Underestimate player power at your peril
Well, it’s been an interesting weekend at the top and the bottom of the Premier League. I think the only place to start has to be with the series of events at Chelsea and the expected sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.
When AVB was appointed, I already feared for him because of the way some of the senior players appear to run the club and have dislodged various managers in the past with the strength of player power. For the record, I have been at certain clubs throughout my career where the senior players have not liked the way certain managers have been running the club.
Let me tell you, when the senior players get the hump with the manager then, unless you’re a Sir Alex Ferguson type, your days are well and truly numbered.
First of all, let’s look at players and the way they respect managers. Managers gain respect from what they have done previously as a manager, the way they treat players and, most importantly, for the results they get. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that AVB had none of these three qualities at Chelsea in order to succeed.
Do you really expect the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry and Co to take orders from a perceived novice who was not only still wet behind the ears as a manager but barely older than a lot of the squad and younger than some of them? Some supporters will say that players should not behave in this way and I understand this.
But let me put it to you another way: Terry, for whatever people think about him off the pitch, is a true leader on it. He has been there since the start of all the success and will see Chelsea as much his club as the way Ferguson will see United as his.
When John sees that things are not right, as the main man and captain, he looks to change it in whatever way possible. This is where player power comes in to play. AVB as a manager was out of his depth at a club like Chelsea, a club that is full of superstars and used to success. As a manager, when you lose the dressing-room, it’s very hard to get it back and that’s what has happened at Chelsea. Look at their results this season and you will see a lot of coupon busters.
So who will be the next Chelsea manager? It was interesting to see that Roberto Di Matteo will be the caretaker manager until the summer and then the club will look to appoint a full-time manager. With the summer coming and a certain “Special One” set to leave Real Madrid, would you bet against him coming back?
I certainly wouldn’t and I would love to see Mr Mourinho back in the Premier League. He has been missed and I dare say a few Chelsea players would love him back. It was reported in the Press recently that AVB was looking to get rid of as many as ten long-serving players, people that had mostly been brought in by Mourinho himself.
With this in mind, was that the final straw? If Chelsea were looking to bring in Mourinho in the summer, do you really think he would want most of the players that he signed, and had a close relationship with, sold? I certainly don’t. So there is a little conspiracy theory for you!
Why is Mourinho so well respected and how does he get the best out of his team and players? The simple answer here is that he looks like an amazing man-manager. In an era with so many different characters and nationalities, man-management skills are an absolute must.
I had a manager once that would not be afraid to single out certain individuals in front of the rest of the lads. Sure, for the named player, it was embarrassing to see a manager having a love fest with you in front of the other lads but, wow, it sure did make you feel good and gave you an extra spring in your step.
This particular manager knew exactly when you needed an arm around your shoulder and when you needed a bollocking and that is an art of management in itself. He always took an interest in your personal life as well: for example, during my time at this one club, a few of the lads’ partners had given birth at various times throughout the year.
He made it his responsibility to call each player to make sure everything was OK, also sending flowers from the football club to the families. That, in itself, shows a caring nature and if players feel like they are being looked after and appreciated, they will run through a brick wall in return. We certainly all did this for this particular manager.
From the outside looking in, Chelsea are desperate for a manager who will not only keep the key players in check but also have the man-management skills to deal with any unrest. The manager needs to get them all together and tell them that he is the boss in no uncertain terms but also let them know that he will look after the players and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Mourinho has to be the answer because he knows the players inside out and will instantly get the respect because of what he achieved there in the past. One thing is for certain is that the new manager needs to hit the ground running and, ultimately, has to get the best out of the players who were once champions.
Manchester United showed how experience is the key in the fight for the title. How Tottenham got nothing from that game on Sunday is beyond me but United, over the years, have a knack of grinding out results when needed. I remember playing against them a few years ago at Old Trafford – they were so efficient. United seemed to encourage the opposition and, when they get comfortable and feel as though they’re in control … BANG, out of the blue, United score!
They give teams a false sense of security and then go for the jugular. They scored at the right times against Spurs, especially with the goal just before half time. I saw Harry Redknapp’s interview after the game and you couldn’t help but feel for the man.
His team could not have played better and they controlled the whole game. However, they went to sleep three times and suffered due to United’s deadly finishing. It’s no surprise that managers go bananas at people switching off at set-pieces. Look at two of the goals, with the first being Wayne Rooney losing his man (Kyle Walker) for a split-second and it’s in the back of the net.
The second was a much more routine mistake – Luka Modric, for all the class that he possesses, made a huge mistake in turning his back on the throw-in … and the rest is history. I have worked with one manager, in particular, who would bore you to tears for days on end about what to do when the ball goes dead. When matchday arrived, we were grateful for it because we would rarely concede from set-pieces. It’s those mundane training sessions that will win and lose the games.
After the weekend’s results, I really fear for Bolton, Wolves and Wigan. OK, with Bolton, it was an expected defeat against Man City, but how many times did their goalkeeper save them? They could have been one down after a couple of minutes! I have so much respect for Roberto Martinez but I can’t help but look at the West Ham team of last year and the old West Brom teams.
Yes, Wigan play great football, but, when you’re down at the bottom, you need to scrap your way out of it and Wigan do not look capable of doing that. They play so open that every attack against them looks like it might end in them conceding.
Forget the pretty football at the bottom and, instead, roll up your sleeves and scrap for your life on the pitch. As for Wolves – I like Terry Connor but, to be a second in command and then be elevated to the manager’s job, is a very hard task. The assistant’s job is to keep the players heads up, be the in-between man if there are any issues and also be the one that has the banter with the players.
Now, when you become the manager, all that changes … so how are you expected to be seen in the same light as you were when you were the assistant? Automatically, you have to distance yourself from the players and become a bastard. If that’s not you and that’s not how you have been as an assistant, the players will know this and the bollockings and instructions will be taken with a pinch of salt. That’s not the newly promoted man’s fault but it is a hard bridge for him to cross.
It’s been another crazy weekend in the Premier League and that’s why we all love it. Who knows what’s going to occur next weekend?