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The Good, the Bad and the Ordinary: What Makes a Legendary Manager?

What makes a legendary manager? I don't mean just a good one, or a great one, one who wins a lot of games and bags a few cups. I mean legendary, the kind you talk about thirty or fifty years after they're gone, whom you respect even though they may have suffered many defeats on the path to glory. 
What makes such a manager? I can think of many reasons, but they flow from the same basic one: a legend makes a group of players realise they are not a group of talented individuals, but a Team. He convinces them all, no matter how spectacularly talented, to subordinate their desire for individual glory for the greater good of the club.
Of course, you might argue this is a moot point. Every team, especially in the Premiership, has players that clearly stand out from the rest of the club in terms of talent, yet each week they take to the pitch and play as a team. Don't they?
One flies into a rage and commits a foul and that gets him thrown out of the game. One abandons his mid-table club with time left in his contract as soon as a higher placed club waves a few million pounds in front of him. One makes headlines by getting caught by the police in front of a seedy pub with his fellow teammate at two in the morning. The list goes on and on.
How does this reflect on the club? How does it help them? A truly gifted manager makes each player see that everything he does, on and off the pitch, reflects on the club. He, the manager, will make them see that they are not just creating statistics for some record book or encyclopedia. They are creating a legacy, one that has been entrusted to them by generations of supporters and that must be continually be built upon. He gets them to see down the road of years, not just around the corner of tomorrow's game.
Of course, it is an almost Herculean task to accomplish this, particularly so when the road is rough, paved with hardship and defeat. In this, however, is the source of greatness in a manager: no matter how weary or dispirited the players, deep down the manager makes each player want to get up, want to run down the pitch one more time, want to keep playing even when it seems hopeless.
Fine words and a pleasing personality will not accomplish this. A manager may make all the motivational speeches in the world, may retain a positive attitude, but that will not change the attitude of the players. They will only truly rise to the occasion and play like the champions they can be if their manager has earned their respect. Men may go fight in a war for what they think is a good cause, but they will only stay in the war if they respect their commander. When someone once criticised a ragtag army just before a battle, their general replied, "My men may be small in numbers and hungry and tired, but they will fight for me to the gates of hell and back, and that will make the difference." He had earned their respect by sharing their hardships and so they were willing to fight until the last grim battle, no matter the outcome.
The same holds true for managers and their clubs. So how do managers earn that kind of respect? Very simply, by setting a personal example. Perhaps this is old-fashioned of me, but I don't think managers should be in the news criticising their clubs, especially just after a game. I don't even care if it's "constructive" criticism, analyzing the team's strengths and weaknesses. Tabloid gossip about quarrels between him and his players should also be taboo. The press may speculate all they like, but I don't think a manager should be airing the details of every petty quarrel within the club; while the ex-manager of Leeds, David O'Leary, even went a step further by publishing a book on the off-pitch activities at Elland Road!
I don't think the manager should be making headlines with his personal life, either. No stories about your wives or girlfriends, please. I don't care about your personal life, I care about what you do for the club.
And finally, enforce discipline. No egos. No tantrums. No transfer speculations behind his back. No engaging in even vaguely criminal enterprises. If players have concerns, then the manager should be open to listening to them, but he should not let them act like nursery school children when they don't get their way.
Everyone wants their club to win, of course, but we should also consider what sort of club we will hand down to our children. Will it be one with great stories of legendary exploits, or just one with a few good stories and statistics that only a handful of die-hard supporters know? A legendary manager can help make all the difference between the two.
Adapted and reproduced courtesy of


By Lolly Lommus


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