A changing of the guards in English football: From Sir Alex Ferguson to Jose Mourinho

John Blavo
169057401 209x300 A changing of the guards in English football: From Sir Alex Ferguson to Jose Mourinho

(Getty Images)

The guard has changed at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years. Meanwhile, down the road, the man who brought Manchester City their first title in a generation is on his way. As Wigan go down, their much-coveted manager is set to field offers from many bigger clubs. And, of course, the self-styled Special One may be on his way back to Stamford Bridge.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for managers, and the pressures of their position show no sign of abating in the near future. When helping to bring one into a new role, there are always a few practical things that you have to look out for. I advise managers not just to check how previous incumbents were treated, but also to get a better sense of how supportive the board will be.

A manager – particularly in England, where they tend to have more extensive authority – can find these responsibilities place him in a very isolated position, and so he’ll need to have the backing of maybe three or four really strong allies in the boardroom when the pressure tells. The chairman often takes most of the headlines, but the individual members of the board, though often largely unseen, carry great influence and it’s important to get them onside as well as you can.

Friction tends to arise when the board has the wrong kind of composition – typically, when there are those from a business background who are excellent with numbers but lack much empathy for what’s actually happening on the pitch. This, with the increasing amount of money coming into the game, is fairly commonplace. As a manager, too, you also have to have a firm handle on your numbers, and this is a part of your job that the fans and the media tend not to see. It has been interesting to see the role of a manager evolve, like that of the lawyer, into a professional qualification, with a series of certificates and other formal training on the job.

My fellow partners and I are still learning new skills now, as well as keeping up to date with all the new administrative issues that arise when governing our staff, who number in the region of 220. Our firm is a private concern, and we face plenty of organisational complexity as it is; it is difficult to imagine, then, the strains of dealing with this number of staff in the public eye, where every statement that you make has implications for a share price.

In such a situation, it’s important to have the most robust contractual frameworks in place that you can. With job security at an all-time low in this line of work, it’s unsurprising that one of the most vigorously argued parts of the manager’s employment contract relate to the length of his tenure. Another part that gives rise to much debate is the scope of his powers. Of course, though, there’s nothing in a contract that can truly protect against a club owner or chairman who might want to have a stronger-than-usual sway over, say, the selection of a team: and it’s this unwritten burden which is generally most onerous for even some of the leading managers.  Their profession is not for the faint of heart; and it’s remembering this, as I eye up my latest stack of paperwork, which makes me count my blessings.

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