The ex-Stevenage boss on five key principles for clubs and managers
THE beginning of a new season is always a hugely optimistic time at almost every club. Whatever has happened the previous year, and indeed in pre-season, is simply forgotten. There is invariably a huge feeling of expectation that this next season is going to be ‘the one’.
And then the season begins. And within hours, or days, the feeling is either multiplied magnificently, festering away or eradicated completely.
A couple of wins or a couple of losses and clubs are already talking about the need for change! We all belong to a most incredibly emotive sport.
My most recent league title was secured after we won one, drew three and lost one of our first five games. So I know personally that a stinking start does not define your season; unless you let it.
The facts are that most clubs will go on to achieve a position broadly in line with their expenditure in their league. It was a published statistic that just ten per cent of managers are able to achieve a league position that is significantly better than the financial position of their club within their league.
If managers are defined to some degree by the attitude within their clubs, the question is ‘what is the right attitude to choose?’ I think there are five keys. First, whatever happens, keep preparing to become better. Look at the technical, tactical and teamship attributes in evidence; look at the physical, personal and professional competence on show; appraise the mentality being displayed. And simply seek to constantly improve on all these key levels.
Second, keep focused on winning the next game.You do not win a league title by worrying about the team that has started strongly; you win your next three points by beating the next team that you play.You have to get ready to do that constantly and relentlessly.
Third, avoid excuses; they are a plague. The players that you don’t have or the injuries that you do have cannot help you.
The players that are available need to be prepared and motivated to play and win the next game. It is about getting them ready.
Fourth, you have to keep believing in the realistic ambition that you set out with.You don’t give up on your ambition because of a couple of bad results.
You don’t lose your sense of adventure or fun. If you believe that you are the best then you have to prove it by pulling through good and bad times.
Fifth, you have to be able to react to good and bad days with the same emotional rage; in other words, you have to desire success as much as you feel angered by defeat.
For a club to be successful, a club and a manager need to stand together around these five principles. If you look towards the men who have notably over-achieved, it is a ferocious work ethic and these five traits that burn very bright in their armoury.