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Perhaps due to his failure to win the league with Liverpool, or because because of his time at Aston Villa, but Gerard Houllier’s managerial reputation in England isn’t a particularly elevated one. He is far too often remembered for the dour and defensive way that he set up his teams than for anything else.
Yet there was much more to him than that; Houllier was a true football visionary. He was one of the people who dreamt up and then oversaw the development of the Clairfontaine academy where France laid the foundations of their eventual success. It was in Clairfontaine that the generation of players that would win a World Cup and a European Championship for France got most of their formation.
Often less heralded, he also helped nurture and develop the talents of Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard – three of the finest English players of their generation - ensuring that they got the opportunities needed for their maturation as well as providing them with the guidance that they needed.
His whole philosophy is contained in a comment that he made whilst manager of Liverpool: “you can’t programme success, you can only prepare and plan for it”.
That is, for me, the essence of what good management is all about, regardless of what level you’re working in.
Just as with Houllier, there are many who discount Clive Woodward as someone who lives on the memory of one moment of success. Yet it is impossible to deny that what he achieved was phenomenal.
But perhaps the most remarkable aspect isn’t what he achieved but how he went about achieving it. Woodward looked into every aspect of his team’s preparation and studied every possibility in order to try to find things that could be done better.
It is the same thing with British cycling where every little detail is analysed in order to find ways of perfecting the preparation. So much that there is a whole team dedicated to bringing about changes that will result in a number infinitesimal gains that, when grouped together, enable the British cyclist to dominate.
Most coaches don’t have access to the resources with which British cycling or English rugby are blessed. Yet practically all have access to the vast resources that can be found on the internet where there are plenty of different ideas, thoughts and research that will give you all the inside that you need.
It is up to the coaches to dedicate the time needed to sift through all this information and learn from it; identifying that which is of most use for them. Because it is those who do so, those who prepare well who will succeed in the long run.
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