17 mars 2007

Greatness is the Difference

(tidigare publicerad på Chelsea Vital)

"Nothing great in this world have been accomplished without passion." George Hegel (German philosopher)

What is a coach and what is a manager, what`s the difference? I guess someone can tell, but meanwhile I have made my very own distinction. Hope you agree.

Manager is the overall concept. Coach is guy on the sidelines. It used to be that they were trainers too, physiowise - but that is usually handled by specialists today. Coach and manager really are always the same guy.

But, just because you are the manager you are not necessarily a coach. Are you with me?

The game of football has many excellent managers. But to be honest very few good coaches.

You can have great success as a manager, without being a coach. That has been proven over and over again by men like Lippi, Capello, Eriksson, Hitzfeldt, Wenger the whiner, Clough, Beckenbauer, Rijkaard and so many others.

Managers all have their specialities. Some can scare any group of players together (may I suggest Alex Ferguson as example). Some are good at developing talent (Wenger the whiner) Some are great tacticians (Rijnus Michel, Cappello, Cattenacci). Some rule by their reputation as great players (Cruyff). Some are good strategists (Benitez) and some use their great enthusiasm (Klinsmann). Just about everyone are today very well educated, except in Britain. Football managing is Universitylevel education in most European countries. They also require the UEFA licence.

Some can mould a team together both with non-stars and stars (Mourinho comes to mind). Most are better with non-stars, I think we all understand why. Dealing with star egos must be a suicidemission most of the times. Why do you think JM presented himself as The Special One when he came to Chelsea? He had built a European Champion team with virtually unknown players before, now he had to take on a star studded team with confidence and egos that already were in place. He simply had to assert control and superiority immediately. He had to get not only their attention but also their respect. After that he could start moulding the team together. And after being a Chelsea supporter for forty years, soon, I claim that Chelsea has never had a better team spirit with a group of players that like to be together, to fight together, to win together whatever the criticism is. (And in this we must remember John Terry). All these obscenly well paid egos have total respect and admiration for their manager. Because he proves over and over again that he delivers. And takes the criticism away from them while giving them silverware, memories and careers that could end with even more stupid salaries in clubs at the Arabian peninsula.

Some, like JM can handle stars. Mancini in Inter strikes me as a coming man in that area. I know that Ericsson initially had that reputation, but he could not. He favoured some above others, which led to miscontent.

The manager`s main job is between the matches. That is when and where he shows his genius

Good coaches are the managers because they are all good managers already. Being a good coach is what sets a few, a very select few, apart. The coach make use of all the elements of the game. The players, the opposition, the substitutes, the audience the atmosphere of the arena. He is a reader of the game from the ground up.

In my book a good coach is a manager that can change a game during the game. And being a hairdryer at halfttime (Ferguson) is sure a part of that. But what did JM do at halftime after that catastrophy of a first half vs Totts in the FA Cup? He appealed to the pride of the players. And the second half was a totally different game. I laugh when sports writers write that Tottenham fell back - they were pushed back as far as they could come by a superior team. They were still dangerous on the run, but that was a game of chance.

The great coach is the one that can not only motivate but have the courage to make the necessary changes. That have the guts and the humility to change his own game plan. Not to settle for praise, but to dare win even ugly.

The two best coaches I ever seen in the game of footbal are Guus Hiddink and José Mourinho. And JM is the one of the two that still surprises me.

Being a great coach is defined by the courage to gamble, to be willing to face the entire media circus and their back seat expertise afterwards. To stand by the idea that getting praise is not what it is all about, but winning the game. Whatever the media, players and even the fans might think about it. It takes backbone to take on that.

I have till this week considered Hiddink as being the best coach, after what he has done with the Australian and South Korean national teams in the big tournaments. And the Swedish national coach Lagerbäck is the worst coach. (But a good tactician). The pupil has now surpassed his master.

The coaching thing is what sets JM apart. He is a great manager, as are quite a few. In Premier League I can point at Ferguson, Wenger the whiner and before them Brian Clough and Robson. But JM is the only coach in the Premiership. The closest is Sir Alex., but his forte is as a motivator. He can scare a superb performance out a clog.

I have heard a lot of footballers claim that you have had to have played the game at the highest levels to be a good manager. Hogwash! But it is a theory that seems to be prevalent in England where it is more common than in any other country to pluck a player from the field to ask him to manage the team. Some can, most can not.

If you break it down you`ll see that an inordinate number of great footballers make lousy managers. A staggering number of the best managers actually have rather obscure football careers - you can count them yourself.

In Britain the player-manager role seems hallowed. We all want the great players to keep on being great, as managers. Some do, for a very short time. Usually because they inherit something that was good and kept on being good. For a short while.

The least good chance of succeding are the ones that quit their playing career to become managers in the same club. Vialli is the second most successfull manager in Chelsea ever. But was it him or the team. His time at Watford might suggest the former. And when you are a player-manager sooner rather than later his old team mates will make his life impossible. Particularly when he has to bench them. Bad idea!
(Though I do believe that if there ever is a player that can make that transition, his name is John Terry).

There are no former players that ever made good coaches. They simply don`t have the guts needed. They know all too well about being substituted of manager`s nonunderstandable decisions. No player would ever dare put a player on the pitch and then take him off later, because the game changed character. Because they perceive it from the player`s view as being insulting. Damaging to the player. To the player manager the player is more important than the result.

Remember, the good coach is the one that dare to change the game. What was the odds for Chelsea at halftime in the League Cup final, vs Porto at home or against Rottenham? In each and every one of those games the actions of JM changed the game.

JM did what he had to do. He benched stars that went ballistic, he changed the entire set up of the team. He put on 6-7 forward minded players to end the game vs Totts. He pushed Tottenhams defence so high up in Cerny`s lap that he felt claustrophobic. That many forwards have been unheard of since the 50s. Of course it gave them ample opportunity to finish off the game on counter attacks against a 2-3 man defence, but they could not. The press would have killed JM for his tactics had, Spuds won.

The great coach does not care about egos. He cares about the club, the fans and above all the results. Egos can go their own way, as Gallas - who has not been a hit at Arsenal yet. I think he bitterly regrets his stupidities because I think he wanted to win things. But on his terms. He put himself above the club. The manager did not.

Chelsea has been playing on three cylinders this season. We can criticize the beauty of it. But Chelsea of yesteryears would have been at the bottom of the table, not contenders for all the great throphies, if they only could have fired on three cylinders. Right? We have all experienced those horrors.

And we ask JM for more every time. The thing is that he delivers 99.9% of the time. But the players have to live up to his standards which they did not in the days of eternal defensive chaos during the holidays, or even worse the first half vs Spuds. JM took charge, changed the game and we won a replay.

JM has coached our players to hate losing as much as he does. We have fans that obviously don`t mind losing (I`m not one of them) if only they can get praise from other fans. Strange! Football is a game of winning, hence the 3 points.

JM is the manager that will make the necessary changes, tactical, strategical, personal, gameplanwise during a game, whatever the personal cost to himself. Just to make that miracle happen, that we supporters will believe to the last second of the game that our team can turn things around. I used to give up on Chelsea when it was 15 minutes left, now I never give up until the final whistle. Thank you José.

There may be reports of rifts and such, but remember Roman has gone through one of the worst periods in a man`s life. He has divorced the mother of his five children - do you really think that JM has been the thing in the forefront of his mind these months? Not even Chelsea has come there. Things will settle and we will continue to watch the most successfull partnership in football ever.

(By the way, I really should have pursued a coaching career as I have the same abilities as José - except the courage to stand up to the big guys….That is why I recognise his genius;-)).

Take care, but don`t say anything bad about José (though I wish he would be a little more diplomatic in front of the xenophobic british press) in my presence. I will try to make your nose into a potato if you do.

Celery on all of you.



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