In spite of …

From the Rage Online newsdesk Tuesday, September 1st, 1992  

‘In Spite of’ or ‘Because of’

– so what (who) is a good manager?

Wealthy Blackburn made it, and poor old Charlton blew it? So did the taciturn Dalglish work the wonder, and were Charlton’s dual managers to blame? Keegan graciously decides to stay at Newcastle because he can have most of the money he wants for new players, Ferguson fails again to deliver the championship to Old Trafford. Souness wins the Cup for Liverpool, and Shreeves gets the sack.

What represents success for one manager is failure for another. As Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘There is no success like failure, and failure is no success at all’!

I often wonder what it would be like to manage a team of ‘stars’, with millions available to buy who I like. Does not a successful side, like the Liverpools over the years, more or less run and pick itself? Is it fantasy to suggest that anyone with half decent man management skills, and a working knowledge of the game, could not step in and ‘continue the movement’? Was Dalglish a particularly good manger for merely keeping going a winning concern? Did Blackburn win promotion in spite of, or because of him? His success would have been failure (to get a play-off berth) had Charlton not lost their last 2 games.

And what about Souness, whose Liverpool finished a poor, by their standards, 6th (forget the Cup – Sunderland on the day were as bad as when we beat them 3-0 at the Manor, and Portsmouth threw it away)? Liverpool went through a terrible injury crisis, but that should have been the opportunity for Souness to show what a good manager he could be, by inspiring his ‘stand-ins’. But he didn’t, and he had to wait for his returning stars to retrieve his season. So, like Dalglish, he is only adequate.

Ferguson, having got where he did with his team with a few games to go, blew it – or, at least, his players did. If Manchester United had been champions, Ferguson would have been the hero; they did not, so he is the villain, and another merely adequate manager on his Manchester record. (Now, I’m sure if I had been in charge at Old Trafford, my team would have romped it!)

Despite the absence of Gascoigne, Spurs should really have done better last season, and Shreeves was not a good manager, and if Keegan does not get his money-boosted Newcastle promoted nor will he be (ironically his performance in keeping the side up, without all the stars he thinks are his right to have, was probably the furthest he will go in his quest to be a good manager).

Managers can be good, bad, lucky and unlucky throughout a career, and with different clubs (in Brian Horton’s case he achieved all of these last season!), as they correspond with a club’s cycle of fortune, and prevailing circumstances (strength of division, cup draws, personalities etc).

Brian Clough was very good at Derby, and in his first few seasons at Nottingham Forest, but is only good now; with a team of superstars he would only be adequate, because of his ego (witness the nonsense at Leeds). Howard Wilkinson was very good at bringing Leeds from where they were to League champions (it will be a real test of his ability to see what happens this season), Jim Smith was very good at Oxford, only adequate at QPR and Newcastle, but good at Portsmouth, whilst Ardiles was very good at Swindon, but only just adequate at Newcastle (and that’s being generous).

Another typical example of a good manager is Brian Little, who took Darlington from non-League to Division Three in successive seasons (look what happened to them when he left) and Leicester (who look weaker on paper than Oxford) from the verge of relegation to the verge of promotion in one season.

An adequate manager is any highly paid manager of the big clubs who wins the championship, or a cup.

A poor manager is any highly paid manager of the big clubs who wins nothing (after all – anybody could do that).

Good managers make something out of nothing.

Adequate managers hold on to something (or make nothing out of nothing).

Poor managers make nothing out of something.

Fill in the gaps! If these definitions seem hard on the ‘fat cat’ managers of the big clubs, so be it; they are more than compensated by their salaries. If they wish to be respected as good managers they should accept the challenge of starting again at another, poor, lowly club, and showing us whether or not they deserve to be called ‘good’. Of course this will not happen. Their conceit, greed and concern at having their bluff called will conspire against such a true test of whether the success (or failure) of their clubs is ‘in spite of’ or ‘because of’ their abilities as managers.

David Joyce

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 1992 at 12:00 am and appears under Archive. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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