News   |    January 3rd, 2022

BACKROOM BENEFITS

I think it is fair to say that most football fans in this country see the manager of their favourite team as the individual to praise when their team plays well and the person to criticise and often who fans want sacked when things go badly.

The media focus is so intense on managers in the modern game that the backroom coaching and support staff almost go unnoticed but take it from me that it is the quality of the backroom team that underpins successful managers and teams. Of course, the manager is the lead individual and sets the tone, the structure and tactics of the team and the discipline required but there is so much in the modern game for the manager to oversee that the people in the backroom team and their skill sets are key and they provide an internal, private and positive challenge on issues like team selection.

It is for this reason that when a manager is sacked, and a new manager is appointed the backroom team always changes. The new manager wants staff he knows are loyal to him, understand his requirements and methods and their precise roles in the structure. Look at the recent move by Steven Gerrard from Rangers to Aston Villa. When he moved, he took with him Gary McAllister and Michael Beale. As a pair one is a very experienced former player and manager who has seen every scenario there is and the other is a young bright and innovative coach whose sessions are known to be stimulating and high energy. The other key people are the fitness and analysis professionals whose input in the modern game is vital and Gerrard took his key people in that area too. I have no doubt Villa will be successful in the long run and the same group of people will then land at Anfield when Jurgen Klopp calls it a day.

For me the backroom mixture of experience and youth in a coaching context is the perfect structure for any young manager in particular. It replicates what Charlton had with Alan Curbishley and Chris Powell and then again when I worked with Daryl McMahon. 4 promotions and 2 Championship wins are testament to the structures in place as much as anything.

There is an increasing trend in recent seasons to appoint caretaker managers so that owners and boards can have the best of both worlds. If he does well, he gets the job and if he doesn’t, they look elsewhere. The problem it often causes however is that when a caretaker is successful, he often feels loyalty to those who have worked with him during the caretaker period, but those same people might not be the right fit once he takes up the role permanently. It is at that point he gets to understand the demands on him now that he is the manager – coaching, tactics, opposition assessment, player recruitment and scouting, match and player analysis, liaison with the physios, the sports scientists, planning match overnight stays, managing upwards to the owner and board. The list is endless and demanding and thinking time is in short supply. Often the transition from coach to manager means that in his new role he wants to reduce the amount of time coaching to form a bit of distance. After all, in a squad of say 24 players the manager has the 13 left out of the starting line up feeling negative and some players take it better than others. The coaching each day needs to be serious and fun in equal measure. The bottom line is that any young manager needs to be ruthless and get the backroom team he wants or more often than not he will ultimately pay the price personally.

Many fans might struggle to name the backroom staff at the clubs they support but believe me no team is successful based on the efforts of the manager alone.

(Image: 2021 Getty Images)

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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