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The travails of being a football manager

Manchester United v Chelsea - FA Cup Sixth Round

Being the manager of a football club (especially the high-flying European ones) might be one of the toughest jobs around. I’m sure many of the traditional and deep-rooted HR managers would fly into a rage if they come across this seemingly absurd claim and start recommending negative reinforcements to set right my attitude. But first, hear me out. Let me lay bare the facts about the pressure-cooker situation these poor souls constantly live in.

The first thing that any new manager goes about doing is signing new players who he thinks are going to bring in that much coveted shiny trophy for him (that the signing might turn out to be a 50 Million Euro flop like that wonder kid Torres is a totally different story). Meanwhile, he has to ship out the non-performers to other clubs and make sure the net of the transfer spending and earnings stay within the budget cap allotted by the club’s executive board. All of this while making sure the stars and other players in his club are happy and feel secure. These transfers could make or break a team as they affect the team chemistry and the respect the players have for the manager. An illustrious football club from London learnt this the hard way as their decision to swap the club’s favourite for a rising star cost them the season and their players’ loyalty. These daunting tasks, ladies and gentlemen, cover the part of a HR manager’s responsibilities which is simply called as ‘recruitment’.

Just as the manager lets out a sigh of relief on being done with the rumours, scrappy deals and arm wringing of the transfer season, the actual test starts. As the ten month long season looms ahead, the manager has to arrive at the right combination to put on the pitch. Some players arrive with egos as big as their physical forms and the manager has to deal with these stalwarts and also ensure that they gel well with the rest of the team. One Mr. Mancini, who has been managing the tempestuous Mario Ballotelli for the past 3 years, would swear to you that no other HR manager in the world has been tested as much as he has. And the players often rebel, dismayed by the attitudes of the so called ‘stars’ of the team. So the manager has his hands full, year around, trying to maintain harmony within the team. And the daunting task of translation into results – ‘Performance Management’ – lies ahead. The manager has to ensure that all the players are at their optimal form throughout the season, manage rotation of the squad and schedule practice sessions, ensuring there isn’t player burnout. All of this under the watchful eyes of millions of supporters and the media who are ready to write off the team at the slightest hint of a dip in form. This puts the manager in a situation where has to absorb the pressure of all the 11 players on the pitch. It’s his job to ensure they take their ‘A game’ with them every time they step on to the pitch. All this while, the manager has to put up with tantrums from the players, the board and at times, even the fans. Poor souls indeed.

I do not claim that all the managers have the skills and the patience to deal with all of these pressures. Even the most respected and battle-hardened managers are not exceptions to occasional outbursts. Anyone who has ever seen a football match would know about the boot-throwing incident involving the great Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham. This incident led to Beckham’s (the then captain) exit from the club.

Given all these nerve-wracking high pressure they face, managing a football club is analogous to juggling all the tasks of a HR manager. Ask any of the 9 managers who have been fired by Chelsea Football Club in the past 8 years. There will be heaps of stories to tell you. If you still feel that the statement with which this article began is blasphemous, sit back and watch a football match!

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