THE THING ABOUT LEGENDARY PLAYERS BECOMING MANAGERS
It’s a discussion that never gets old; a player retires from a glittering career, he does a small stint as a coach in a club, then he proceeds to become a manager (usually with a lot of fanfare). I remember Alan Shearer when he took over at Newcastle. Fans must have thought he would transfer his talent to the forwards in the team to help get some goals. It didn’t work out that way and he only succeeded in taking them down to the Championship (they were already on their way there anyway…he just completed the process).
Just last week, it was reported that Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, would finally get his chance to be a manager as French club Bordeaux offered him a long-term contract. He turned it down in the end but I wasn’t even sure why a club would hand that sort of contract to someone with so little managerial experience but it shouldn’t distract us from seeing how fascinating it would be for Henry to be in a dug-out. He’s earned his reputation as a keen football mind who COULD do a job as a manager. His time on the Belgium coaching staff earned him rave reviews for his impact on the forwards; Lukaku was one of many goalscorers in the team that finished 3rd place at the last FIFA World Cup.
It should be great to see how he fares but I’m interested in the trend that’s taking place. This season has already witnessed the start of the coaching careers of both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Gerrard is leading Rangers towards Europa league qualification while Lampard is looking to get Derby County promoted into the English Premier League at the first time of asking. Both were legendary players and everyone will be fixed on how they’ll fare this season.
There are 2 sides to this coin. Every time a great player retires, we all hope he goes on to become a manager, because we think he can be a good one. “Oh he was so intelligent on the ball…his movement and quick thinking was evident throughout his career…he’s a coach on the pitch…I think he’ll be an amazing manager”. Everyone wants to see the next Cruyff, the next Beckenbauer, the next Ancellotti, the next Conte, the next Dalglish, the next Zagallo (ok I’m going too far back but he also won the World Cup as a player and coach). Guardiola is the ultimate example to follow, in recent times, as he amassed loads of trophies as a player and is still packing them as a manager. Last season, Zidane walked away from Real Madrid after winning back-to-back…TO BACK Champions League trophies. Add a League title and some Super Cups and you would say he did alright as a Real Madrid manager. It’s a dream many will want to live. It’s also a story that we love hearing time and time again.
But there’s the hard side to it. Maradona has failed every time he stepped into the dugout. Paolo Di Canio should have chosen a career in punditry instead. Gary Neville SHOULD HAVE STAYED in punditry, while Pippo Inzaghi and Seedorf showed us that knowing how to kick a ball doesn’t mean you can teach other people to do the same. There have been some who did ok but simply lacked consistency: Zola, Enrique, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Gattuso, Kevin Keegan…they’re too many to count.
Johan Cruyff once suggested that Experience refers to you being in a dressing room that is regularly under pressure to succeed, to face the big games. That can be garnered when you’re a player and it accounts for 60% of what’s needed to coach. The rest is knowledge of tactics and who to select to play. Naturally, a coach already has this knowledge (hell…even I have that knowledge…Smalling should stop playing for United from now on). Let’s hope this is true with Henry, wherever he starts his journey.