A manager is much more than just a tactician these days; he is a figurehead for an entire club. When a billionaire owner hires a new manager, it is a process defined by personalities rather than coaching merit. Is he a tough guy or a charmer? Does he wear a tracksuit or a shirt and tie? These are the things that drive modern day football. Since the birth of the metrosexual, GQ magazine and David Beckham, there isn’t a column inch in any gentleman’s journal that can’t be filled with a Premier League manager and his immaculate wardrobe.
Jose Mourinho for instance is a showman, a master of the press conference both verbally and visually. The Portuguese has manufactured a personality so intriguing to the media that his millionaire players (who are champions of England) are something of an irrelevance. He is everything Ron Atkinson aspired to be, a silver fox with a timeless tan. ‘Big Ron’ was a showman too, although he was proof that charisma can only take you so far.
The magnetism of a manger has completely overshadowed the responsibilities of the players on the pitch. For example, The England job is a poisoned chalice not because the players are incompetent, but due to the misguided perception that each new manager is going to be English football’s messiah elect. Therefore the people who make these appointments need to take into account the aforementioned factors, chiefly the personality of the man, or woman, for when the FA become more open minded, then fashion in football will come to mean a very different thing entirely. Anyway, this is why Brian Clough never became England manager, because he was an entertainer who had a penchant for late night talk show appearances.
It is often forgotten that a manger is just one person, a puppet if you like, manipulated by a hierarchy who wouldn’t be seen dead in a tracksuit. It’s a thoroughly English obsession, to imagine an entire football team as one man and his single-minded vision, much like our nation’s culture of politics, it’s easier to have one person to blame rather than many. Hence why in football we have something called ‘the race for the sack’ a term used to speculate who the first manager to lose his job in a Premier League season might be.
Like politicians most managers are media trained, so it is essential they look the part. Tony Pulis is not judged by the style of football his teams play, but by the clothes he wears. However the two have come to mean the same thing; a working class man in a tracksuit invented route one football, apparently. Whereas Pep Guardiola’s tika-taka football was tailored made for Barcelona, much like his suit.
Managers are important in the modern game, although it’s very easy to get carried away with one person and their philosophy; Arsene Wenger’s diplomatic panache is nothing unless his player’s can stick the ball in the back of the net. Football is an unsophisticated sport played by simple-minded people, therefore the manager has all the brainpower. This mistaken sense of supremacy has clouded the FA and contributed to half a century of terrible England managerial appointments. It’s time to take a manger for what they really are, which is just an over-hyped PE teacher who coaches young men how to kick a ball and run around a football pitch.