Whilst writing about football is for me a highly enjoyable part of my daily routine, it is not what I do for a living. My daily bread is earned by working within the strategy team at a fairly big company.
Part of the job involves thinking of new products that we could launch so as to ensure that the strategies that have been laid out get achieved. It is a specialised job for where you’re constantly learning and, the more you learn, the better you get at it.
Regularly, however, I come across people from other areas of the company who are forthcoming with what they perceive as brilliant ideas. Often, the “why aren’t you doing x or y?” questions are delivered with a tone that mixes disbelief and shock over us not thinking of it.*
In short, everyone thinks that they can do our job. It is only when you start asking back some questions that the tone changes. How much would it cost? How niche is it? What would it sell for? Can our systems deliver it?
It is only when you start getting into the detail that people start to appreciate that it might not be as straightforward as they’d thought.
Sometimes, I get the feeling that it is the same with football management.
From the outside looking in, it is an easy job. Just select the best players you’ve got and, if they’re not good enough, buy better players. Easy, no?
All this came to the fore with the increasing clamour to have Ryan Giggs appointed as the manager of Manchester United. Whilst Giggs has undoubtedly had a fantastic playing career and is someone who thinks deeply about the game, are those sufficient qualifications to take such a job?
Can he, for instance, interpret the statistical information that is increasingly coming out of football clubs’ analytical departments? Can he deliver training sessions that not only prepare his players tactically but also ensure that there is no soft-tissue damage? Will he be able to communicate with players coming in from abroad and different cultures?
This, of course, does not only apply just to Giggs – who might turn out to be a brilliant manager - but any prospective coach: the job is much harder and much more complex than many assume it is. It isn’t simply saying “I want to play attractive and attacking football based on the possession game.” That is why top coaches these days have dossiers that go into hundreds of pages in order to lay out their philosophy.
There is so much to the game that to think that anyone can do it is not only naïve, frankly it is stupid.
* This is not to say that other people cannot come up with great ideas. In fact, I’m a big believer in building an environment where people from all levels feel that they can come forward with their suggestions as the different experiences will trigger different ideas. However, the fact remains that executing a lot of the ideas that people come up with isn’t as simple as they might think.
This article was written and sent out to the subscribers of Blueprint for Football Extra on the 28th of April 2014 (i.e. before Manchester United's home defeat to Sunderland). If you want to know more about this free newsletter, check what it is all about here.
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