Make EFL the Taylor Trophy
FITTING TRIBUTE TO GENTLEMAN
THIS week I was struck by three stand-out situations: first the sad passing of former England manager Graham Taylor; second, the bullying accusations aimed at Sir Dave Brailsford; third, the potential departure of Diego Costa from Chelsea.
There are two highly significant aspects for me to the life of Graham Taylor; the most important is the incredible esteem in which he was held by so many people who worked for him. He was a successful manager; taking Watford through the divisions to the heights of the top flight was an enormous achievement.
That alone tells you of the man’s calibre. However, the array of sad feelings and complimentary comments which have flowed tell the tale of a warm, generous and thoroughly decent human being. His life clearly deserved much better than the headlines which accompanied the darkest days of his England reign.
It is too easy to shout far and wide about a fellow human being with little or no regard for the real truth.
Taylor is described as a proper gentleman by people who knew him well. He lived the game he loved. He created wonderful success. He rose from the lower echelons of the professional game to the ultimate height. I sincerely hope Watfords’s Graham Taylor Stand is not the only thing in English football to carry his name in the future. He was an inspiration and clearly an outstanding character.
I’d love to see the EFL Trophy given his name by way of a tribute and an apology. Football should reward its greatest servants while they are with us by treating their name in a measured way at all times.
Disproportionate abuse in difficult times is no proper way to respect the brilliant efforts of a lifetime. RIP Graham. The game of football is richer for you. And by naming the Trophy after you, we would ensure your genius is rightly remembered.
Sir Dave Brailsford’s name has been linked with ‘bullying’.
I looked up the word bullying: to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something.
Then I looked up intimidate: to frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.
I was taught many years ago, on my masters degree programme, about the model of situational leadership. It outlines that there are four predominant styles of leadership. Different circumstances and different individuals require different styles. Highly directive+highly supportive = selling Highly directive+low supportive = telling Highly supportive+low directive = coaching Low support+low direction = delegating
I can well imagine a guru like Sir Dave, right, driven to succeed on a global stage against the very best, placing high demands on elite athletes. I can imagine him having to be very strong in the face of highly charged, highly competitive athletes. I can imagine him being highly directive at times, and I can imagine the odd person being unable to respond to the demand to become the very best in the world; it is a tall order. I played football in a dressing room managed by the incredible Arsenal manager George Graham who won two titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups at Highbury. George was honest. He was demanding, exacting even. His assistant Theo Foley later worked for me. Likewise, Theo was demanding, exacting and straight. No punches were pulled.
Not everybody is going to enjoy a forthright approach. But straight talking is an essential ingredient. In a passionate sporting arena, that straight talking does get heated. Those not cut out for the pressures at the top may well feel intimidated.
Sir Dave was quoted as saying, “I’m full on... some people can’t cope.”
When athletes are at a certain level and need to be pushed to move them to the next level, when they think they are at their limit and need pushing to break that limit, it is a tough, even confrontational environment. I’ve seen lads scream at coaches to back off as they simultaneouly crush their previous best. Most of the lads who scream out also shout thank you! Inevitably there are some who just can’t get there.
I am told Christiano Ronaldo would keep his Manchester United coaching staff awake at night by demanding they brought him significant ideas for betterment every day.
That is elite sport. There is demand. And where there is demand there is always the potential for ‘bullying’.
I don’t know how any manager or coach is expected to estimate the exact point at which directive, pushing behaviour moves over the line for any individual. We are human beings. We are not precise. It simply has to be trial and error, based on intuition and judgement, and sometimes the line will be broken. If you play with fire sometimes you get burned.
I believe that directive behaviour, a taught component in performance management/leadership, could always be construed as ‘bullying’. Which leads me onto Diego Costa,
below, who is reported to be in some sort of dispute with Chelsea because he has been offered a net salary of £30million to go to China against a net salary of £4million at Chelsea.
Graeme Souness said on TV he could understand the player’s view on that type of salary increase. Let’s face it, if an electrician in London on £40,000 pa was offered £300,000 pa in China, he might well want to jump at the chance.
Imagine this though; although a player has 2.5 years left on his contract, his club stop paying him because they are unhappy with his form. If the player can ‘fall out’ with the club, and withdraw his best form from the team, then surely the club should be allowed to fall out with the player? Clubs deserve equal rights don’t they?
It is too easy for players to fall into dispute in order to try and force moves or get their own way. Yes they need protection. But so do clubs. Chelsea have worked hard to get to the top of the League. They deserve the support of a disciplinary system which prevents players falling out to get out. Any player who resents his £4m net salary might suddenly appreciate it if it was stopped because he wasn’t respecting it properly.
Managers are criticised and attacked when they do what they are supposed to do and manage. They face player situations that are out of their control but which can hugely disrupt their strategies.
Who would want to be a football manager?! It takes a thick skin and a tough spine to deal with the weight of attack that comes in their direction.
Chairmen will tell you that every available job draws bucket loads of applications. Such is the passion we all have for the game. To all those applicants a return letter should be sent with a note saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. And ‘get your character strength tested’.
It is a changing world in which more peoples’ ‘truths’ are less accountably expressed than ever. The consequence is that reality is more clouded and we should all think carefully before we jump to judge the man in charge of our team.
Big day: Graham Taylor leads his Watford team out at Wembley before the 1984 FA Cup final against Howard Kendall’s Everton, who won 2-0