With the increasing influence of business and economics you'd easily expect many aspects of those worlds to cross over into football and not just figures, stats, financial information and analytics. You'd expect the culture and practices to cross over as well.
Only in football can a new hire be made within days of a firing. Football from a business perspective does not translate well at all, especially with what is at stake in the Premier League. If a manager is sacked, there's no lengthy job search and seemingly no interview process. The management of the football club seem to chase a target and lock them into a stupidly long contract. It's not much longer than two weeks before a new man is in charge, with a new vision and a new team. How in God's good name does this add up to plausibility? It's exactly like Marks & Spencers hiring a new chief of operations only to give them full scope to transform the vision of the company from that of an 'upmarket' greengrocers into that of a discount pound shop.
The English model of Football Management seems as if it can be easily reduced to this: "You were once a footballer, now you are not a footballer. You must know more about football than our previous manager; otherwise we wouldn't want to hire you. You are probably white and a bit crazy. You probably haven't had much of an education outside of football, but that's okay. You will lead the team until the fans have had enough of you, before we ship you off to the Championship where you will likely make your name as a plucky young manager before you make your way back to the big league before inevitably capitulating to Stoke on a rainy Tuesday night." Rinse & repeat.
Why do we accept this as a model upon which decisions are made? Why do we continue to go down the same route when the results are always the same? We accept failure after failure, yet we are always asking for the same criteria:
- Did you play football?
- Did you have a good run at a football club as it's manager?
I am starting to fear that the two points listed above are all that there is to choosing a manager for a football club. There honestly can't be much more to choose from - can there? Especially if you consider the previous 3 managers of Aston Villa who seem to have been chosen based on their history at Rangers, Norwich and Tottenham respectively. Of those three, Paul Lambert had the highest footballing pedigree and he still proved unsuccessful in the role (Although I'd like to see what he could get out of players like Veretout, Gueye and Ayew).
So, if being a good footballer doesn't necessarily make you an excellent football manager, what does? Some of the brightest managers seem to rely on outside experiences that can offer different perspectives to back up and fortify their footballing knowledge. Alex Ferguson was able to rely on his skills as a man-manager, he knew how to get the best out of the worst all the time and he won titles on the back of that and that's a business skill - he knew how to motivate, berate and pull something out of nothing. Arsene Wenger took his background in economics and management, and applied it to his role as a football manager (He's known as 'The Professor'), where Arsenal have consistently proven they are able to grab young talent on the cheap and sell them for profit, time and time again with title and cup wins in-between. Mark Warburton of Rangers shone in his role at Brentford, where his transferrable skills from his time as a city trader paid off and allowed Warburton to use outside perspectives in his day-to-day running of the club. André Villas-Boas at the age of 38 has already spent 21 years behind the scenes of football clubs, his knowledge at 38 will match and likely better those of managers older than him. Even Sam Allardyce brought NFL techniques into his management philosophy.
Following that, we've also got Brian Clough (an alcoholic) and Peter Taylor (a gambler) who used their personal demons to keep a strict line of discipline in their teams and either cut troublemakers loose or bring them over to their viewpoint. These managers have endured because they have something different in their tank and clearly, the success of Clough, Taylor, Ferguson & Wenger is a league above that of Villas-Boas who is still leagues above Warburton and Allardyce, but this does not scupper my theory at all - surviving in a managerial role for longer than a year in this day & age is a success in itself.
We see managers who've solely enjoyed a footballing background dip in-and-out of the game all the time. Paul Merson found himself managing Walsall FC, before he took the easier life as a pundit as did Chris Kamara. Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet enjoyed two savage spells at Sunderland. Tim Sherwood fell apart at Aston Villa as did Laudrup at Swansea and Garry Monk isn't enjoying an easy ride at the moment in charge of the same club. Steve McLaren has been bandied around the continent like he has joined Black Sabbath on their farewell tour. All of the above don't have much outside of their general experience in football and in tough times, they will rely on that same stream of experience - but what different viewpoints and perspective can it offer them?
Remi Garde fits into the ideal model in a way that isn't obvious at first glance. Lyon are the definition of a modern football club and a shining example of what Aston Villa are trying to become. Yes, he was a footballer and yes, he is now a manager. But with his success under the Lyon plan and ability to thrive under chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, Remi Garde has shown, not told, how he will succeed at Villa. It may be this willingness to get to grips with the basics, this willingness to work underneath a transfer committee and this willingness to concentrate on the most important tasks of a football manager that put Garde in the same catagory as Allardyce, Villas-Boas and Wenger.
When will the day come when we all realise that football management may not be best pinned on those who have simply 'been in the game'? Football, in terms of choosing who best to lead a club, hasn't looked outside the box for so long that the box is all there is, containing various spectrums of management talent from Graham Taylor, to Tony Pulis. Being in the game shouldn't disqualify someone, but instead it should be just a part of what makes a good manager. All of the best have transcended their experience in the game with something more, some intangibles. It's time we start looking for those on a regular basis.