They say money can buy you anything in football, whether it is the top players or the best manager; but is it honestly a guarantee of success? While the likes of Roman Abramovich will tell you yes, given the way he has transformed Chelsea over the years, there are many others who have spent countless millions and yet have achieved nothing in return. Money can certainly bring all the ingredients of success to any football club, but that is only half of a winning recipe. You need team ethic and spirit to succeed – something that cannot be created by the writing of a cheque.
It was interesting to hear Rafael van der Vaart talk of the importance of team spirit in Tottenham’s dressing room and the significant role it played in their triumph at the San Siro. I know from my West Ham days that Harry Redknapp is the master of creating a positive atmosphere in the dressing room and geeing up the players who may be otherwise nervous before the game. You need to create that collective spirit and that ‘one for all’ attitude on the pitch. The Tottenham team stood up for each other on Tuesday night, despite the intense provocation, and that is what every team needs if they are to be successful. There is no ‘I’ in team and that is why this particular Tottenham side, led by Harry, is succeeding where a lot of their past ones have failed.
Arsene Wenger is another manager who clearly understands the importance of maintaining team spirit. I know a lot of Arsenal supporters are frustrated at his cautious approach in the transfer market, but it is important that you bring in players that aren’t going to upset the harmony of the dressing room. You hear a lot say that Arsene needs to bring in Player X and Y because they are deemed to be world class, but as with football owners there is no guarantee that they will bring success. I am not suggesting that you don’t sign anyone on that basis, just suggesting that a big name signing is not always a guarantee that they are going to fit in with the current culture and spirit of the dressing room. Emmanuel Adebayor as a case point was an excellent player, but what kind of influence did he have on others in the Emirates’ dressing room? Is it any surprise that Arsene moved him on?
I am sure there are many of you who will look at Abramovich’s time at Chelsea as a counter argument on marrying spending and success. That is certainly true; however it is worth pointing out that when Roman moved in at the Bridge, Ranieri had already created a top three team and therefore the team ethic and foundation was already in place before Mourinho moved in. Jose only had to bring in two or three players, as well as adding his special voice to the dressing room, to ensure that Chelsea became champions and then embarked upon a very successful period in their history. I look at the current team now and the wretched run they’re on and can’t help but wonder the influence that Ray Wilkins actually had on the harmony and motivation of that dressing room, especially as there are some big egos in there. Have Chelsea lost some of their winning spirit since Wilkins’ departure from Stamford Bridge? I’ll let the Blues faithful decide on that one, although the time of their slump certainly tallies up.
Manchester City are obviously hoping with their massive outlay that success will prove to be forthcoming. I hear some City fans are growing impatient already, but they need to realise that to build and sustain success the foundations at the club need to be in place. You cannot bring in so many new players and expect them to hit the ground running straightaway. I really believe watching Man City that there are quite a few ‘I’s within this squad and it will take Mancini time to bring them all together as one unit before they can conquer the Premier League. Maintaining a good team spirit and togetherness is the key – it is the sole reason why Sir Alex Ferguson has been so successful in the last 20 years.
Former Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham defender Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock is one of the great characters of English football. Razor has the same no-nonsense attitude off the pitch as he did on it.