantive managers, the appointments of Chris Ramsey of QPR & John Carver of Newcastle as managers till the end of the season appears to fit nicely into this category. All the noise emerging from both QPR and Newcastle when Harry & Alan left respectively was about searching for a new manager. To turn around and not appoint a full time manager suggests they couldn't find a suitable manager or the manager they wanted wasn't available.
4) The manager shields the owner and serves as a lighting rod - Alan Pardew as the Newcastle manager was a good example of this. The more the Newcastle fans focused on Pardew, the less attention Mike Ashley got.
Whatever the club's reason (s) are for sacking or delaying the sacking of a manager, it would appear that the system is stuck in the middle ages. Club owners waiting for managers to come to them to say "it is not working. I want to leave" might happen more often if the manager knows he will get a fair outcome and pay off. But if the same owners want the manager to also waive his right to a lucrative pay off. Its not going to happen. Do turkeys vote for Christmas? From what we now know, Paul Lambert offered himself up for the sack but the owner of Aston Villa was reluctant to pull the trigger. Did he want Paul to walk away with less money than he was entitled to. Fat chance.
Perhaps football clubs might to insert clauses in manager's contracts that allow both parties part ways if pre agreed results / performance levels are not achieved. If this were to happen, the pay off is then significantly less than if a manager was fired because of change of ownership or if the owners don't fancy him any more or for some other farcical reasons that only football owners can come up with.