Charlton Athletic recently appointed Nigel Adkins to replace Lee Bowyer and it set me thinking what I would be looking for if I were involved in a managerial selection process. Most managers who get jobs are known to, or admired by someone, at the club making the appointment. That was certainly the case with Chris Powell in 2011.
Essentially, I am looking for someone who is an effective coach, has an eye for a player, can motivate, commands respect, demonstrates tactical awareness, has a presence and authority, and communicates well.
Coaching is about improving players individually and creating a collective unit where every player knows his role and responsibility in the team. It is about innovation in areas like set pieces both in a defensive and offensive context. In the modern game set piece plays win and lose games. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition is essential and exploiting weaknesses and nullifying strengths is vital.
Of course, the coach has to have the raw material to work on so recruitment is key. Good players make good teams. Back in 2011, I chaired the twice weekly recruitment team meetings to provide a structure and effective follow up by all involved with player targets and because we had only 16 weeks to identify a new first team squad.
We worked seven days a week and often long into the night. Every person in the process was highly motivated. Players who had proved themselves at League One level but also had the ability to step up to the next level were thoroughly scrutinised not only for their playing ability but what they were like as a person.
When I look at the opposition teams in League One this season Scott Fraser at MK Dons and Josh Morris at Fleetwood have been two players that have really impressed me. In many cases the hard part is negotiating a player’s exit with the selling club. Once they become aware you have money to spend the transfer fee rockets and so do the player’s wage demands. That is why at that time we kept very quiet about our ambitions and kept repeating publicly that we would spend only within our means.
Motivational skills are key. Using the comparative stats of the best player in a position as a comparison sets a marker but players need to feel valued not only by the football management team but by the club. Any issues need to be resolved quickly. How wives and girlfriends and players kids are treated by the club impacts on a player emotionally and it is good for them to mix and things like a match day creche are a positive move. Trips away can help to build team spirit.
Players want to work in a disciplined and fair environment. Mikel Arteta recently dropped star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for reporting late for the Spurs home match and put him on the bench and that demonstrates to the whole squad that no matter who you are rules apply.
Communicating well with the players the media and fans is an important part of the modern game. Players do hate being called out publicly in the way say Deli Alli has at Spurs. It erodes team spirit and is demotivational so what is said should remain private. Rubbishing a player in public doesn’t make that player play better for sure.
As with anything in life luck plays a big part. Look at the injury situation at Liverpool this season which has cost them any chance of defending their title.
In terms of Charlton, I wish Nigel Adkins well and I wish Lee Bowyer every success at Birmingham City. Lee brought every Charlton fan a fantastic day out at Wembley in 2019 and as with the classic Championship Play off Final against Sunderland in 1998 these are days to be cherished and given pride of place in the club’s history book.
Peter Varney – Chairman Integral Sports Management.
Image – PA