As Mike posted earlier, Manchester City punished Mark Hughes for having inferior hair failing to lead the Citizens into the top 4 less than half a season after a 200 million pound spending spree. Ironically, Hughes was fired after winning a game in which the player who arguably* made him appear to be the prettiest pony in the coaching stable at Blackburn, Roque Santa Cruz, scored his first two City goals.
Only hours later, Roberto Mancini was named manager of Manchester City. Mancini was a winner at Inter Milan but was let go because his teams floundered in the Champions League. Mancini’s objective this year is clear: Silverware of any kind and a place in European competition next year.
Footy managers are unique among sporting leaders. In American football, the coach is almost a chessmaster, changing schemes and personnel after every snap. Hockey coaches change their lines almost every minute, angling for the matchup that can exert extended pressure on the opponent’s goal. Baseball managers are somewhat more limited in that players who exit the game cannot return, but at least they can use their entire bench if necessary. Only in soccer do you have a substitution limit, which severely limits the power of the manager to effect a match.
Last season, Tottenham was so certain that Harry Redknapp would reverse their dismal fortunes that they paid Portsmouth 5 million pounds for his services. Almost magically, Harry the Red-Nosed Rainman began accumulating points left and right, and currently has Tottenham vying for a European spot this year. Unfortunately, the reason Redknapp’s services were required involved a run of terrible form under supposed miracle worker Juande Ramos, brought in at great expense from Seville.
The Los Angeles Galaxy offer an even more poignant example of the weight of a good coach. The acquisition of David Beckham did not turn the Galaxy into a competitive team, but a coaching change that brought in Bruce Arena did.
Many of you readers are former/current soccer players, and we have all had our good and bad leaders. My own personal experiences run the gamut from coaches who I would give up pizza for to men who reduced me to frustrated tears. And even then, I was but one player on a team that had its own collective ups and downs under each coach. Beyond identifying the best system for his players or, in many stubborn cases, the best players for his system, what should a coach or manager do? Has a coach or manager significantly influenced how you play or understand the beautiful game?
Let’s talk about it in the comments.
*Not really arguably. The Santa Cruz signing was either brilliant or an incredible stroke of luck. It gave a goal-shy Blackburn squad full of wingers and outside backs a towering titan of a center forward who is rivaled by only John Carew and Fernando Torres for pure aerial skill now that Cristiano Ronaldo (yes, he is good in the air too) is crashing his Ferraris elsewhere.