How Do They Manage?

Last updated : 15 September 2002 By Old_Leither

Decision making is difficult as we all know. One pint or twelve, go home now or spend the rest of the week-end in Coventry? We have to live with the consequences of decisions that we make, good, bad or indifferent. Some of us are affected as a consequence of others' actions, even if we made the original decision. Football managers are high profile decision makers. The world is full of better managers than those currently earning a living from the job, and I include all the fantasy managers playing it at home with the various paper competitions.

Who would be a football manager? Criticised if you lose and no credit when you win. Only a masochist would take on this job. That or an ex-player. In a way, a manager is similar to that character in the old Tenants lager ads, tied up and gagged, striving for his goal but always being pulled back at the last second. Every club nowadays which has decided to change their manager appear to have a look through the list of players who are nearing the end of their playing days to check if they can stretch their playing days a bit by becoming a player-manager.

While this is flattering for a player, it is not always good news for the team or it's supporters, whom you will remember, pay good money to see good football. Not all players know when to give way to younger players. It could be argued that while they are playing they are not in the best position to view what is required to improve the overall team performance. There are some gifted players who can do both but they do not grow on trees. Successful examples have usually been backed by a large cheque book. They do not have time to nurture talent when they want that last piece of silverware to add to their collection before hanging up their boots.

Not having a lot of luck
The current vogue is to get a player that has played for your team to return like a saviour and turn around the fortunes. This does not always happen as Hibs fans can testify with 6 out of the last 8 managers being ex-Hibs players. The latest in an illustrious line is Bobby Williamson who, as far as I can find out, never was lucky enough to pull on the green and white (or green, purple and white) of the Hi-bees. He has not exactly set the heather alight since his move from Kilmarnock. I wonder if he ever will with the luck he has been having recently.

I have never been convinced that ex-players for a team make good managers of that team. All such managers appear to have been given the same script on their appointment, to say the following "
I know what this club needs, I know what is lacking. I want players who are willing to play for the jersey! I have achieved a life-time ambition today. I have always longed to manage (fill in name of team here).". This as you may have guessed is a variation on the script handed to new players on signing their contract, "I have always been a (fill in name of club here) fan and I have realised an ambition today." The player's script loses a lot of credibility if the player you have just signed is Paulo Di Canio.

Ex-players may indeed know what is lacking (don't we all?) and all about the traditions of a club but times change, as does personnel. Players are always playing with one eye on the clock and the other on the next possible lucrative move as their careers can be ended with one tackle. While you or I would pay substantial sums of money to trot out of the tunnel at our favourite ground wearing just the mascot's outfit, professional players need to pay the mortgage on the larger than average home that they all seem to own or start their retirement business off on a sound financial footing. I remember hearing that when Ralph Callaghan was considering his move to Hibs he was weighing up whether to sell or lease his cafe in Newcastle. Ralph always was ambitious and one for the main chance, watch out Rocco Forte! I forget for the moment which club Ralph, together with the ever smiling Jackie McNamara, eventually moved on to manage in the lower leagues but I do not remember that they set the heart aflutter or required their Board of Directors to dip into their pockets for extra supplies of Silvo for their trophy room/cupboard/shelf. The lack of available money may have something to do with it.

Money can be a great help. When big bucks are spent, big returns are expected, and soon. The transition from "
player to manager" problem is not a purely Scottish phenomenon. There is an apparently endless list of ex-international players who have tried their hands at the job and failed. The whole of the team that won that meaningless competition back in 1966 have had a go, but only Jack Charlton found success. (My spell checker suggested Charlatan for Charlton but Jack could never be called a fraud as he always called a spade a spade and a duff team a duff team.)

It was the only picture of Big Jack I could find, hinest
I liked Jack, he knew that it is all a game. He knew that very rarely does someone die playing football and there is life outside the game. Jack has admitted that he knew his limitations when he was a player. He could stop people and he could head the ball. The team that he moulded from the long hours checking birth records for Ireland also knew it's limitations and only came unstuck when it tried to exceed them. Foreign ex-players are no less fortunate in the lottery that is management. Johan Cruyff, the inventor of the back heel past the other leg and change of direction in a sweet and seamless movement prior to the killing cross, was less successful than his employers at Barcelona expected and was constantly under pressure to deliver. This could explain his addiction to the dreaded weed.

Celtic tried their toe in the water regarding players that they never registered with Liam Brady, Dr Venglos, John Barnes and Martin O'Neill. Lack of silverware surely made the former three look over their shoulders a few times I'll bet prior to the inevitable formal dismissal board-meeting. All managers must dread that difficult reading material, the vote of confidence from the board in the morning papers. Time without number the hollow words precede by only a few days the announcement that the board "
Thanks him for his services to the club but (and there is always a "but") the board recognise a change is required/ a new face is needed/ we want to win something and this deadbeat has cost us a lot and produced zero trophies!"

All managers must know that they will be asked to move on, especially as their office door is inevitably of the revolving type. But can they give up the drug that is football. Not so easy when you see the usual suspects rounded up every time a vacancy appears. It must have something to do with trying to stave off the inevitable process of growing old. Most managers appear in tracksuits whenever possible to appear one of the lads, even though they find themselves lingering at the cardigan counter when out shopping for off duty clothes and saying things like "
Have you got one in biscuity-beige?".

So back to the question that started all this drivel off, who would be a manager? Me for a start (as long as it was for Hibs), where do I sign? Please form an orderly queue behind me.

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