Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Dreaded No. 2?

A successful club side always have an equally high-calibre coaching staff. Usually these assistant managers are less famous than the managers themselves. Who had heard of Roy Evans when he took over from Graeme Souness at Liverpool? Which football fan had heard of Steve Mclaren when he moved from Derby County to Manchester United to work as Sir Alex no. 2? More often than not, these assistant managers are the ones that conducts the training sessions as well as run the players through the roles and tactics for the weekend's matches. So these men must be great tactician and strict task masters, right?

Obviously not, because assistant managers rarely make the step up into successful managers. Therein lies the conundrum I term as "The Dreaded No. 2".
Carlos Queiroz is someone who seems to be stuck with this tag. Sammy Lee also tried to punch above his weight but failed at Bolton. And we all know about Steve Mclaren and his follies with England. While the jury is still out on Queiroz, at least Steve Mclaren has started to gain back his credibility at FC Twente.

Brilliant tactician, great at running the set plays during practice, effective in analysing the weaknesses of the other team, these no. 2 are essentially the reason that Sir Alex and Rafa continue to be successful. It is no surprise that Rafa insisted on contracts for all his coaching staff before he signed an extension. Chelsea would never be found lacking in spirit if Steve Clarke was still around.

Looks like being no. 2 ain't all bad and in fact, there has been recognition for them as well. Sir Alex Ferguson credits the recent League and Euro Cup double to Queiroz's contributions. Club movement has been significant, for example, Chris Hughton to Newcastle and Steve Clarke to West Ham.

So what's missing? What ingredients are necessary to put into the cocktail?
These are what I think,
1. Exceptional man-motivational skills
Frank Lampard used to say that Jose Mourinho could make him believe he was unbeatable and that was while in the shower rooms!
2. Intense partiality towards own team
The classic "I did not see it" excuse from Arsene Wenger which has been known to be effective at diffusing media questions.
3. Creating a siege mentality "everyone against me" within the dressing room
Alex Ferguson does that tremendously well during the Cantona years.

It's the conspiracies and mind games that set the uber-managers apart from the wannabes. The ones who relish and excel in these are ultimately the managers who succeed.

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