James Lawton: Good luck, Jamie, but the best coaches do not need to be fast-tracked
No one had to push Ferguson, Clough or Stein forward – they won their own battles
Thursday 23 December 2010
Jamie Carragher has many admirable qualities. In his prime he was praised by no less than World Cup-winning full-back George Cohen as the best defender in the land, someone who had learnt his trade thoroughly and with great passion.
Nevertheless, it is absurd to project him, as now seems to be the case, as the poster boy of a new drive to press some of our most distinguished old pros into national service as recruits to a new England coaching elite.
You do not recruit coaches. They recruit themselves.
They believe they have come up with a fresh view of a game which is only simple until you have to organise it on a consistently winning basis.
They get inspiration, of course. The list of great coaches who are happy to acknowledge their debts is very long indeed, though there are some notable exceptions. Jose Mourinho's devotion to his own genius is profound and often lyrical and second perhaps only to that which he holds for Our Lady of Fatima. Brian Clough tended to give the impression that he had come down from the mountain top with his own set of stones.
What is universal is the driven nature of most enduring football coaches. If you doubt that, look at the faces of men like Wenger and Ferguson and Ancelotti and Capello, and remember those worn by such as Shankly and Stein and Allison.
Carragher's care for the game is such that he may well want to elect himself to such company; possibly even the rather less demonstrative Paul Scholes, whose name has also been mentioned as a suitable target in a campaign to get more leading pros on to the training fields than into the TV studios.
However, we are not talking about account managers or public relations executives. We are discussing men with a professional hunger that goes beyond mere career prospects, characters who know that they will always be at the mercy of a hundred imponderables but are determined to take all the risks. Why? It is simply because it defines them.
You cannot be fast-tracked as a football coach. You have to go out and do it and keep on doing it in the belief that you have something to offer, something that marks the success of unbreakable characters like Harry Redknapp and Neil Warnock and Ian Holloway.
You have to be as insatiable as Arsène Wenger, prowling the world for new insights into what makes outstanding ability. You have to have the belief of Jock Stein, who beat Europe with players drawn from a small radius of Glasgow.
Or you have to have something as still and as sure the certainties of Enzo Bearzot, who died this week and left a raft of memories of a man of brilliance and integrity. Before leading Italy to a superb triumph in the 1982 World Cup he was ridiculed by the opinion-makers of his national game, one of them spitting at his feet on a Spanish pavement shortly before the plotting of an unforgettable defeat of a most gifted Brazilian team on the way to a triumph in Madrid over the West Germans.
When he delivered that triumph it was said that he had released "the caged bird of Italian football". That was some tribute to some body of work. You don't train up a man to do a job like that. He claims it for himself.
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