What is the secret to man-management in football? | Soccer

MInvestors create training sessions, create complex tactical plans, manage multimillion-pound budgets, seek tough questions from the global press, and withstand the pressure of the club’s fan base – however, when it comes to managing humans, some struggle. why? Because relationships are complex.

Players have distinct personalities, shaped by their unique upbringing, and have egos and fringes. The best coaches find the right balance between being strict with the players and being considerate of their needs. “Dealing with different personalities is the hardest thing in management,” says former Brighton manager Mickey Adams, who led the club to successive promotions at the turn of the century.

“You have to know what makes it tick. I see a lot of managers losing their jobs because they can’t have those personal relationships. You have to understand the players’ feelings and weaknesses and show empathy, but you also have to cajole and demand the highest standards from them.

“When I played, it didn’t bother me if the manager came across my face and told me I was filthy. My reaction would be: ‘I will prove you wrong and show you I am not.’ That is out of the game now because the modern player needs you to reinforce how good they are all the time. Whatever era you’re in. Talking about it, one thing hasn’t changed – you need the support of the characters who run the dressing room. Without them, you’re in trouble.”

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The characters are often the leaders and the winners of the match. Managers use different techniques to motivate their assistants. An arm around the shoulder was Harry Redknapp’s approach. This makes sense to the layman. You energize the player with compliments and give them the freedom to act off the field, as long as they give it. Paulo Di Canio, Raphael van der Vaart and Paul Merson were independent playmakers who benefited from this method.

During the 2002-03 season, Merson told Redknapp that he needed to log into the Tony Adams Sporting Chance Clinic due to his drinking and gambling problems, but instead traveled to Barbados on vacation. Merson thought he got away with it until he met one of Redknapp’s best buddies. Instead of punishing his captain, the Portsmouth manager turned a blind eye. Merson scored 12 goals as the club won the league and promotion to the Premier League. “I came back very tanned—it was in January,” Merson says. “He just got it. He didn’t say a word about it and told me two years later.”

Paul Merson in play for Portsmouth in their promotion season in 2002-03.
Paul Merson in play for Portsmouth during their promotion season in 2002-03. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp has developed an almost religious devotion from his players by forging highly personal relationships. By being tangible and showing genuine interest in their lives, he built a trust and connection that helped the team overcome crushing defeats in major finals and win the Champions League and Premier League.

Jenny Wijnaldum, one of their key players in those successes, brushed off Spurs in favor of Liverpool after chatting with Klopp. “I had great conversations with [Mauricio] Pochettino and Klopp said in 2016. “But in the meeting with Jürgen, we laughed and didn’t just talk about football. He was interested in my personal life and that was good for me. He was not only interested in the footballer Wijnaldum but he was interested in Wijnaldum as well.

“When you are not on the football field, you have to communicate as people, and it is good to know something about the condition of the other person. It makes things easier. Every training session we do is to improve you as a player. This is different from what I have experienced before and I am really happy with it. The manager gives you Confidence. It’s not a manager who yells at you or gets angry at you whenever you make a mistake. He’ll only go crazy if you don’t do the things you’re good at.”

Professor Sophia Jowett of Loughborough University has distilled this approach into a framework titled 3+1Cs: Convergence, Commitment, Integration, and Co-Orientation. Wijnaldum’s account demonstrates sharing of personal details (closeness), challenging coaching sessions (commitment), a similar outlook on life (integration and co-orientation) and strong lines of communication. After speaking to a series of mentors and coaches, I found that these four elements create a “positive, effective, and harmonious” relationship that can provide “a platform on which weaknesses and needs can be expressed, and goals and objectives can be achieved.”

In theory, a Klopp hug is more than just stifling its recipient. The brain releases the “cuddle” or “love” hormone oxytocin when people cuddle or bond socially. When Klopp wraps his arms around a player, he activates the feel-good hormone in the body.

This does not work for everyone. When you examine Steven Gerrard’s accomplishments under Rafa Benitez – winning the FA Cup and Champions League, and being voted Footballer of the Year for Players and Writers of the Year – you can be forgiven for thinking they were close. In fact, they were anything but. Gerrard says Benitez’s “frost” brought him the best because he had a “hunger” to earn his praise.

Jurgen Klopp embraces Jorginho Wijnaldum.
Jurgen Klopp embraces Jorginho Wijnaldum. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty

Gerrard wrote in his autobiography: “I can pick up the phone and speak to all my former Liverpool coaches, except for Rafa.” “It’s a shame because we shared the biggest night of our career – winning the 2005 Champions League in Istanbul – and yet there is no connection between us. On a basic human level, I prefer a well-liked coach, like Gerard Houllier or Brendan Rodgers, but in terms of football, I don’t. I’d really mind working with a cooler guy. A distant, unemotional relationship with the likes of Rafa Benitez and Fabio Capello can sometimes lead to more success.”

John Stead faced a similar approach from Mark Hughes when they worked together at Blackburn in the 2004-05 season. Stead got off to a great start at Ewood Park, scoring six goals in 13 games under Graeme Souness. When Souness was replaced by Hughes, Stead suffered. “Mark Hughes wasn’t a bad character, but I couldn’t read it,” Stead recalls.

“I need an open and honest manager. When I don’t know what they are thinking or I can’t get direct answers, this plays into my mind and causes me problems.” Hughes observed Alex Ferguson’s mind games right in the dressing room, but if he was trying to elicit a reaction from Stead, that didn’t work. The striker scored only two goals in 36 matches under the Welshman.

Ferguson has had far more success rattling the cages of his most talented and powerful players. He was directing the hustle of the locker room to certain players to get out of the rest of the team. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the coach, but there were times in most halftime games where the coach and I were up against each other,” says Wayne Rooney. “He knew, by doing that to me, that he was sending a message to the other guys. He did that to Giggsy too. Always after a match, the manager would walk onto the bus and slap me on the back of the head. It was his way of saying: It’s over.”

Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson share a joke in 2005.
Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson share a joke in 2005. Photo: Christophe Ena / AP

Adams, the former Brighton boss, used a similar tactic to motivate centre-back Danny Collip during their time together. “I would turn my back on Danny and talk about the defenders,” Adams recalls. “I would say, ‘Listen boys, we’re going to have to score four goals here to win this game because you can’t count on those defenders. “I was insulting him without confrontation, but he used to absorb that while I was picking him up and that was going to really shoot him.”

Ignoring key members of the squad is one of the many tactics Jose Mourinho has used. John Terry received mixed messages from the manager. Mourinho was complimenting his captain, making him feel like he was ’10ft tall’ but when Terry was injured, the coach put him off, prompting Terry to work even harder so he could get back on the pitch faster.

“If you had a hit and you missed a day’s training, he would come and not talk to you. He would walk right in front of you on the treatment table,” Terry said. , it empties you. He says to the doctor while you are there: “How long?” And the doctor will go: “Two days.” He was just going out. He provoked me and pressed my buttons.”

While the approaches of Benitez, Ferguson and Mourinho all differ, they are all designed for the same purpose, says sports psychologist Dan Abrahams. “They create an environment full of challenges and high expectations,” explains Abrahams, who works with the Premier League players and the England rugby union team.

“By nature, a big challenge can create a culture of confrontation and that is certainly the case when you look at parts of Mourinho’s career. They tell the team: ‘This is my game plan and my philosophy.’ Either you do it or you don’t. If you don’t, you are out. It’s a high-risk approach with today’s players – they could run out of it in two or three years. It is very difficult to be a huge challenge and a high support. The sweet spot between the two. Having worked with Eddie Jones and England Rugby, I know he had to tone down his approach to help him understand each human’s individual needs.”

Talent within the team plays an important role in a coach’s success, but more importantly, their ability to earn player commitment unlocks the team’s potential. There is no blueprint for creating the perfect bond. Every player-manager relationship needs a tailored plan, and even then, outside influences may sabotage the formation.

To ensure long-term success, managers must be flexible and adapt to changing situations in society, but this will not necessarily guarantee long-term relationships. Given what’s at stake – three points, huge sums of money and personal reputation – clashes are inevitable. Not all cup presentations and trophy presentations will be. The severity of these bonds can lead to fatigue. In this sense, they are more like marriages than friendships: you may not always like each other but there must be an understanding and commitment to a cause that goes beyond a self-serving agenda.

However, as Adams explains, the best guys are willing to enter into this marriage if it works out for them. “Don’t think everyone likes a boss, because that’s not how he works,” he says. “The players have to believe in you and that what you do will pay off. I must have gotten it right somewhere down the line because I got four upgrades. Now, did they like me? I’m not sure they did. But I guarantee they respected me.”

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