Managing is just not for me
Anyone can be a manager … even a physio!
Everyone thinks they can be a manager at some point in time but does being a physio enhance your chances? There has been a recent trend with a number of physios becoming managers such as Nigel Adkins at Scunthorpe and now Southampton, Les Parry at Tranmere and Jamie Pitman at Hereford.
This is not a new concept, though. Remember the legendary Bertie Mee, who started out as a physiotherapist then became manager of Arsenal for 10 years. And winning a few trophies, too. So do physios offer a different perspective on football management?
One of the greatest indicators of a successful team is having your best 11 players in the squad available for games. I remember one year, when we were promoted as champions, we used only 16 players all season! Injuries can decimate a squad and can directly affect the team’s success.
Therefore, minimising the risks of players getting injured is fundamental. The most influential aspect for injury prevention is training. Having an academic understanding of exercise physiology allows effective planning of training intensity, duration and content as well as periodising the sessions correctly between games. This can be key to success and a low injury rate. Too much and players are fatigued and at risk of injury and too little and players aren’t physically prepared to perform.
One of the manager’s key roles, together with his coaching staff, is planning all the training sessions. He liases with backroom staff, such as fitness coaches and sports scientists, in organising conditioning sessions on the field or in the gym – all aimed at keeping the players in prime physical condition. A manager-physio will have a direct understanding of the physiology of training and how it could be manipulated to not only keep players injury free but also match fit.
Having a manager with a knowledgeable understanding of how the human body works also helps manage players when they have chronic or niggly injuries. Close discussion with medical staff on “at risk players” can allow adequate rest or treatment when necessary to ensure maximal player availability. I have had to do this many times in order to keep influential senior injury-prone players available for games.
Some of this “physiotherapy” knowledge is learnt by managers when they complete the Uefa Pro Licence. Although a few managers have just asked me to fill the course notes in, so not actually learning anything!
Having said all this, you have to know about football and how to play the game to be a success. A Premier League manager once referred to me in his half-time team talk, when the team weren’t following his instructions, saying: “Even the ******* physio can see what is wrong and he knows **** all about football!”
Many a true word. I’ll stick to physiotherapy, thanks.