Back in January we discussed Mauricio Pochettino, who yesterday left Southampton to become manager of Tottenham Hotspur. He is without question the hottest management property in the most bloated league in football.
He was also an unemployed flop a little over a year ago.
In reality, Pochettino is a good manager but he is also the latest in a long line of faux guru-managers, the aura of divinity around him is illusionary. He was sacked by Espanyol in December 2012 with the club bottom of La Liga after 13 games, after propelling them up the league from a similar position two years earlier. Espanyol’s problems were not Pochettino’s problems. The club strategy had been failing for years, Pochettino was not the first manager to suffer as a consequence, in fact, he was the club’s third manager in a season when he took over.
He joined Southampton, who were on a different trajectory. Southampton have been producing some of the best youth talent in the UK for a decade but a series of self-harming boardroom battles saw the club competing in the third tier of English football. In Nigel Adkins the found a man who won two consecutive promotions and had them comfortable in the Premier League.
Then, in January last year, Southampton made one of the ballsy-est decisions in football history. They sacked the successful Adkins and replaced him with the aforementioned unemployed flop.
Chairman Nicola Cortese, who was an outsider to the football industry, figured that Adkins could only take the club so far and that, with the appointment of a man in-tune with the new strategy, Southampton could make a real breakthrough at the top of the Premiership.
Pochettino did what Cortese wanted, not through obligation, but through instinct. Unfortunately for Southampton, Markus Liebharr, who appointed Cortese, died, and his daughter-and-heir, Katharine, figured the family had spent enough of their fortune on an English football club. With strategy tending towards a breakeven point, Cortese resigned. It was inevitable that Pochettino would follow.
What are the lessons for us?
Forget looking for a guru, it’s all about the strategy. Get the strategy right, only employ people who are instinctively aligned to it, and employ an intelligent, tactical student, even if he can’t speak the language.
CQN Event in London
Lisbon Lion John Hughes is joining Brogan Rogan, Auldheid and Angela Haggerty for a CQN Question and Answer evening at the Manor Club, Wimbledon, on 21 June. The event is ticket only, so let me know if you would like to attend, email@example.com
Visit the CQN Bookstore to get Tommy Gemmell to sign your personal copy of his tome, All the Best.[calameo code=000390171873c910154bd lang=en page=106 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]