News   |    January 17th, 2022


Last week I was contacted by a student doing her Masters Degree to discuss my views on what it takes to build a successful football club. An hour later and listening to me droning on she probably had to have a lie down!

Essentially the model I discussed with her can be broken down into 4 distinct areas: –


Performance enablers



Leadership – The team manager or head coach sets the vision and philosophy for the team and the style of play and tactics needed to achieve that vision. The ability to motivate and lead is what commands respect in a situation where in a typical squad of 25 players 14 are not selected each week and are therefore upset to varying degrees. Whilst the manager is the key individual the quality of the support staff is an essential ingredient. Those around the manager need to have differing but complementary skill sets. Young managers in particular benefit from an experienced assistant who has preferably managed and faced the full range of differing scenarios that the manager has not previously experienced. Such are the demands on the modern-day manager that it is neither practical nor desirable that he does all the coaching. Training needs to be fresh and challenging and fun and the same voice day in day out doesn’t underpin that. Set pieces are vital in the modern game and account for up to 40% of goals scored so that needs to be a focal point in the coaching routines each week. Practice makes perfect as they say. Good recruitment is essential, and I believe this is one of the key roles of a CEO in making sure the manager has access to the best possible processes in terms of scouting and player assessment. Once the owner sets the budget there should be a matrix of the (say) 25 players making up the first team squad with a wage applied in each position. If there is an underspend in one position the saving can be used elsewhere and if not, it is deducted elsewhere. This gives the manager absolute clarity on what he has to spend. The manager should set out the attributes of the players he is seeking to recruit in each position so there is clarity and little room for mistakes based on panic buying which is often prevalent particularly in the January transfer window. Most players make their mind up in January where they are moving in the summer and so the recruitment has to be spot on in January particularly if you are building a team for the following season. Back in 2011 we had the Charlton squad sorted by April 2011 and 8 players were then signed on the first day of the summer transfer window and that was the foundation for the League One Championship success in 2012 and it was done with a £2m lower budget than our biggest competitors.

Performance enablers – By providing quality information, players are equipped with knowledge on how to achieve the goals set and what each individual’s responsibilities are. It is essential that individuals understand their roles and responsibilities in the team and they have the best information available on the opposition team they will face in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Sports science plays a key role in setting the players fitness goals and making sure they achieve them. Knowing the stats of the best players in their position can be used as a motivational tool. Effective physiotherapy support ensures the players can recover from injuries sustained in the shortest possible time. I am a big fan of sports psychologists and how they can be used to enhance player performance. Information can also be provided through adequate player feedback, which can be on an individual or team level and on a formal or informal basis.

People – Positivity breeds success and negativity breeds failure. The influence of leadership and the performance enablers has an effect on the individuals or the people working for a club. These include the team itself, the staff, officials and even the fans and media. The outcomes of these multiple influences are grouped under attitudes, behaviour and capacity. Appropriate attitudes for high performance are trust in one’s leader and his staff, commitment, collective efficacy and the relationship between individual and organisation. Behaviour is based on attitude and can manifest itself as helping out teammates or colleagues, actively engaging in training sessions and expressing high levels of cooperation and communication. A leader and his staff’s attitude will influence their behaviour which in turn will influence the attitude of a team and their behaviour.

Culture – A progressive culture within a club amongst both the players, and football and non-football staff is a massive factor in being successful. The culture within which all of the aforementioned factors and variables operate, influences the perception of the people working in it. It inspires achievement, wellbeing, innovation and effective internal processes.

The value of achievement is reflected in the productivity towards pursuing the shared goal. The emphasis on wellbeing creates an environment in which all individuals can excel, by ensuring job satisfaction and personal development needs are being met.

Through effective internal processes, the entire organisational system can operate under specific roles and functions through delegation.

If my friends are anything to go by then the patience required to build success in football is in short supply. In some cases, you are as good as your last result. Get a good manager and good players and you will be successful they say! All I would say is that I have been lucky enough to enjoy some big successes in my time in football and my thinking has been shaped through that.

Image – Getty

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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