When your average footballer comes to the end of his career he has 3 options. The first is, to retire to a life of luxury, playing golf and occasionally making after-dinner speeches. The second is to be a pundit. If you can string a sentence together and don’t embarrass yourself on camera then you can become a regular feature on Football Focus, Match of the Day or Goals on Sunday. The third option is perhaps the most stressful. Management.
More and more players are taking their UEFA Coaching badges. Some of them will go on to get high-profile roles at Premiership clubs, whilst others will have to take lower-profile but no less rewarding posts in the lower leagues. Some of the best managers in the league went into management shortly after their playing careers ended. For many former players however, the reality is that no matter how good you were on the pitch, management is a completely different game.
Take Alan Shearer for example. Newcastle fans were ecstatic when he took over from Joe Kinnear in April 2009. Finally, our local hero had come to save us from relegation! The man who broke Wor Jackie’s goal-scoring record, who bled black and white and was widely regarded by some in the media as Mr. Newcastle United was going to beat the drop. Out of his 8 games in charge however, Shearer managed just 1 win against fellow relegation fodder Middlesborough. He was duly dropped as manager by Mike Ashley and Co. as the club dropped into the Championship. Good player though he was, Shearer’s managerial quality was called into question by the circumstances.
Another example of a great player who struggled at management level is Tony Adams. A true legend at Arsenal, where he was arguably part of one of the best back four’s the Premiership has ever had, Adams took over from Harry Redknapp as Portsmouth manager but could only manage 4 victories in 22 matches. Even worse for the former centre-back, under him Portsmouth had one of the leakiest defences in the Premiership. Adams refused to be beaten however, and was last seen coaching Azerbaijan club Gabala FC.
One of the saddest examples of a great player turned manager struggling to adapt was the case of Paul Gascoigne. Gazza took over at Blue Square Premier side Kettering Town, but his reign there lasted just 39 days, with Gascoigne citing too much meddling from the board as the reason behind his leaving. There was talk of him taking over non-league Garforth Town in October last year, but Gascoigne never took the role. Former England captain Bobby Moore underwent a similar experience when he hung up his boots and became manager of a succession of lower league clubs. Despite being a World Cup winning England captain, Moore’s managerial career never quite hit the same heights as his playing career, though he did give Spurs manager Harry Redknapp his first managerial job as assistant manager of Oxford City.
The list is endless; Keane, Zola, Gullit, Vialli, Ince and recently Di Mateo, all had great playing careers and were regarded as amongst the best players in the country (if not the world) at one point in their career. However, as managers the road has been less easy. Players who had perhaps more nondescript careers, such as David Moyes at Everton, seem to have fared a lot better. The best examples of this are of course Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, who both had less spectacular playing careers. Even Brian Clough, one of the legends of English management, only won 2 England caps. And arguably one of the best managers in the world right now, Jose Mourinho, never even kicked a ball in anger before he became Bobby Robson’s translator at Barcelona.
This isn’t meant to be a scientific breakdown of what it takes to be a decent manager, and I’m sure I’ve missed out a number of exceptions to the rule (I’m also sure that you’ll let me know in no uncertain terms!) but perhaps the qualities needed to be a great player, are not the same as those needed to be a great manager. Perhaps, for many players, the best option is to take up golf and start practicing your after dinner jokes!
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