SO, WHAT MAKES A TRUE LEADER?
There’s so many different ways of being a leader in the game of football. Some lead vocally and some lead by their actions. Most leaders are believed to be the ones that are spotted screaming and shouting on a Saturday afternoon, but this is far from true. At times, those who are screaming and shouting are the ones who are trying to deflect from a bad performance of their own. But to the fans it looks great. A good leader for me is one who can identify how to speak to certain teammates as each and every one of us is different. Some can take a mouthful of abuse which will then get the best out of us, to give us that little motivation we need. Others need to be spoken to quietly with an arm round them, to maybe calm them down and make them feel more composed again. There’s no hiding the fact that during a game, if things aren’t going well some players will start to crumble under pressure. Then the vicious circle begins. Shying away from receiving the ball, pulling out of tackles which then takes its toll on the team’s performance, not just individually. One of the best leaders I have played under was Rhys Day when I played for Aldershot. I say this as he understood me and what I needed during a game depending on how things were going. But on a bigger scale he knew what was needed for the team. A funny guy off the pitch, but as soon as we trained he turned into Mr Professional. No laughing and jokes were to be had, it was work time. As he was our captain, this set the tone for how we all should be. Michael Duberry was another one but of a different kind when I played for Wycombe Wandererers. Because of his name and stature, he earned the respect of the boys from the off. ‘What he says goes’, was the only way the lads knew. Even though he was coming towards the end of his career when at Wycombe, his performances were to be admired. He was a leader in the way he played. Big, strong and commanding. Dannie Bulman at Crawley Town was arguably the most-liked man I’ve ever come across in football, so for him to be captain was probably what everyone wished for. He wasn’t very vocal, but what he did do was set the tempo for our performance, week in, week out. He was a workhorse. I remember at times in games he would run past me to shut the opposition down in games. I asked him ‘why?’ His reply was, ‘I just love running!’ Not the most gifted footballer in the world, but he’s had a brilliant career. To be playing League One football at 38 is no mean feat, to then only drop down to League Two aged 39! He’s most definitely the type of person you’d rather on your team than against you.
Managers give someone an armband these days to go out and lead by example, but at Chelmsford this season we have many leaders. During pre-season the gaffer was dishing out the captaincy to different people as the choices were endless. From Elliot Omozusi, Mickey Spillane and Anthony Church, and probably a couple more that could have been considered. It’s quite scary in comparison as to how I could match each one of these up with ex-team-mates I mentioned earlier on in the article. Elliot is a quiet character, but oozes class in the way he plays. He’s heard little and often throughout matches, most of the time with constructive criticism or encouragement. He can always be heard shouting ‘let’s go to work’, time and time again in the changing room come 3 o’clock Saturday. Mickey is the loud type who has the respect of the boys, not only from the career he’s had but the way in which he keeps the changing room bouncing! A little bit of a moaner at times but for the better reasons. I think this all stems from having high standards from coming from the leagues above. ‘Churchy’, I’m sure, will always be seen as a leader in the way he goes about his business on the pitch. He’ll be the first to tell you that sometimes he’s guided too much by his heart and doesn’t think enough with his head, but it’s difficult to take that out of his game. A player like this is invaluable to any team. If things aren’t going well it’s nice to know that you can look beside you and see that he hasn’t given up yet and neither should we. That’s the kind of infectious attitude he has. Ex-Margate manager Nikki Bull once told me that he signed as many players as he could in the summer of 2016, who were captains of their previous club. He wanted a team full of leaders. Captains, leaders, however you want to phrase it, don’t need managing. They would be trusted to go out there and do things the right way, which makes a manager’s job a hell of a lot easier. They don’t need to be told anything more than once, as it’s taken on board the first time. So, there’s no doubt about it that leaders can come in all different forms, but all types bring something to the table. We’re fortunate to have plenty within our squad at Chelmsford this season which will help drive us on to achieve the success that we want.
GOOD DAYS: My old Aldershot captain Rhys Day, Michael Duberry, inset, and Nikki Bull, far left