Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Bill Shankly, Jose Mourinho, Jock Stein. About as varied a group of men as you could get, the Football Manager may be the only job where characteristics can be so diverse within the same field. While many people have pondered the very question for an age, there may never be a definitive answer as to what makes a perfect football manager. A cacophony of opinions stem from within the very foundations of this question but a single faultless tune may never be heard. While some have come close to considered flawlessness, to single out one man as the ultimate manager in the sport is a nigh on impossible task.
Varying situations at clubs impact the way in which a manager succeeds and accomplishes his objectives. This can be no more accurate than in today’s world of cut throat Premier League management, where fluctuating, unpredictable circumstances along with egocentricity from certain facets of your squad demand a leader whose attributes rival that of the aforementioned elite group of managers. A glimpse into the variable categories of management style may unravel the secret as to what makes the perfect man to lead a Premier League club nowadays.
A glance at the most successful managers of all time in terms of silverware, indicates that the dictatorial managerial approach is the most sufficient. A style very much favoured by Sir Alex Ferguson, he explains that he must be the most important man at Old Trafford if he is to succeed, stating that he would be in trouble if he were to lose authority over the multi-millionaires that grace the United dressing room. It comes as no surprise that many players arriving at the club suggest that the manager is the overriding reason for joining. It also comes as no shock when departing players have an overwhelmingly positive view of Fergie. After leaving United in 2003, David Beckham said of the Scottish coach, “He wanted to kill me at times, I’m sure. But he was a father figure to me and he was also the man who gave me the chance of playing for my dream club.” Whilst indicating a certain fear that the manager would punish you for your wrongdoings, it seems that Sir Alex’s ability to be authoritarian allows his team to look up to him and demand respect in a fatherly way. This style of management may be old fashioned, but with Man United still continuing their successes under the 70 year old, it seems that this brand of management is instilled in the clubs core.
The Man Manager
A chasm of difference between the previous managerial style mentioned, this method levels the working relationship between player and manager. Most notably a style of former Premier League bosses such as Harry Redknapp and Jose Mourinho, the man manager inspires players by having a close bond with them. Redknapp has been quoted as saying that he likes to treat his payers as ‘humans’ and not faceless assets, many players who plied their trade under the former Spurs boss express that the 65-year olds laid back approach, allows creativity to flow and teams to connect and ultimately flourish. While Mourinho enjoys a similar working relationship with his players, the Portuguese also demands authority when it’s needed. However, his success at Chelsea was driven by an absolute bond with the dressing room; a bond that filtered out onto the field for all to see.
The analytical approach to management can work in two ways. Firstly, as Arsene Wenger has proven for well over a decade, it can work majestically. His calculated methods have produced some of the most breath-taking football that the English game has ever seen. Despite a relative lull in recent times, in terms of silverware, Wenger continues to pick young talent from relative obscurity and make them world stars whilst keeping the books as balanced as needed at the Emirates. This method of tactical, analytical style working assuredly in recent times has also come in the form of Swansea and the now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. The second, not so successful way of the ‘thinking manager’ style was indicated by Andre Villas-Boas and his tenure at Chelsea. Whilst, his ground breaking ideas worked incredibly at Porto, the fact that his managerial approach steers away from building solid relationships with his players, meant that the Chelsea team, who were so used to being on a level playing field with Mourinho, rejected the 34-year old and his ideas. It will be interesting to see how these methods work at Tottenham and whether he can replicate the success he had at Porto. These examples may show that to be able to manage in an analytical way, your tenure would have to be considerably lengthy, in order to gain respect from your players.
David Moyes is now in his tenth year as Everton manager and he is still working wonders. With a transfer budget at an unusable low at times, The Scotsman has managed to turn the Toffees from a relegation threatened club into a unit capable of European Qualification every season. With circumstances against him, the 49-year old has to rely on his motivational techniques to allow his players to believe that they can achieve. With an abundance of players in Everton’s squad that could be considered as ‘utility’ men, the formation and style is often changed and players need to adapt quickly. They look to Moyes to achieve this and he injects the confidence into his team that is required for them to succeed. When watching the former Preston man on the touchline, you can see him barking out orders, encouraging the team even in the darkest moments. Another manager who focuses much of his style on Motivation is Roberto Martinez. When everyone discounts his lowly Wigan side when they are a game away from relegation, the Spaniard continuously stimulates his team with confidence, announcing to the press with ultimate sincerity that he knows his side will stave off the drop. While this management style generates consistency, it rarely achieves titles and other facets to a manager’s style are often more acclaimed.
When taking all 4 types of management style into consideration, it is hard to order them in terms of proficiency. However, the most valuable asset in Football is victory, and historically, a dictator style role is the most successful. Players who are longing to impress a manager in order to steer clear of the hairdryer treatment and to gain praise from a respected superior are usually the standout performers. While today’s obscure bunch of Premier League managers cover all facets of style, the perfect leader would have to have a healthy balance of all abilities, something that not even the modern greats can profess to hold.