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The significance of the term "man" in manager - From a football manager's perspective

Man management and its importance in today's football world.

Diego Simeone Tata Martino

Diego Simeone and Tata Martino – two very different man managers

 

It’s been a while since my last post as I’ve been away preparing to take the logical next step for every engineer. Get an MBA. Because if you don’t have one, are you even an engineer? But let’s not go there..

What my preparation did teach me though is that Human Resources isn’t simply meant to be a shoulder on which the top management rests its gun as it annihilates the minions. Man management or ‘personality’ management (just so that all allegations of sexism can be kept at bay) is an integral part of any leader’s success. Or failure for that matter. Just ask Andre Villas Boas.

I was one of the many people who actually rated him quite highly after his exploits with Porto. When he arrived at Chelsea I truly had great hopes for him and the club. And when he was sacked, obviously John Terry was to blame. Everything that goes wrong at that club somehow seems traceable to JT’s mischief. But after failing at Tottenham it became clear that AVB had a serious problem convincing the players to buy in to his ideology.

The old guard’s stubbornness could be blamed at Chelsea, but at Spurs he was building his own team. The stories of unrest, his volatility in the press and seemingly absurd expulsion of Emmanuel Adebayor to the reserves/ junior team all pointed to an inability to deal with strong personalities. Although to be fair, Adebayor’s mental age is that of a 5 year old Mario Balotelli. Luck is mostly just good timing, and that’s exactly what Tim Sherwood had.

He came in at a time when Spurs had already been thrashed by the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, so it couldn’t get much worse. All he had to do was bring back the Togolese who now had a point to prove. And we all know how far he will go to do that. Literally. Just ask Arsenal fans. 103 yards I believe it was. Sherwood had an impressive start to his reign but then seemed to run out of the steam that is fuelled by a change in management and all the promise it brings.

The point is this. There’s a reason he’s called the manager and not just the coach. He is in charge of far more than just tactics. An astute tactician will have success with smaller clubs and achieve moderate goals. However, as the stakes are raised, so are the egos. Only the best achieve the best. The problem is when the players not only think they are the best, but also that they know best. That’s where a manager must step in and make decisions that are in the long term interests of the club.

Gerardo Martino and Diego Simeone typify this dichotomy. While Martino took charge of a team that had been touted as one of the best in  history, Simeone took over at Atletico at a time when they were shooting themselves in the foot. That itself should tell you all you need to know. Atleti were diabolical almost. You could bet your house on them blowing it. For cricket fans, they were the quintessential South Africa.

Brilliant and dynamic one day, completely lifeless the next. Diego Simeone had the fans’ support and molded the team in his image. Tough to beat, beating up tough people, and doing a great job all round of causing great discomfort to anyone who confronts them.

Martino on the other hand had the friendly uncle vibe with the players. He was trying to fit in as an outsider. Something the Catalan club hadn’t had since the departure of Frank Rijkaard five years earlier. While results went his way, there was a lot of dissent about his playing style. There is said to have been a meeting sometime in December when a senior player demanded things be done a certain way. Whether there is truth to this or not, the general atmosphere around the club hasn’t been right and the players have been affected by it.

Tata, for his part, has been unable to insulate them from the vitriol which you could consider a failing. Both teams now sit on the precipice of great euphoria. They are equally close to disastrous tragedy. But whatever happens, Simeone will have proven to be a success and not least for having changed the mentality of Club Atletico de Madrid. They hadn’t beaten Real Madrid for fourteen years. Then they went to the Bernebeu for the Copa del Rey final, and won. That was the defining moment for this team and they have not looked back since.

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Published with permission from ditto.

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