M is for manager

By: Elite Soccer

The Manager is a unique look into the mind of the football manager, exposing and unveiling how different characters in different clubs across different eras have created winning teams on the pitch.

Author Mike Carson consults 30 of the biggest names in the game to reveal how they organise, structure, motivate, communicate, inspire and even celebrate what it is to be a pivotal force in the world of sport. It’s as much a book about business and leadership as it is 22 men kicking a ball around, and using a bevy of flowing anecdotes to depict how selected managers – Mourinho, Ancelotti, Hodgson, Wenger in their number – have emerged from the toughest of battles with their pride and reputation intact, this is a book that has credence.

At times the book relies a little too much on a chosen manager’s actions in specific situations, without feeling willing to unwrap a greater DNA of success from the sidelines, and over an extended period of time.

And although Carson researches well his subjects, the majority of the insight comes from those managers. But perhaps that’s the point? There are plenty of sports psychology books out there written from the desks of published authors – those who have never stepped foot onto a football field in a professional game; those who have spent a career sat in press rooms without ever having had the benefit of exploring what really goes on at the training ground. In a sense, Carson is passing over responsibility (and column inches) to those who fully deserve it. And in that sense, it works. And providing you can choose which managerial technique works for you without wishing to be overtly guided by the author, you’ll enjoy what’s on offer.

Of course, it may not come as a surprise to hear that the ultimate conclusion to be drawn out of The Manager is that, ultimately, there is no set rule for success; there is no default setting for ‘the gaffer’ – more, the most efficient route for chairman and players to achieve their aims is not to rely on any set formula at all. That’s not to say football management is a game of chance – far from it – but it seems the calculation for ‘best in class’ when it comes to leadership is more liquid and diverse now than at any time in the past, and the pooling of such different personality types is, ultimately, what keeps the game moving forward.


Gérard Houllier:

“There was a time when clubs thought that winning on the pitch was enough. Now times have changed and you need to win off the pitch as well –by which I mean commercially. If the commercial aspect works, the club generates good revenues, and from that flow better facilities, better staff, better players and then again better revenues for the club.

“Then it’s important that the technical part is there too – and this is also based upon very good human relationships. I think that a good club is a club that looks after its players, looks after its people, looks after its employees, its staff and everything. Its human atmosphere is to me the foundation for success. And it is the manager who is at the centre of that.”

The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders, Mike Carson. Bloomsbury Paperbacks.