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What's the secret to becoming a great manager?

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Jack Ross | 15:23 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

What does a player expect from a manager? I suspect most would go for: leadership, good communication, honesty, good coaching and tactical ability among other attributes.

However, would any player expect their boss to have a qualification in management?

This time I would suggest not many, as often new mangers progress into their new role directly from the playing side, and with very little experience to prepare them for the non-football side of management.

I'm not entirely convinced that such a qualification is a necessity to become a successful manager; yet there is no doubt that currently, and in the future, more clubs will place just as much importance upon these qualifications as they do coaching licences.

There is evidence of this in the popularity of such a management course provided down south by Warwick University, and the fact that there are advanced plans for a similar course to begin at a university in Scotland.

The benefits to those wishing to move into management are that they will be provided with an educational programme which should help improve their ability to interact with their players, board of directors and the media.

This, added to the football knowledge they have gathered from their career, should improve their chances of success.

With the increased demand for this type of qualification, it dilutes the theory that being a great player guarantees being a great manager.Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

Although there are examples to support and dispel such an ideal, I personally have never believed that a top management career will follow a top playing career.

Undoubtedly, there are advantages of having been a top class player when you move into management in that there will be initial, unconditional respect from your players.

For example, if I was at a club and a former internationalist with 50-plus caps is appointed my boss, then I will immediately be respectful of his achievements.

However, if their coaching and/or management are poor then this respect will quickly disappear, therefore suggesting that those great players who have the successful transition to being a gaffer have been able to maintain and increase the level of respect.

My theory would also suggest that those who have had more modest playing careers have to work that little bit harder to win players over, or be clever and creative enough to have a style which ensures their players respond to their methods.

The incredible achievements in management by the likes of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger prove beyond any doubt that being a successful football boss is about far more than being able to list your playing achievements - it may soon be also be about displaying your general management qualifications as well!

From a personal viewpoint, it's been a very disappointing week as I've had to accept that an ankle injury has ended my season prematurely.

I actually suffered the damage at the beginning of February against Rangers but the effects of returning very quickly from the injury have eventually caught up with me.

If I'm honest, the injury has been hindering me for a number of weeks and impacted significantly upon how often I have been able to train.

However, our league position, coupled with a number of other injury problems, meant I was determined to keep playing.

I was still hoping to make it through to the end of the season before getting the required healing time but unfortunately haven't been able to do so.

It was incredibly frustrating watching our defeat on Saturday and will be equally so throughout the remaining fixtures.

Some players prefer to be detached from the team and matches when they are injured but I still like to be in and around the dressing-room before and after the games; lending my support to them as they prepare to play the crucial matches ahead.

My playing contribution may have ended for this season but I have every faith in my team-mates to finish the season strongly!


  • Comment number 1.

    Luck at the right time.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think you have to want to be a manager. In a BBC (Scotland) interview, Alex Ferguson claimed that he signed up for his coaching certificate on the very first day he became a full time professional footballer. This was obviously partly to secure a long term income, but his commitment and enthusiasm at St. Mirren were incredible. It is still the most exciting and dramatic football I have ever seen

    He also said that not being a naturally gifted player made him a better manager. He had to analyse his game.

    Good luck for the rest of the season. Let's hope Gus can conjure another last minute miracle.

  • Comment number 3.

    you missed out the aspect of trust .
    good managers gain trust from their players and build players confidence ,
    all managers should have some dignity and integrity, win or lose .
    anyone can pick up a certificate to coach but that doesn't guarantee a winning team . i remember a rugby coach 'sir woodward' of world cup rugby fame get a job with a southampton fc as some type of coaching director , how did that work .
    no matter who your manager is it comes down to you as an individual to give you the winning edge , the extra training session , the discipline to follow diets , to stay in at night when the guys are going out , and when that doesn't happen the manager has to defend them when it all goes wrong off and on the park.

    i was disappointed with the post match comments from st mirren manager on saturday , sometimes when a team doesn't perform you just draw a line in the sand and take it from there , it doesn't sit well biting the head off the interviewer, and blaming everybody including your granny when trying to work out whats went wrong .
    good management seems to be missing at some clubs football now . football seems to be a blame game now .

  • Comment number 4.

    When was the last time you heard a manager in any industry say 'I got it wrong!'?

  • Comment number 5.

    Right, who farted?

  • Comment number 6.


  • Comment number 7.

    Sorry to hear about the injury Jack, however I can't help but wonder why MacPherson didn't rest you for a few games after the final and rest you for what is once again going to be a nail-biting finish??.Call me crazy but would he not have been better to take you off as soon as he realised that you were injured?. perhaps playing on caused more injury to it.
    I think it is a great idea that you will be there to boost the players' morale before and after the game as I fear we are going to need all the support we can get. Perhaps Mr Gilmour and others should read your blog and ponder on this - Do St Mirren have the right "leader" to save them from the relegaion battle?.

  • Comment number 8.

    Lots of logical fallacies in this blog, I'm afraid -- not up to your usual standard, Jack!

    For one, the theory that 'great players make great managers' has never had much credence attached to it, and so to attack it as such amounts to a strawman argument.

    It is the general opinion that managers are made, not born. That said, there are some who start from a better position than others. And the examples of great players who _are_ (or have been) great managers (eg Guardiola) tends to counter the theory that mediocre players become great managers by dint of effort and learning the game. It's time we just accepted that managing people is a talent, like any other. And like all talents, work and dedication will bring out the best of whatever talent you have. Conversely, the lack of any work will leave you with what talent you started with. Thus, application and perseverance may take a mediocre talent farther than a great talent with no application. But, with similar amounts of dedication and hard work, talent will always take you further.

  • Comment number 9.

    Gutted to hear about your injury Jack. Good luck with your recovery. I hope Gus and the team can keep us up.

    Come on ye saints!

  • Comment number 10.

    Jack, terrible news about your season being over, I wish you a speedy and full recovery. We really seem to be down to the bare bones for the run in now!!
    Our own manager has clearly been a successful manager in his first stint in management. He has taken the club from a struggling 1st Division team into the SPL with a few triumps along the way and so far kept us up.
    Having been a decent defender in his day he clearly sets the team out 'not to get beat' and you can appreciate this from his past experiences as a defender and the cut throat nature of the SPL.
    In the backroom team there appears to be no 'strikers coach' and I was just wondering about your opinion about whether having more offensive thinking coaches on the staff would help with a more balanced team? Having just read this back you might get into bother answering this honestly so I'll change it a bit!!! Do you think there is a role for a specialist coach for the different areas of a team to help managers?
    I believe it is something we are lacking at St Mirren.
    Jack, I am sure you are aware of all the rumours around the many fans forum websites about your future. Are we likely to see you play again in the black and white stripes? Apparently you have signed a PCA with Motherwell, any news ? Would be great to see you play again for us next season in the top flight, hopefully. All the best Jack.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jack, sad news on your injury. I hope the rumours are not true that you have played your last game for St Mirren. I suspect, however, that you won’t be hanging around if we get relegated, so I hope the rest of your team mates will start fighting on Saturday.

    Football fans, as I'm sure you know, can be a fickle bunch. I understand that not all players can be gifted with talent, but the one quality I expect as a fan, is that all players give 100% effort.

    It may appear that a player lacking in confidence is not applying themselves, but how can confidence be blamed for a player not being fully committed in a tackle, or worse still, not going for the tackle at all?

    When fans have seen what a player is capable of during previous seasons, and suddenly, when that player’s contract is due to expire, they stop chasing, tackling or doing the ugly things that win poor teams football games, it becomes frustrating for fans, and I assume for managers too.

    For a manager with a small squad, how can he drop these players? I don't think there is any book or course that will give you the answer.

    In fairness to the manager, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. From the fans perspective, we want honesty. If the players are not being honest, we want to know that the manager is aware of these shortcomings. Of course, if the manager starts to criticise players, this will cause all sorts of dressing room unrest.

    Therefore, it's easy for the manager to turn on the fans, but from my experience, this is when it all goes wrong. Ultimately, fans turn up because they love their football team. They do spend lots of money, but most see it as a necessary expense, much like paying their gas bill. Those fans worship their players - like you - and hope that the respect is mutual.

    If fans are as important to a team as managers and players stress, then it is simple to get them onside. Give 100% effort 100% of the time. The player’s performance and the managers tactics decide if the fans will be in good voice, or not. It doesn't, and certainly shouldn't work the other way as some managers suggest.

    Jack, your playing contributions maybe over this season, so do something else for the fans......please. Use your leadership skills, and ask the players, for the five remaining games, to give their all to save OUR club from relegation. I have seen St Mirren play very well some games and very poorly others. Tactics may play some part, but the main annoyance from the fans viewpoint, is the difference in effort.

  • Comment number 12.

    Well said ^^^
    Hope you haven't played your last game in black + white stripes Jacko.

    If this is indeed the case I wish you a speedy recovery + the best of luck in the rest of your football career except if you're ever playing against us. Thanks for all you've contributed to the club in the last two seasons.

    Hope however, all my comments are premature + that you continue to play for us.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you for the replies.

    Comment 2, I think it is a great point re wanting to be a manager. Most players will view a move into coaching/management as a simpler career path to follow when they finish playing. However, not all will do it because they have a burning desire or ambition to be a top manager.

    Comment 8, thanks for the constructive criticism-always appreciated!. I take on board your comments but perhaps it would be better then to say being a great player allows better management opportunities to come your way. There are many examples such as Shearer at Newcastle, Barnes at Celtic and Maradona at Argentina where players are appointed ahead of those with much more managerial experience and success. These appointments can however be successful as your Barca example shows.

    Comment 10, I am honestly unsure about specialist coaches within clubs. The only experience I have had at any clubs is that of goalkeeping coaches and I am sure everyone would agree that it is a specialised position worthy of its own coach. We are very fortunate at St Mirren to have Paul Mathers who is one of the best around. Perhaps in an ideal world, more of these types of coaches could be employed but in the current SPL financial climate this could be at the expense of a sports scientist, second physio etc.

    Thank you for all the best wishes re my injury. As I have said I am devastated at missing the final vital games, and with the benefit of hindsight taking the proper rehab time initially may have seen me fit. Conversely, I hoped that we would be in a better position, and I would have contributed to that standing. Nevertheless I will be in Perth at Saturday believing we can win three vital points.

  • Comment number 14.

    I would think that the most important aspect of a player's thinking is probably how much he can earn!

    Cynical? possibly!

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry to hear about the injury jack and as a rangers fan i would love you to join rangers instead of broadfoot and whittaker :D untill tht happens i got to say 9 men we only need 9 men (8)

  • Comment number 16.

    rangers fc#1

  • Comment number 17.

    I think managers are overrated. They can easily break a good team, but only few can truly be influential in creating a great team. I just see them as psychological motivators. Very few actually have a tactical strategy eg Mourinho.


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