Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In search of the right manager

Ben Lyttleton of Sports Illustrated wrote a great piece this past week on how professional clubs go about searching for new coaches.

When clubs do search for new coaches, there's often contradictory philosophies . Clubs often don't have a direct succession plan in place to replace coaches, and also often take the wrong advice or make decisions based on reputations.

In one week last month, the British newspapers reported on names in the running to be the new Chelsea coach. Pep Guardiola, it was reported in some quarters, will be offered a contract worth £40 million ($63M) after tax, while The Times reported that Laurent Blanc was the front-runner. Jose Mourinho is still a target, claimed the Daily Mail, while The Mirror had Marcelo Bielsa snubbing an approach, via intermediaries, from Roman Abramovich.

Four coaches, all at the top of their profession: but each with totally different philosophies and visions about how the game should be played, how their players should be treated, and, presumably, how they would approach their role if they worked at Stamford Bridge.

That quartet, all of whom figure prominently in bookmakers' lists for the next Chelsea coach, reminded me of the shortlist that two other clubs had when they were looking for a coach last summer. On the Inter Milan list were: Gianpiero Gasperini, Fabio Capello, and Bielsa (well, he's flavor of the month right now); Aston Villa also had a list and on it were: Steve McClaren, Alex McLeish, Rafa Benitez and Roberto Martinez. In both cases, each coach seems almost seems a direct opposite of the others.

I'm reminded of these discrepancies almost every time a new job comes up.

Last Friday, for example, it was reported that the English FA would soon be speaking to two candidates about taking charge at Euro 2012: Roy Hodgson and Harry Redknapp. Both have their strengths, certainly, but are very different in outlook and approach.

The dilemma facing Manchester City's board this summer, if United keep their Premier League lead and win the title, might center on whether to keep Roberto Mancini in charge; who, if anyone, would do a better job, while keeping in line with the club's quest for global reach -- and acceptance?

This last point is important: as Graham Hunter pointed out in his wonderful book, Barca: The Making of The Greatest Team in the World, Jose Mourinho was interviewed for the coach's position before Pep Guardiola was appointed, but insisted that part of his role was to act as a provocateur. It was not the image that Barcelona wanted to portray, and so they looked elsewhere.

So: what goes into the thinking behind appointing a coach, and do these clubs know something that we don't? I asked two chief executives, one from the Premier League and one from the Championship, for some guidelines on how they go about appointing a new coach.

Click here to read more about how ownership of professional clubs select managers.

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