We spoke about Stale Solbakken here as an option during one of our recent management vacancies. At the time he was manager of Copenhagen, who were playing monopoly with the Danish game and had become the first regular Champions League competitor from that country. Yesterday he was sacked as manager of Wolves, who are 18th in the second tier of English football.
Mick McCarthy led Wolves to promotion into the FA Premier League in 2009 but was sacked in February after slipping into a relegation place. The club were relegated and Solbakken was appointed in July. Solbakken, still only 44, won five leagues in six seasons at Copenhagen and competed well with a tiny budget in the Champions League. He is a good manager but his failure at Wolves presents more evidence that the fabled guru football manager doesn’t exist.
Managers are cogs in a management system which involves players, scouts, technical experts, coaches, youth development staff and administrators. If a club gets all the other components right, as Copenhagen unquestionably did, the guy with ultimate control over team matters will appear to over-perform. Conversely, if you have a genuinely talented manager but he doesn’t work with a crucial part of the football structure, progress will stall. Martin O’Neill taught us more about football tactics in his first season than we had learned in the previous 20 years, but he was not known to sign players he hadn’t identified when playing against his teams.
Wolves chance of recruiting a manager as good as Mick McCarthy is slight. They could do worse than look at how Celtic stemmed the flow of failure by taking a guy who was already working with the scouts, coaches, technical experts, youth development staff and administrators. Don’t look for a guru, get the system right and find someone who will work within it.
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