These recent months have proved one thing in the Premier League – the importance of player/manager relationships. The respect between players and managers has never been more important, what with the rise of player power. We talk to Colin Hendry who gives us his experience and opinions of relationships between the manager and his team – good and bad.
Without doubt, the two most successful managers in the Premier League at the moment are Klopp and Guardiola. As top managers of the best teams, Hendry looks at their management style. “If you look at Pep, even when they team has suffered some shock defeats, he always shows humility to his players. You have never heard him disparage either his team as a whole or any of his players singularly.” This can be seen in his latest interview after his loss to Newcastle, where Guardiola says “Sometimes we don’t play the level we want to play. It happens…it’s everybody, it’s not just one player. We could not win, because we were not at our best, that’s all.”
This can also be seen of Klopp when Liverpool went out of the cup to Wolves. He may have used excuses such as weather and injury after Man City, but never did he blame his players. In fact, he still used the game to praise players: “Ki-Jana was fantastic, he’s 16 years old and the other two boys are 18 years old so it was a bit wild… It wasn’t a nice game for the young boys.” Despite Klopp not having to having to deal with many losses, he still remains positive about his players at all times. Hendry believes that truly this is important when it comes to mutual respect – and when that doesn’t happen it starts going sour.
Hendry brings up one manager who, on several occasions, publicly berated and criticized his players – Jose Mourinho. In his days at Man Utd, he often criticized his players after a loss, and this obviously damaged his relationship with his team.
The most memorable of criticism from Mourinho, says Hendry, was that of Luke Shaw in 2017. Mourinho stated “I cannot compare the way he trains [with other contenders for the position], the way he commits, the focus, the ambition. He’s a long way behind.” Such stinging condemnation saw Shaw out of the team for a while and would have caused a severe lack of confidence.
Of course, the relationship with Pogba was the biggest issue within the squad. The relationship seemed to start well, with both men excited to work with each other. However, the relationship soon turned frosty – with digs from Pogba stating that he “will always give his best for those that ‘trust’ him.” The relationship never recovered from comments made by Mourinho during the World Cup and Pogba made his delight at Mourinho’s sacking very apparent.
The transformation of Man U since the departure is phenomenal. Despite the same players and the same tactics, the squad are back to winning ways… showing that players work for managers they like.
A recent example of a seriously bad player / manager relationship has to be Neil Lennon. It was announced that Lennon was to leave his role as coach in 24 hours. He was suspended by Chief Exec, Leann Dempster. Clearly the issues between the players and manager got to breaking point.
Hendry, though, did admit that sometimes managers did need to be honest and did need to make decisions at times which would make a player unhappy. Hendry recalled the time when he was playing for Allardyce at Bolton. “Sam Allardyce was the manager that told me that my career was finished. Obviously it hurt and I didn’t want to hear it, but I understand that managers have to make decisions for the team. A lot of times as a defender I would take knocks to the ankles and could have bone and ligament injuries. However, it was when I was about 35-36 that I started getting tears in my calf muscles and soleus muscle. I fought against it but had to be realistic after talking with Allardyce. Sam said it was done, and I knew it was. However, he did it privately and I respected and appreciated that. There was never any public criticism and I have seen Sam since.” He goes on to say “We had a really good relationship. I was on loan from Coventry and we both wanted me to stay at Bolton, so I took a wage cut to stay there. Obviously, there were times of criticism, but it was never public.”
Different Types of Managers
Obviously there are a number of different managing styles, with Hendry stating that there are 5 different types of manager.
Firstly, there’s the bully manager. “These were more common back in the 80s and 90s” Hendry states. “It would be difficult for a manager to get away with that now with so much player power”. He continued “These managers are the type that would pin a player against the wall after a bad performance. There were many managers like this in the Scottish Premiership. Managers such as Walter Smith, Jim McLean, Archie Knox and Alex Ferguson were known for their hard line in management and were arguable great examples of bully managers”
Next there’s the ‘arm around the shoulder type’. This works with some players, especially younger players who need confidence. However, some players do need a rocket. Klopp is very much a manager who is often seen hugging his players as they come off the pitch and this creates more of a team bond. However, if players do need some harsh words, this isn’t the best type of manager for them.
Then there’s the ‘I don’t care who you are’ type of manager, of which Mourinho is a prime example. He doesn’t care who he says about anyone and as such has criticized his biggest players, such as Pogba – although this has backfired now. Players with power won’t always take this now so it’s a good idea to be a little careful if they are one of your best players.
There’s also the ‘soft manager’. The type of manager who is buddy buddy with everyone but doesn’t really have any control over the team. Obviously this might mean that players like you, however, would they play? That all depends on the self-motivation of the player.
Finally, there’s the intense manager. Hendry believes that “it’s often younger and newer managers like this who are trying to make their mark”. “Henning Berg was very much like this. He often made players stay a lot longer after their training hours. However, players often lose concentration, so it doesn’t always work. It’s all about getting results on the pitch”.
Maintaining Your Manager Player Relationship
Hendry has experience of not just being a player, but also a manager. So, how did he find it when trying to maintain his relationship with players. “When I was manager of Clyde, there was very little pressure, which was nice. Many of the players were on minimum wage and it was very much a family environment. However, with Blackpool, there wasn’t the support from the board, although player relationships were good”. He did note that “some of the players were selfish, wanting players to perform badly so they would get their chance to play; this was despite the fact that it would be to the detriment of the team.” The player / manager relationship is a two-way street and it takes both sides to make it work. Not every manager works for every player and vice versa. When it works, it worked well – when it doesn’t, it’s a disaster.
Best Player / Manager Fallouts
Harry Redknapp v Adel Taraabt
A very feisty fallout came when QPR manager, Harry Redknapp, fell out with Adel Taarabt. In a press conference, very publicly, Redknapp stated that Taraabt was three stone overweight. As you can imagine, this caused a very public rift. He fought back, saying that Redknapp never too any training sessions. Redknapp then hit back that Taraabt was “the worst professional” he ever met. He left soon after as the magic was clearly lost with QPR.
Louis Van Gaal v Guy Thys
Louis Van Gaal is a Dutch manager famous for having many outbursts and fallouts as a manager. Back in his day as a player he became angered by Belgian coach Guy Thys. Thys called Van Gaal slow – when Van Gaal asked his coach how he should pay the second leg of the UEFA Cup game – his coach replied “like you normally do, slowly.” They really could never get along after that and Van Gall soon left the club.
Jose Mourinho v Mario Balotelli
Another player Mourinho has clashed with is Balotelli. Mourinho criticized Balotelli’s attitude to training and his professionalism. However, he did want to keep Balotelli in the team and develop his talent. However, this soon proved to be an impossible task and there were numerous clashed between the two on and off the pitch. Mourinho then declared Balotelli to be ‘unmanageable’. However, time has passed and Mourinho looks back on these times as simply, ‘comedy’.
Brian Clough v Roy Keane
You won’t get any tougher head to heads than these two going at it. Roy Keane is a football character that has earned a fearsome reputation in his day. However, when it came to the altercation with Clough, it was Keane who came out underdog. In the dressing room, after a verbal fight, it got physical when a back kick from Keane led to Clough knocking him down with a punch in the face. However, this merely earned the manager respect. Keane then said that Clough was a better manager than Ferguson.
David Moyes v Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney managed to anger his boss, David Moyes, when he was just a young player. In his book, Rooney described Moyes as ‘controlling and overbearing’. He accused Moyes of destroying his confidence after leaking a personal conversation, which saw him leaving Goodison Park in 2004. However, this turned out not to be the case after Moyes won a court case against publishers. This led to Rooney apologizing to Moyes… and eventually reuniting shortly at Man U at Old Trafford.
Alan Shearer v Ruud Gullit
Back in the earlier days of football, generally managers would always come out on top in these situations. However, that didn’t always happen, as was shown when Alan Shearer took on Ruud Gullit. Gullit decided to drop Alan Shearer against rivals Sunderland, which was not a popular decision. – with the fans or with the striker… especially as they lost. Shearer blamed Gullit and after receiving no support from anyone, Gullit then resigned his post. Years on, Gullit described Shearer as “The most overrated player I have ever seen”. This really was an example of player power at its best.
Carlos Tevez v Roberto Mancini
It was in an important Champions League match against Bayern Munich that Man City’s Carlos Tevez decided he’s rather not play and was happy to sit on the bench. The team eventually lost 2-0. Despite Mancini calling Tevez to play in the second half, Tevez refused and this sent Mancini wild. This action also confused players, fans and pundits alike. This was a clear lack of respect for his manager and Mancini said that Tevez was “finished” at Man City. Tevez went AWOL to Argentina afterwards, but returned and played well for the team. However, the damage was done and he moved to Juventus.
Roy Keane v Mick McCarthy
A hugely public fallout came about when Roy Keane took on Mick McCarthy in the 2002 World Cup. Keane wasn’t full of praise before the tournament, but it got worse. Moaning about the “car park” like facilities, and also about the bad preparations and coaching staff, McCarthy decided to confront him in front of the whole squad. Keane went mad. He told him that he didn’t rate McCarthy as a player, manager or person and told him where he could stick the world cup. He flew home straight after.
Alex Ferguson v David Beckham
This is quite possibly the biggest and most famous player / manager falling out of all time. This led to Beckham suffering a cut just above the eye. Man U had just suffered a defeat to Arsenal and believed Beckham was to blame as he saw himself as a celebrity rather than a football player. After the game, in the dressing room, Sir Alex kicked a boot at him as he was giving him a rollicking – and it hit him straight in the face. This led to Beckham having to be restrained by teammates – and eventually his move to Real Madrid that summer.
Colin’s Top Tips
Tottenham v Newcastle – Tottenham to win 2/5 at Bet365
Brighton v Watford – Draw – 9/5 at BetBright
Burnley v Southampton – Draw – 47/20 at 888sport
Chelsea v Huddersfield – Chelsea to win – 3/16 at Unibet
Crystal Palace v Fulham – Crystal Palace – 10/11 at BetBright
Everton v Wolves – Wolves to win – 9/4 at Unibet
Cardiff v Bournemouth – Cardiff to win – 2/1 at Bet365
Man City v Arsenal – Man City to win – 6/19 at Unibet
West Ham v Liverpool – Draw – 41/10 at Royal Panda