The most important relationship in football

Roy Hodgson endured a difficult relationship with the dressing room in his time at Liverpool

Last week Steven Gerrard claimed that the players were to blame for Roy Hodgson’s unsuccessful spell in charge of Liverpool last season, with numerous aspects of the club captain’s comments standing out’. Gerrard was quoted as stating, ‘It was the players underperforming and not delivering. That was the sad part.’

Indeed, Gerrard was keen to remind people that when Hodgson got the sack he was ‘one of the players who came out after he left and made sure people knew it wasn’t just Roy Hodgson’s fault’. However, quite simply the club was not a happy place to be while Hodgson was at the club with Gerrard declaring that under Kenny Dalglish there were now ‘happy faces from top to bottom of the club now and we move forward.’

Gerrard’s comments make for an interesting debate over the importance of a manager’s relationship with his players. When Dalglish returned to the Anfield hotseat in January, the clubs fortunes dramatically improved in the second half of the season. Granted Dalglish managed to ship out the misfiring Fernando Torres and bring in the inspirational Luis Suarez, yet were Roy Hodgson’s motivational skills really that poor in comparison to Dalglish’s?

Hodgson was not helped by the fact he replaced Rafael Benitez, a man who had stamped his own identity on the football club. Following on from the Spaniard was always going to be difficult.

It is not the first case of professional footballers underperforming for a manager of proven pedigree. Arguably the most high profile case in history is Brian Clough’s doomed 44 day tenure at Leeds United, a story of such significance that it had first a book then a film dedicated to it.

In 1974, the England manager’s job had just been given to Don Revie, a man who had spent 13 enormously successful years at Leeds United. Clough, despite regularly stating his aversion to the club, would be the man to take the job.

Clough alienated key players such as Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner by reportedly telling them ‘You can all throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly.’ Clough’s short spell at Elland Road included just one victory, giving him the unwelcome record of being Leeds least successful permanent manager.

Upon leaving Leeds Clough would go on to have enormous success at Nottingham Forest, twice winning the European Cup and once the league title amongst other honours. Clearly Clough was an enormously talented manager, yet in the same manner as Hodgson, the players were not performing, or not willing to perform at their best. Without that, any manager is doomed.

Player power at football clubs is fascinating. Avram Grant, Jose Mourinho’s successor at Chelsea came within inches of managing Chelsea to the Champions League. Yet, stories have long been abound that in reality the clubs senior players such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba were as much involved in the decision making that season.

The most recent story surrounding the relationship between player and manger is at Manchester City. The Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini fallout is a debacle that continues to rumble on. The relationship between the former captain and the authoritarian boss is at an all time low, following the forwards alleged refusal to come off the substitute’s bench in last month’s match against Bayern Munich.

Tevez’s seemingly had no future at the club, yet there are now hints that he may be offered a lifeline by Mancini and City, only time will tell.

The truth is, a manager is only as good as the sum of his parts. If players are motivated, willing and ready to take a manger’s ideas on board then success will follow. The best manager’s have proven that time and time again. However, looking at the above examples, we should not forget even the manager’s at the very top can fail if players are more concerned with their bottom line than putting everything in on the pitch week in week out.

What are your thoughts on the important relationship between player and manger? Comment and follow me on Twitter @CamHumphries