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For more on Ghana, see Global Game 7 (PDF file), a preview of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup that includes treatment of Ghana's women's team and CAF Woman Footballer of the Year Alberta Sackey.ACCRA, GHANA, 10 NOVEMBER 2004
Weah's parents were born in Ghana; he informally advises Freddy Adu, a Ghana native. (Kevin Clark | The Washington Post)
Word for a while had recently retired France captain Marcel Desailly and Liberia's George Weah—who had renounced interest in heading his country's football association—in the mix. Certainly Weah, with strong ties to Ghana, presents innumerable strengths—UNICEF goodwill ambassador and 2004 Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient (see Steven Goff, "Two Africans in a United State," Washington Post, 7 July). But can he coach football? What does a football manager do, exactly?
Some insight into these questions comes from an installment of the BBC production Faking It. Chess enthusiast and bullying victim Maximillion Devereaux attempts to convince a judging panel, including former Liverpool legend and short-shift Celtic manager John Barnes, that he is a lower-league football manager. He has 30 days to learn the ropes. In this time he receives crash lessons that lift up an "old-school" approach to leadership in sports: point and scream a lot, play pranks, booze it up . . . be one of the lads. The BBC states:
Devereaux's quietude and native gentleness made the episode uncomfortable to watch, recalling youth-football memories of our coach,
Max must come out of his shell and exhibit a commanding presence through both his body language and his voice. He will also need to show he can communicate with the players, giving orders but also encouragement.
Brian Clough, center, scored often at forward for Middlesbrough and Sunderland, but had to retire at 29 from a knee injury. (Dennis Lee Royle | AP)
Clough, on the surface, accumulated the most awesome achievements: two European Cups with Nottingham Forest and league titles with both Forest and Derby County. But he was hard. Tributes pay homage to Clough's self-belief, but they also note the bleaker side of his motivational work. As manager of the openly gay Justin Fashanu, he used a team talk, according to Peter Chapman in the Financial Times ("Ace Striker Who Was Good with Kids," 21 September), to confront him in enigmatic style: "If I want brussel sprouts, I go to the greengrocer. If I want a bucket I go to the hardware store. So what were you doing hanging around that gay club, Justin?" Harry Pearson, in a remembrance in the November issue of When Saturday Comes ("North-East of Eden," pp. 24–25), charts some of the antecedents to this "hard man" performance:
Born and brought up in the Grove Hill area of Middlesbrough, Clough must have had plenty of chance to practise those withering put-downs, if only in self-defence. Nowadays cockiness is seen as a not-entirely-negative trait; some even view it as a prerequisite to sporting success. But back then self-regard was a mortal sin. The slightest sign of confidence was mercilessly crushed. Nobody likes a bighead. And Clough was by all accounts a monstrous egotist right from the start.
Clough, despite a place as perhaps Britain's finest managerial talent, never coached the national side. Some write that the problem was his acerbic persona, others that he had become too closely linked to an illegal "bung" scheme, in which club officials take cuts from player-transfer fees. Yet Clough's is not the only way. Nicholson in 1961 directed Spurs to the FA Cup and league title and, in 1963, to the European Cup Winners' Cup. But star Dave Mackay recalls Nicholson's calm when Spurs trailed at the interval of the '61 Cup final: "He was not in the habit of shouting, bawling or swearing," Mackay says (Alan Davies, "Spirit of Nicholson Alive . . . at Highbury," The Times [U.K.], 1 November). "He would have been calm and encouraging. He would have drawn our attention to some specifics. He would have seen things we hadn't." Davies makes the link to Arsenal's Arsène Wenger, credited for bringing a "new folklore" to Highbury that rises above a win-at-all-costs approach. (Some, no doubt, would fiercely debate this statement.)
In the end, we are baffled. What qualities constitute effective football management? The answer likely differs for age, skill, gender, culture, and so on. Let us consider, at least, repose as one option.
Update: The Independent (U.K.) reports on a cardiovascular study of football managers in England (Nick Harris, "Nearly Half of Football Managers Suffer Serious Heart Problems," 24 March 2005). Forty-four percent of managers, according to the World Council for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, show "significant cardiovascular risk factors." Existing conditions include atrial fibrillation, aortic stenosis, ventricular ectopy and dangerous blood-pressure and cholesterol levels. U.K. football managers work an average of 80 hours per week, according to the newspaper's survey. In a companion article ("Heart Attacks, Pills and No Sleep—The Manager's Life under Pressure"), Harris follows Barry Fry, owner-manager of Peterborough United ("The Posh"). Fry has had several heart attacks:
The media alone is ridiculous. It used to be one press conference a week, now it's one a day. Radio stations want to talk, there's TV, websites hammer you to death. Radio phone-ins start two minutes after the final whistle asking whether the manager should go. And I get dog's abuse every match in the dug-out.
Other sources: For additional "case studies" of managerial method, see an account of the confrontation between Spain manager Luis Aragonés and José Antonio Reyes (Phil Ball, "Holy Hosts and Racists," ESPNSoccernet.com, 12 October | http://soccernet.espn.go.com/feature?id=312978&cc=5901); the demise of Scotland's Berti Vogts (Rob Hughes, "Vogts Hounded Out by Scottish Critics," International Herald Tribune, 3 November | http://iht.com/articles/2004/11/02/sports/soccer.html); the grumbles surrounding José Pekerman in Argentina (idem, "Youth Coach Faces Old Guard Grumbles," IHT, 6 October | http://www.iht.com/articles/542192.html); and the all-too-brief love-in involving Jürgen Klinsmann in Germany (Georgina Turner, "Hail Klinsi!" The Guardian, 10 September | http://football.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,9753,1301637,00.html). Vociferous coaches, and parents, have helped usher in drastic measures in U.S. youth football: "silent Saturdays," during which kids manage themselves. See C. W. Nevius, "Soccer Players Get the Silent Treatment—And It's a Good Thing," San Francisco Chronicle, 15 October (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/10/15/EBG6N959LP1.DTL); and Robert Andrew Powell, "No Yelling, No Cheering. Shhhhh! It's Silent Saturday," New York Times, 5 November (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/05/travel/05SILE.html).
The possibility of a gay football manager is broached in Gaffer! a new play by Chris Chibnall. ITV in Britain, on the lighter side, has been talking with Ricky Tomlinson about reprising, in serial sitcom form, his title role in Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001) (see Jason Deans, "ITV Nets Tomlinson for Football Sitcom," The Guardian, 6 October | http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,1320386,00.html).