It’s tough but man­agers need to learn from sack

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY -

LAST week started with news that Swindon Town had parted com­pany with Phil Brown (186 ca­reer wins at 35+%). Next came the de­ci­sion for AFC Wim­ble­don and Neal Ard­ley (106 ca­reer wins at 32+%) to go their sep­a­rate ways.

John Askey (132 ca­reer wins at 42+%) and Shrewsbury then split and, be­fore you could blink, Harry Kewell (21 ca­reer wins at 29+%) and Notts County were no more.

Man­agers and clubs do part com­pany in in­creas­ing num­ber in this day and age. We all know that. Sadly, a man­ager is an in­creas­ingly dis­pens­able com­mod­ity.

When you are the af­fected man­ager, it never feels good, even if you un­der­stand the rea­sons and you un­der­stand the big pic­ture in which you play your part.

Foot­ball man­age­ment is a hugely de­mand­ing job, par­tic­u­larly lower down. You find your­self giv­ing your ev­ery wak­ing hour to the role.

You are out scout­ing for new play­ers or watch­ing fu­ture op­po­nents, read­ing match or player re­ports, assess­ing tech­ni­cal data, struc­tur­ing train­ing plans/ses­sions or per­sonal devel­op­ment path­ways, build­ing match plans, ex­e­cut­ing train­ing, deal­ing with me­dia, plan­ning trans­fers, meet­ing player agents etc – it’s 24/7/365.

The re­quire­ments are con­stant and re­lent­less. No­body puts more into a club than its man­ager, es­pe­cially at lower lev­els where re­sources are much thin­ner and the man­ager has to be both the strate­gist and the Ac­tion Man.

Such is the ex­tent of the role that when a club says ‘no thanks’, it al­ways feels deeply per­sonal. A man­ager has so many re­la­tion­ships with so many peo­ple. You do all you can to guide and sup­port all those peo­ple and their fam­i­lies. And to build the pos­i­tive en­ergy of the whole. Then you are just thrown out of the door.


Your phone lit­er­ally stops ring­ing. Where one day you are in­un­dated, you mat­ter, you can make a dif­fer­ence – the next day you are dead and buried, you mat­ter no more. It is a be­wil­der­ing change.

Of­ten you feel that the rea­son is just one re­sult at the wrong time for the boss, or just one word out of place with your owner at a time when he is not in the best of spir­its. And that re­ally can be the case, as bizarre as it sounds.

It’s such an emo­tional game and de­ci­sions are al­ways un­der such pub­lic scru­tiny.

Some­times, the rea­son be­hind a dis­missal is far more ob­scure and that is still dev­as­tat­ing but slightly eas­ier to come to terms with. The thing that I have dis­cov­ered in man­ag­ing five dif­fer­ent Foot­ball League clubs is that they do talk about big pic­tures, strate­gic shifts/trans­for­ma­tions and long-term plans BUT the ab­so­lute essence for a man­ager is to win games im­me­di­ately.

Un­less you win those next three points con­sis­tently and pretty much im­me­di­ately, then you will not sur­vive. Even if your work is mak­ing a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence to the evo­lu­tion of the club.

Ev­ery man­ager needs to re­alise that and adapt his/her style of man­age­ment ac­cord­ingly. The day of the hon­ey­moon pe­riod is his­tory. Just ask for­mer Ip­swich man­ager Paul Hurst about that. It is a harsh world with no room for learn­ing on the job.

I’ve learned that be­cause play­ers are so pow­er­ful nowa­days, the boss sim­ply has to be able to en­gage the best per­for­mance from the dress­ing room with­out any de­lay.

And that per­for­mance has to be pow­er­ful enough what­ever the per­ceived cal­i­bre of the play­ers or the rel­a­tiv­ity of a club in its league. A man­ager has to be to­tally adapt­able now. This is not a time for a man­ager to have one way of do­ing things or one phi­los­o­phy that is held true. The ini­tial job of man­age­ment is about find­ing a style that brings the best from a given squad; it is not about find­ing out if a squad ap­pre­ci­ates the ideas that a man­ager has de­vel­oped. That can come in time if re­sults come in the short-term.


Eng­land have a DNA, a pos­ses­sion-ori­en­tated DNA, and all younger play­ers have been brought up in that ex­pres­sive, ball-fo­cused style. So there re­ally isn’t a choice around the ba­sics of all man­age­ment. Play­ers only re­ally un­der­stand that ethos.

But in terms of pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ex­tent, de­tail, move­ments, tran­si­tion strate­gies and the like, the team will have its own mind. Act too quickly on that mind and you can be his­tory. Don’t act quickly enough and the same ap­plies.

As I said, it is tough. And any­body can get things wrong. Just look at Paul – nearly took Shrewsbury up last year; stuck in the bot­tom three of the Cham­pi­onship this year. Chalk and cheese.

To all the freshly dis­missed man­agers I say this – do take a break, do use that break to freshen up your mar­ket knowl­edge, do come back stronger and al­ways re­mem­ber some bril­liant guid­ance that Sir Alex once gave me – ‘Re­mem­ber that there are al­ways things you could have done dif­fer­ently to win any game’.

His mes­sage was ‘take re­spon­si­bil­ity’. Learn to pick bet­ter teams for the game in hand. Learn to get more from your play­ers. Win.

Ev­ery sack­ing I have suf­fered made me stronger be­cause it made me soul search. It made me think. It made me learn.

I’m sure that Phil, Neal, John and Harry will soon be back in em­ploy­ment and all will be stronger for the dif­fi­culty of this mo­ment. The job is tough but man­agers are a highly re­silient and de­ter­mined bunch.

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