What does being a manager mean? For teams in the Blue Square Premier and the lower reaches of League Two it means a much different thing to being the manager of a top Premiership side.
For those down there in the depths being a manager might mean sweeping out the dressing rooms, ringing players up to make sure they’re available and painting the lines on the pitch. All of that of course is as well as the main job of trying to mould eleven players into a fearsome and formidable unit.
I don’t suppose Messrs Ferguson, Grant, Wenger and Benitez sweep the dressing rooms too often. They can concentrate almost entirely on the job of moulding the team. There are top people employed to do all the periphery jobs that fall to lower league managers.
It is entirely possible that in the lower leagues there are coaches and managers who would be every bit as successful as the top four if they worked in similar circumstances. The difficulty in this age of instant success being demanded is in getting the opportunity to prove that you have the skills before you’re on the dole.
Take Martin Allen for example. Now before you think I’ve gone mad I am not suggesting he should manage one of the top four. Thinking about it though, if he and Gordon Strachan, Ian Holloway and Barry Fry took over at those clubs the Premiership would be a lot funnier.
Martin Allen did a great job as the manager of Brentford. With a limited, or non-existent, budget he saved them from relegation in his first season and then took them to the play-offs in the two following seasons.
After Allen left, Brentford were relegated and are now a mid-table League Two side.
He moved down a Division to the MK Dons and developed a side that again got to the play-offs. The nucleus of that side has gone from strength to strength now under Paul Ince.
Allen then got the opportunity to manage at Leicester City but he lasted only a few games before the swinging Mandaric axe hit him. Nobody knows why. His last game in charge was a 4-1 victory over my beloved Watford. Since he left Leicester have been embroiled all season in a relegation scrap. Who knows what would have happened if he had stayed.
My point is that for all we know, however unlikely it may seem, Martin Allen may be a master tactician and player motivator. If you put him in charge of the current Manchester United team he might lead them to thirty-eight straight victories in the league, Champions League glory and the FA Cup and Carling Cup for good measure.
Hell, I’d fancy my chances of winning something in charge of that team. We all would wouldn’t we? That’s just it. We all think we would make great managers.
OK, if I was in charge of United for Sundays game at Middlesbrough what would I do? Well I’d have given them a couple of days to recover from the Roma game and brought them back in for training on Friday. I’d probably let Carlos take the session and just wander around telling everyone how good they are and focusing their minds on Middlesbrough.
When it came to team selection I would have half an eye on the Roma second leg and some more difficult Premiership games to come. I would certainly consider giving Anderson, Scholes, Brown, and Rooney or Ronaldo a rest. I might go with Van der Saar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Pique, Evra, Nani, Hargreaves, Carrick, Giggs, Tevez, and Ronaldo.
I’d tell them to play 4-4-2 with Carrick and Hargreaves taking it in turns to sit. I’d give Ronaldo a free rein and tell him that he would probably get a rest after an hour or so.
Would United win? Probably. Would that make me a great manager? Obviously not.
So what makes a great manager? Now that we are allowed three substitutes from a squad of five, seven in Europe and the Premier League next season, part of the role is to recognise where things are going wrong or where they could be improved. The tactical substitution is definitely an art. There is a school of thought, however, that says that if a manager has done his homework and prepared his team correctly then a substitution should only be needed if a player is injured, tired or not performing. A tactical change should not be needed.
If you were put in charge of England what would you do? The team pretty much picks itself really. You might bring in one or two surprise players but most of the usual suspects would be there. You’d decide on a formation, probably 4-4-2, and you’d make a rousing speech before kick off about the Land of Hope and Glory and get all eleven of them walking onto the field like soldiers preparing to go into battle.
Once the whistle went, they would no doubt let you down and perform badly. That wouldn’t make you any worse than Capello, Eriksson, Hoddle, Venables, Taylor….
So I’m still no closer to understanding what makes a great manager and why I can’t be one. If Fergie or Wenger or Benitez went to Wrexham, would they save them from the drop into the Blue Square Premier League? I doubt it.
If any of them had taken the Newcastle job would they have struggled as much as Keegan did to halt the slide? Probably.
Whichever way you look at it, managing a side with great players and money is easy and managing a side with poor players and no money is hard. I know I’d be good at the former.
If any Chairmen from clubs at the top of the Premier League, or La Liga, or Serie A, have been particularly impressed with the managerial nous I have shown in this article they can contact me on the details available on my website.