Football managers come in all shapes and sizes, each has their own set of values they try to instil in players week in week out. With extensive scouting networks already in place for the majority of teams in the upper echelons of the English game, the vast array of nationalities and complex personalities that most managers have to deal with and somehow get the best out of is ever increasing. Add to that the stratospheric objectives of many club owners, and management is the seemingly impossible job right?
Wrong. Although managerial longevity is harder than ever to achieve, relatively short term success repeated at multiple clubs is gaining mangers recognition at the highest level. Gone are the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, gone are the days of managers arriving at clubs with five year plans and perhaps worst of all gone are the days of Sentiment, especially in boardrooms. Now, I know there will be a lot of people out there arguing that there is no room for sentiment in a football boardroom, for that surely leads to failure. However, there are some examples from years gone by that a little sentiment can go a long way. Lets look at Crewe Alexandra, who stuck with Dario Gradi through thick and thin for well over a thousand games. Under his stewardship they gradually moved up the football ladder from the old division four to what we now know as the championship where although the team did not necessarily prosper, it remained punching above its weight whilst repeatedly selling their best players to the highest bidder. During his first spell at Crewe which lasted a mere 1,244 matches, Gradi suffered 3 relegations, two of which himself and his team bounced back from immediately. This day in age how many managers would be given the loyalty of their board to such a degree? I personally wouldn’t wager on many, if any.
Football today is evidently full of naivety, short mindedness and downright stupidity when it comes to decision making in boardrooms. You only have to look at the examples of Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic as clubs that have effectively been run into the ground due to poor leadership choices. Rather than give their managers time to develop a project and grow players some are being given a few meagre months to turn the fortunes of a sinking ship around. Not all managers are miracle workers are they.
Some managers however can turn it around whilst staring certain doom in the face, look at Swansea City this season. Almost everybody had them down as relegation candidates before a ball was kicked and after a poor first few months they sat rock bottom of the Premier League having been through two managers already. Enter Paul Clement, the former PE teacher turned Football coach who served his time as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at four different clubs in four different countries. He has inspired his players from the doldrums to the sky, not by employing fancy football but by going back to basics. As many pundits, experts and fans say, “its best to do the basics right”. There is no guarantee Swansea City will stay in the Premier League this season but I won’t be betting against it any time soon.
The contrast in what success for managers means today compared to what it meant in years gone by is more evident than ever. The likes of Pep Guardiola, who inherits very good teams and implies his tiki-taka style of football upon them(to great success in most cases) is now viewed as one of the best if not the best manager in the world. Could he manage a club without the resources, without the bulk of quality players already there and mould his side from scratch? I guess we’ll never know, some may argue managers of his calibre have no need to stoop lower than the worlds best and richest clubs but the romance of a Manager working his way up to the big time from humble beginnings will always be more appealing to me personally.
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