Our guest columnist hails the people skills of Cardiff boss Neil Warnock
NEIL Warnock is a brilliant manager. In modern football, a lot of the qualities managers need are deconstructed.
They’re studied by experts, delivered in workshops, taught on coaching courses. Neil does all of them naturally.
Don’t be fooled by his age or his old-school demeanour. Neil,
pictured, is a good technician. He’s tactically astute. He’s in line with any of the younger guys in that sense.
But the social side of things is massive. He understands people. He knows how to get the best out of them. That’s always been his philosophy and it’s never changed.
Neil sees the person, not the footballer. And he understands that, to make the footballer perform, you have to get to the person.
He’ll put his arm round them, he’ll kick them up the backside. But, whatever the method, he’ll push and cajole them every single day. I’ve never seen anyone do it better.
For me, Neil should be someone that all young coaches study. Because, for all the refinement and technical detail you’re taught on courses, nothing will ever be more important than understanding human beings.
It’s the same in academies. Too many fall down because they look at someone as a player, not a person.
The FA has a blueprint called the four-corner model. It basically divides the skills young players need into Technical & Tactical, Physical, Psychological and Social.
The first one is obvious. Passing, technique, touch – the stuff that everyone does on a football pitch. Physical is also self-explanatory.
But those things are finite. On the technical side, training lasts an hour and a half. You put the balls away and then you’re done. Physically, you might do an hour in the gym.
The social and psychological side never stops. It wraps around everything, from eating dinner with your mates to going home to your parents. That’s why, when I headed up the academy at Leeds we made that aspect the cornerstone of everything we did. It’s not difficult. It’s just about focusing on making people good, rounded individuals. Being very attentive to the individual. We made them feel special, that we were on their side.
We had a set of standards they could adhere to, instilled respect for the club and their colleagues. Humility was a big thing. Understanding that not all of them would make it.
I’ll always remember when young Tyler Denton scored his first goal in the cup at Luton. He ran to the bench and all he wanted was to celebrate with his mates – people like Kalvin Phillips, who’d been through the same thing. That’s what good social skills look like.
It’s about managing upwards. We only had these kids for a few hours, then they went home to all manner of different influences.
So, we spoke to the parents. We spoke to agents, trying to bring them into the process. They’re a part of the game and fighting them won’t help anybody. Our message was always the same: that these were kids, not players. That they should be allowed to go out and play with their mates, do the things that kids enjoy. To grow up without any pressure or expectation. So much emphasis is placed on the technical ability of players these days, both in academies and at professional level. For me, it’s complete rubbish. Because if you see a player instead of a person, none of that will count for anything. Neil is someone who has always grasped that. It’s why he’s got an unrivalled track record of promotions – and it’s why I’m convinced Cardiff will still be up there fighting in May.