Why the modern football manager needs to live in the now
You all know the drill by now – new manager is appointed, says the right things at his first press conference, a wave of optimism spreads amidst talk of long-term ‘projects’. Pleading for time and taking the view that Rome wasn’t built in a day is a perfectly valid school of thought, but it simply doesn’t stand up to closer scrutiny when you look at the make-up of the entire football league and managers really get the time that they want.
Of the 92 managers in the entire football league, only seven of them have been at their respective clubs for five years or long – Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes, Tony Pulis, John Still, Paul Tisdale and Terry Brown. Football is simply not a game that deals in long-term legacies anymore, rather short-term success and to think otherwise is nothing more than unrealistic.
Upon taking over at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers said the following: “For me it is going to take time for how I want to play and the philosophy I want to introduce. My longer-term aim is to arrive there seeing how quickly we can do so. The principles of your game are based on the players you have and there is no doubt I’ll have a look at that and see if there is anyone I need to bring in to improve that. We want to play winning football, effective football.
“But I know, inherently, what we need to play that way and win that way but ultimately that will be the job of the next period of time. It is about results and the progress of the team but we will make our first steps and hopefully that will improve over the next few years. What we need to do is improve the team and the quality of the team and hopefully over the next couple of years we will be ready to challenge and ready to compete.”
In periods of transition, such as the one taking place at Anfield at the moment, there is of course an element of leeway granted to the incoming boss, but the pressure to get results will always be there, just ask Roy Hodgson who lasted only six months on Merseyside. It wasn’t that the fans didn’t appreciate that Hodgson was working under strict constraints amid turmoil at boardroom level at the club, it was that despite expectations being lowered, he still failed to meet them.
Of the 92 managers in the football league, 39 of them have been at their club for under a year, that in itself shows you that the quick turnover normally associated with players has slowly but surely seeped its way into the managerial part of the game. It might sound callous, but it’s simply not realistic to expect a tenure upwards of three years in the English game at the moment – the pressures are too many and the expectations too high week-in, week-out to deliver, and it’s simply not conducive to a long-term goal.
New Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas has set about his first few days in a very different manner but raising expectations stating: “The fact is that since 2008 we haven’t won a trophy. And it’s this taking of Tottenham towards the future that we want. I think last year was the first time, recently, that Tottenham made it so public that they wanted to go for the title. It’s also a fact that in a certain period of the season it was achievable. But you also have to agree with me that Harry went in and out of that quotation, that position. It’s all very well to promote yourself for the title – and then to quit the week after. That is not a criticism but if we really want to go for it, this is something that we have to assume from the start.”
That is the way that you have to approach taking over a new club these days, the desire to win trophies has to be at the forefront of your mind, as opposed to any overwhelming desire to create a legacy or change a club’s style of play. Villas-Boas has set his sights high, which in turn creates pressure, and unless he achieves what he’s been brought into do, which is win a few cups and turn Tottenham into genuine title challengers, then he will be moved on.
Talk is cheap as the old adage goes – preaching for time before you’ve even started is a cautious approach and roughly ten years ago, it was the smart thing to say, but it’s not practical and if manager’s honestly think they’re going to be granted five years in a new job just because they happen to want that long to turn a club around, then they are quite frankly kidding themselves. In an ideal world, managers’ wouldn’t be so suceptible to media pressure and would be granted the time needed to implement their ideas fully, but that time has long gone.
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