Appointing a manager is an incredible gamble but the risks can be mitigated, especially at a club which is successful or even pointing in the right direction. In this case, clubs should look to build upon whatever platform they have. Bringing in a new guy with a team development strategy which is completely different from the existing plan accentuates the risks.
This is why the boot room strategy is successful over any extended period. Build on what you have, sign players needed by the squad and who have been scouted extensively. The new man may or may not prove to be the world’s best coach but at least he’ll have a successful infrastructure to insulate the club from lurching into oblivion.
When Gordon Strachan succeeded Martin O’Neill, Gordon picked up a scouting folder, flew to Poland and got on with the development project, much as Martin would have, had he stayed. Celtic were technically no less successful when Tony Mowbray took over in 2009 but the team, and strategy, were tired. A change of direction was appealing, we couldn’t continue to sign Hibs players, although the execution of the new strategy was flawed. The writing was on the wall from the moment we signed £3.9m Marc-Antoine Fortune.
Neil Lennon was an enormous gamble when he was appointed in 2010. He was a rookie, had never signed a player, won a trophy (as manager), or deployed a game plan in anger. There were a few facts in his favour. He’d worked with the other coaches at the club, as well as chief scout, John Park, and Peter Lawwell. For years, they shared a development vision. Celtic retreated into a strategy closely aligned to the vision of the remaining technical staff.
Despite the Scottish Cup semi-final debacle against Ross County Neil got the job, spent much of the next year learning a few painful lessons and hasn’t looked back since. The club gambled on the guy with ultimate responsibility, but they knew he was not about the step out on a ledge.
The time to have a root-and-branch clear-out is following a John Barnes-type season. The manager was wrong, as was tactics, scouting and team development plan. Martin O’Neill brought with him radical and necessary change. This worked at Celtic but, if anything, it is even more risky than appointing a rookie. The lower leagues of England are full of clubs who have gambled unsustainable money on a manager only to come a cropper.
There are gems out there, Pochettino and Simeone, for example, but finding them is a challenge. Pochettino pitched up at Southampton after being sacked by a hugely underperforming Espanyol, and Simeone got the Atletico Madrid job after several years of average-to-poor returns.
Big Davie Moyes was a good manager at Everton but watching him at Manchester United was a bit like watching him 30 years ago in a Celtic shirt. He started by dismantling whatever platforms were in place and served notice he would be following a Haphazard and Wasteful player recruitment policy on the final day of last summer’s transfer window by blowing all his pocket money on a guy he didn’t need and refused to sign for less money a few weeks earlier. He had to go.
Order your signed copy of Yogi Bare. the John Hughes autobiography, below: