Posts tagged ‘Brian Clough’

Finding Her Identity

Last week’s result by the Socceroos securing a draw with World Champions Germany n Kaiserslautern was another feather in the cap of national team coach Ange Postecoglou. It was also a wonderful result on the back of the team’s Asian Cup victory.

Despite these successes there is something that Ange Postecoglou has managed to achieve that no other Socceroos coach has achieved, and for that the game should be eternally grateful.

Rale Rasic back in the Seventies awoke the nation with is team of part-timers making it to the World Cup in 1974 being one of just 16 teams that participated in the finals. It was almost a surreal experience according to those who remember it.

Guus Hiddink broke the jinx, and in truth had some luck in seeing the team qualify for Germany in 2006; in a penalty shoot-out the result can go anyway, unless you are playing Germany! Yet when the tournament started he showed his tactical acumen and managed to steer the team past the group stage, and almost past eventual Champions Italy.

Pim Verbeek achieved the remarkable steering the team to the 2010 finals conceding just a single goal against Japan in the final round of qualifying, with a team that was clearly on the wane. His mission was accomplished. He has suffered major criticism for the 4-0 defeat against Germany, yet the same team went on to beat England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 before bowing out to Spain in the semi finals.

No one except the FFA and Holger Osieck will ever know what the total brief was at the time of his appointment. One key factor was another qualification for the World Cup which he achieved. He was criticised for not blooding enough young players, yet he achieved the task that he was set.

What all of these failed to do, that Postecoglou has managed to do in his short time as coach, was play a style of football that taps into the Australian psyche.

In the past week this writer has spoken to three people who confessed they never watched the Socceroos before ‘because they were boring.’ They still admitted they did not watch most of the game but they would tune in because the current team is ‘exciting to watch.’

There is no doubt that the Golden generation featuring the likes of Schwarzer, Viduka, Kewell, Bresciano, Grella, Neill and co, were technically more gifted than many of the current crop of players. There were also more of them playing football at a higher level than most of the current crop. Yet the team never managed to achieve what Postecoglou’s players have achieved.

Postecoglou is without doubt one of the best home grown coaches Australia has produced. Like many of the great coaches an injury curtailing his career – just as happened to Brian Clough – saw him enter management at a very young age. Success in the NSL was a regular achievement. When the A-league started he was coach of the national Youth team, which proved with hindsight to be a great learning experience. Back in club football in the new A-League with Brisbane Roar he again created a team that played attractive football and won championships. When he became national coach many wondered how he would fair and early results were not promising. Yet during those games a pattern was evolving.

A pattern that has seen Australia for the first time have a football team with an identity. By that we mean an identity in terms of the style of football that the national team plays.

Australian football under Frank Arok was again blessed with extremely talented players, many who were still forced to be semi-professional. The team was always combative, the team never ever gave up, but the style frequently changed depending on the opposition or the importance of the match.

It was the late Spurs and Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower who once said “Our tactics have always been to equalize before the other team score.” It may sound crazy but one feels the sentiment is there in this Australian team.

Postecoglou has tapped into the Australian sporting Psyche, that Australians in every sport like to be the aggressor. Look at the Cricket team, the Wallabies, the Kookaburras, all are teams that are immediately on the front foot against their opposition. All of them like to take it up to the opposition and make them know that they are not in awe of them. Previous Socceroos coaches have focussed on trying to limit the scoring opportunities of the opposition and therefore tended to play very defensive football. It appears Postecoglou realises that currently Australia’s defensive stocks are not world class, and therefore the team is bound to concede against quality opposition. However rather than sit back and try and limit the damage, his teams go on the attack. The theory being that Australia will score more than their opponents. It is a style that has resonated with many Australians who have never followed the game, and he may well have finally given the nation a style that becomes synonymous with the Socceroos.

Japan knew they could never compete physically with the bigger European players, so they developed a fast paced game based on speed touch and fitness in order to be competitive and it has paid dividends to their national team and is now a style that is expected from their teams. They focussed on their strengths and improved their weaknesses.

Postecoglou has done exactly the same. He has tapped into Australia’s desire to be the team on the attack and a new style of football has evolved. A style that seems to have captured the public’s imagination. Hopefully is a style that can be maintained, and will just like Japan become synonymous with the Socceroos.

To quote the inspirational Danny Blanchflower again ” The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” It would appear that Postecoglou shares those sentiments.

Blanchflower was a part of a Tottenham team that won the double and also steered Northern Ireland to the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup in the same year he lost his brother Jackie in the Munich Air disaster. Spurs with him in the side played an attractive brand of football, a brand of football where they believed if the opposition scored one, they would score two.

It would appear the Socceroos under Postecoglou have the same sense of belief. It certainly appears that they have found a style that resonates with the people of Australia. Let us hope they continue to win fans over playing football in this manner and like Spurs and Northern Ireland with Blanchflower in their side are rewarded with success. Most of all let this be the style of football for which Australia is known.


March 30, 2015 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Managing United Not Child’s Play

When one takes over as head coach at a club steeped in success the new boss is faced with the tough question of whether to keep club traditions or smash them and create his own. Brian Clough disastrously smashed down many of the traditions that had made Leeds United successful under Don Revie; although Revie himself had also altered things when he took charge chaining United’s strip to white in reverence to Real Madrid.

The Boot Room at Liverpool was an institution. It was for three decades where the coaching staff would sit, drink tea and sometimes whisky, and discuss the team, tactics and ways of defeating their next opponents. It was therefore a surprise to many when under former Liverpool player Graeme Souness the boot room became a Press room. Souness has been blamed for the change but the club has always stated that change was a requirement not a request from the coach.

Now at Manchester United new coach Louis van Gaal is started his own renovations off the pitch as he rebuilds on it. It was announced this week that the creche where United’s players would leave their children on match days while the y socialised in the players lounge with Wives and Girlfriends is to be converted into a medical room.

The creche was apparently positioned between the medical room and the lounge but already the walls have been knocked down to accommodate a larger medical room. Funny how there are always more players in the medical room when a team is not doing well!

More of Van Gaal’s renovations have seen the old players lounge split in two. One half is now a pre-match warm up area, the other is an interview room for overseas journalists. A new players lounge and children’s area has been relocated inside Old Trafford.

According to a nameless source at the club quoted in the Daily Mail, “Scrapping the historic players room and creche has created a bit of a stir. But van Gaal was adamant with what he wanted and everyone has had to fall into line. The creche has gone and has not been moved elsewhere.”

Van Gaal also demanded a UKL3million overhaul of United’s Carrington training facility. Tow pitches were ripped up and replaced with the identical Desso surface that is used at Old Trafford. Also a UKL500,000 video surveillance system has been installed to allow Van Gaal to analyse his squad more closely at training. Sleeping pods have also been installed for players to rest between double training sessions.

One other change introduced is one that Guus Hiddink brought in with the Socceroos, strict meal times and rectangular tables so all of the players sit together at one. Whether United’s players are allowed to start before van Gaal sits down is not known; another Hiddink rule.

He has also insisted that all the players speak English at mealtimes.

He has certainly rung the changes, how the players react will be another thing, will they throw their toys out of the cot and so many changes remains to be seen. As for Van Gaal now all he has to do is hope the changes translate into results on the pitch.

October 13, 2014 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Not Totally To Blame

When you are down in sport sometimes it feels as if you cannot go any lower, only to discover that there is still a darker depth you failed to see. David Moyes is no doubt feeling that way as every day after his sacking at Manchester United he suffers more ridicule and more betrayal.

When he took over he knew the task he faced. When he took over he no doubt knew that Manchester United’s share price had to perform at a certain level just as  the team on the park had to.

Sir Alex Ferguson was a unique manager just as Brian Clough was during his time at the top. Both were managers of the like we will never see again. The reason being the game has changed. Clough would have been 79 last month had he still been alive. Ferguson will be 73 this year. These two men played in a very different era and moved into management at a time when the Manager ran the football club. Both, because of their success, got away with things that manager’s today would find themselves up in front of Human Resources for industrial bullying. It is funny though, how both managed to get the best out of players, many playing their best football under each man. Both also even if disliked, commanded respect.

The truth is David Moyes was never going to be allowed to act or run the club the way Sir Alex Ferguson did; he probably would not have wanted to, and would not know how. Moyes is 22 years younger than the man he replaced, when he started out on his playing career with Celtic in 1980 Sir Alex had been a manager for six years.  Sir Alex had been a manager for 40 years when he stepped aside last year after 26 years at Manchester United. David Moyes had 18 years experience by comparison; only twelve of those in top flight football. Sir Alex moved to Manchester United after 12 years as a manager. He was fortunate that after one season at St Mirren he found the club promoted to the restructured Scottish First Division. Promotion the following season took them to the Premier League, soon after he moved to Aberdeen and led them to the Scottish title and smashed the stranglehold of Rangers and Celtic; something few managers have managed since. All at a time when Clough was winning with unfashionable Nottingham Forest across the border. All unlikely to ever happen again.

There will never be another Ferguson, and there will never be a manager allowed to run a club the way he was allowed to. As one British tabloid wrote “It was draconian management but it worked.”

As more and more stories of discontent start to come out of Old Trafford, something that was unheard of in the past half a century, it appears to highlight once again that when players are earning a great deal more than the coach, you are heading into dangerous territory. One thing that is clear is that with the ‘Ferguson pressure’ off the players relaxed. Respect has to be earned of that there can be no doubt, but the players need to ask themselves would they have behaved the same way under Sir Alex? If the answer is “no” then they have let the club and the fans down, as well as the manager.

This is not to say that Moyes is without fault, but some of the stories the press have dredged up seem nothing more than mud raking.

It has been reported that when Shinji Kagawa arrived so late for the flight to Munich this month he was fast-tracked through departures by United’s security staff, apparently “he did so with a fixed smile on his face hinting that he really did not care.” How do we know that to be the case? Could it simply have been a smile of embarrassment?

Then there is the tale of the game against Olympiakos in Athens. Moyes was arguing with the fourth official when a cry of ‘Send him off,’ came from among the substitutes. ‘We would be better off without him.’ Disgraceful behaviour in any so called “team.” Was the player punished? Will we ever know? Does that player deserve to wear the famed colours of Manchester United again? Such conduct drags down the name and the standards set by this great club.

We now hear that on the flight home after that game Moyes was seen reading a management self-help guide called “Good to Great.” Needless to say it prompted sniggers from the players, and many say that that was the moment all respect evaporated.  The players reaction is predictable, but what is wrong with someone wanting to improve themselves, or looking for ways to do things better? Would the reaction have been the same if he had been reading Jonathan Wilson’s excellent “Inverting the Pyramid,” a book that looks at the evolution of football tactics and formations from the games early days to the modern 4-5-1 formation? Would that have shown he did not know anything about football tactics?

The fact is many coaches call in experts in key areas to improve their own knowledge and also to gain a different perspective of things. Most of the top coaches are always reading various books to try and improve the way they do things. Sadly Moyes maybe chose the wrong environment in which to do so.

There is no doubt Moyes knows himself that he got some things wrong. No doubt second time around he would do things a little differently. The sad thing is after 26 years of Ferguson many people were set in their ways, they did not want to change, and he maybe pushed too hard to stamp his own mark and met with opposition. He was undoubtedly naive, and at times too trusting in whom he spoke to.

One thing that never happened at Old Trafford in the past was leaks to the media. This season they have been rife. That cannot be solely Moyes’ fault and the club needs to address this and move on the player or players concerned to send a clear message before the new manager takes over.

By all accounts Moyes hated the ‘Chosen One’ banner draped in his honour at the Stretford End, and who can blame him. He felt that it implied the job had been gifted rather than earned, and maybe that was his downfall. He was so desperate to prove that he had earned the right to be at Old Trafford he abandoned the simple things that had made him one of the most sought after young managers in Britain. Let us not forget that Moyes was just the fourth manager in 2012  after Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Harry Redknapp, to record 150 wins in the Premier League.

Brian Clough failed horribly at Leeds United when they were the toast of English Football. HIs tenure was shorter than Moyes’ and far more acrimonious. He bounced back at Nottingham Forest and will never be forgotten. Let us hope that David Moyes too can bounce back too and that he can bring similar success to a club who decides to look past the last eleven months.

(for the record the writer does not support Manchester United!)

April 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

That’s My Boy.

Alistair Edwards has just made the boldest move in his A League coaching career, by signing his twenty-one year old son Cameron. It is a bold move because unfortunately it will see him accused of favouring his family, and will also see Cameron come under closer scrutiny than many of the other members of the Glory squad. Cameron is going to have to prove to many doubters that he is there on merit, and not just because his dad is the coach.

The last Glory coach to sign his son was Steve McMahon, who swore blindly that his son was good enough to play in the Hyundai A-League. Many begged to differ. He came to Perth from Blackpool, where again he signed for his father, and was voted by Tangerines fans as the worst Blackpool player in FourFourTwo magazine. Tough criticism to have to take.

Other players to have played for their father when he was coach are notably Darren Ferguson who played 27 times for father Alex at Manchester United, and Nigel Clough who played 403 times for father Brian at Nottingham Forest. His father always referring to him as ‘the Number 9’ to the press and never by his name. Kenny Dalglish had his son on the books of Liverpool when he was the Manager but never gave him a game. He did however sign him for Newcastle when he took over as Manager there and Paul made 14 appearances.

It is a tough gig playing for your father. If you struggle with form the accusations of nepotism soon surface. It can also make it awkward in the team dressing room, where the coach is not always popular. Other players loathe to speak up when the coach departs for fear of the son telling his father what was said. Having your son in your team and in your squad, puts him under a different kind of pressure, some cope some don’t.

Cameron Edwards has talent of that there can be no doubt. Technically he is very good on the ball, has great vision and a cultured left foot. He is able to pass with both feet and frequently makes himself available for the ball. There are two areas that he will need to improve on to establish himself in the A-League, and hopefully playing for his father he will be able to find these attributes. The first is physicality, Cameron is not a player who appears to enjoy a physical tussle and if an opponent closes down his space and dominates him physically he has been known to lose the individual battle. The other area is influencing the game when his team needs inspiration. He has the talent to turn a game with one pass, to carve an opening out of nothing, but several times when playing for the Glory Youth, when the team needed that moment of brilliance that he had the skills to deliver, it didn’t happen. Playing for his father he may be more confident to back himself and his ability, and we may yet see him influence the outcome of games by using that superb passing skill and vision.

Alistair and Cameron will both cop stick of that there can be no doubt, but hopefully both have the strength of character to pull through it. Hopefully both have discussed this issue before the contract was signed. Cameron has the tools to be a good player, he would not have been signed by Reading, or Melbourne Heart if he didn’t. Let us hope the fans give him the chance to express that talent, and justify his father’s faith before anyone makes any judgement on the two linking up.

May 2, 2013 at 11:16 am 6 comments

Bad Timing?

What do Perth SC and Chelsea have in common? Apart from both playing in blue, it would appear that both clubs have expectations that seem a little unrealistic.

News that the club parted company with coach Ronnie Campbell today has stunned many in local football circles. The team is due to play Sorrento in the Cup Final next weekend – a trophy they have not won since 2005 – and are sitting second in the league at the moment and almost definitely assured of a finals berth. The chance to win two trophies is just around the corner.

Many believed whoever took over from Graham Normanton would be grasping a poisoned chalice and it would appear that they could have been right.

Campbell, was hampered in trying to stamp his own mark on a team, as most of the ageing squad had already been committed to contracts for this season. In fact he was only able to bring in three new faces. Jason dos Santos was just finding the back of the net and looking an inspired signing when he injured his knee and then Dean Applegren was injured as well. Adam Bachiller has been outstanding, and young players like Vlad Naumovski were beginning to show their potential.

The club has suffered a great deal of injury woes this season with nine first teamers missing at the current time, and Campbell was forced to blood some youngsters who at the present time are not quite ready mentally for first team football.

What was sad and foolhardy, and hindsight is as they say perfect vision, was the fact that the club would not allow Ronnie to appoint his own assistant coach. Ronnie Campbell and Willie Kelly are what Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were at Nottingham Forest and Derby County, and to dredge up an alleged incident that supposedly occurred thirty years ago was both short sighted and detrimental.

Ronnie Campbell has always been a gentleman, and a man with high morals; he refused to talk to several State League clubs about coaching positions while they still had a coach in their employ. He did not deserve to suffer the fate he has today, he deserved to be allowed to see out the season and possibly win the success hungry club two trophies.

Ronnie we wish you luck in the future and hope to see you on the touchlines again very soon.


August 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Going, Going, Going.

For some people knowing when to hang up the boots is very hard to see. For others they walk away too soon. It is a fine line between walking away while at the top and walking wheneveryone starts asking when you are going to leave.

One of the saddest things in football was seeing Brian Clough still at the helm at Nottingham Forest as the club fell from the greatness he had been such a crucial part of. Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly all went while at the top, although Shankly looked back with hindsight and felt he stepped aside too early.

It would appear that former Perth coach Graham Normanton has also had second thoughts about stepping down from the role of coach of Perth SC last season after twelve fantastically successful years at the club.

What is sad is that unlike Shankly and Busby who stepped back into the shadows, he is still turning up to training and watching the new coach take his former team through their paces. It is sad as his former players are beginning to question his presence, and the respect he garnered is being eroded. It is also sad as it shows a lack of respect for his successor. Hopefully someone will have a quiet word in his ear, to ensure that he keeps the respect he worked so hard to earn.

April 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Terry’s All Gold

England Football coach Fabio Capello said when he stripped John Terry of the England Captain’s armband that there would be no way back and that he would not assume the captaincy again.

All that has changed though, and John Terry has been re-instated in place of Rio Ferdinand, just 12 months after he was discarded. Many are saying that the move makes no sense at all. However the lack of leadership amongst the England team at the World Cup Finals showed that captaincy is a special gift. It is not a mantle that sits easily with everyone. Steven Gerrard who replaced the injured Ferdinand as Captain at the World Cup is an outstanding leader for his home city of Liverpool, but he looked like a fish out of water with the top job in the country.

The big question is how this switch back to Terry will affect the players, especially those loyal to Rio Ferdinand? Despite all donning the England shirt international teams can be extremely factional, as was the case in the 1980’s when those not in the Liverpool side during their heyday, were very anti their Liverpool team mates.

Rio Ferdinand’s injury woes continue and with doubts over his return to fitness for Manchester United let alone England, maybe it was time to make a decision.

Players should look always look up to the captain. This is a very rare situation where a player stripped of the captaincy has been given it back. The U-turn by Capello however is we believe possibly more damaging to the coach and his authority than it is to Terry. At face value he is both saying that one minute his decision was right and the next it is totally wrong. He could however be trying to send a message to the public that the change was forced upon him by the powers that be at the FA. England’s poor performance at the World Cup maybe justifying his belief that Terry should have remained Captain, and now he is in a position to right the ship, and re-instate his captain.

Many successful teams build their success around the coach and Captain combination; Alf Ramsay and Bobby Moore, Bob Paisley and Emlyn Hughes, Brian Clough and John McGovern, Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher in cricket, Kitch Christie and Francois Pienaar in rugby being another example.

Capello made a lot of errors at the World Cup, errors that the players spoke out about publically. Maybe he feels that he needs a captain he can trust and who will support him. Since the World Cup England has meandered along almost aimlessly, maybe that is why he needs a man like Terry on the pitch. A man not afraid to take control of a game and those around him and lead them to victory in spite of the coach. Maybe John Terry is Fabio Capello’s insurance policy on his job.

If results start to go England’s way and performances improve it could prove a master stroke. If they don’t it will simply be another nail in his coffin.

March 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm 2 comments

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