IN AN occupation where P45s are dished out like confetti, mere survival is an achievement in itself for football managers.
There cannot be many jobs where achievements in the past can be so quickly obscured by indifferent results in the present.
A bad month can push even the most cherished touchline idol towards the exit door, with the boos of thousands ringing in their ears.
It all makes Chris Wilder’s fourth anniversary in charge of Oxford United, which falls today, significant.
The 45-year-old has seen plenty of ups and downs since taking over the reins for a game away to Salisbury City on Boxing Day 2008.
A 2-1 defeat was not the most promising of starts, but Wilder is in no doubt the club – and his ability as a manager – has improved with time.
“I think when you sit down and look where the club was, the attendances, the assets in the team, the reputation of the club on and off the pitch we have moved it forward,” he said.
“As I keep saying it’s not always as quick as other people would like it to be, but I don’t think we’re a million miles off.
“This week we’ve got into the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in ten years.
“I think any manager will tell you that the experiences they’ve had will improve them.
“I don’t think some people will see it that way, but I think I’m miles better as a manager than when I first started here.
“That happens with everyone, speak to any manager in the game and they’ll say the same thing.”
The U’s boss may not particularly feel like celebrating today, with his side sitting 18th in the npower League Two table, adrift of the pack in promotion contention.
A thick skin is essential in football management and Wilder’s has been tested like never before in the past few months.
But after weathering some tough times in his first managerial job at Halifax Town, it is not a surprise.
“You do make mistakes and try to learn from them,” he said.
“Some stuff you can’t control, I can’t control what’s happened in the last nine months in terms of the massively important players that we’ve not been able to choose from.
“It’s been the toughest and most frustrating time.
“But there it is, the sun doesn’t always shine so you have to go through these periods and I really enjoy working for the club.”
Injuries have been a recurring theme for the best part of a year and for Wilder, it was the reason a play-off place slipped through their fingers last season.
If anything, the toll on the squad has been even heavier this season and the United manager believes it is a key reason why they are languishing in the bottom half.
His critics argue it is just an excuse, used to cover up a lack of progress, as the prospect of promotion to League One recedes.
Wilder is well aware of the implications a prolonged slump would have for his job, but responds with the assertion this is a rough patch which will end.
“You have to go through the tough times, but I’m sure they don’t last for long,” he said.
“I’m tough and have been in management for ten years, I plan on being in the business for a lot longer so you have to experience these periods.
“It’s a challenging time, but I’m sure going into the Christmas period and the second part of the season there’s a lot for usto look forward to.
“There’s two decent cups to go at and I’m sure there’s an improvement in our league position.
“I’m sure there will be an improvement in the injury situation, it can’t go on.
“Hopefully we can look forward to a little bit more luck on that front going into the new year.”