Ken Jones: Indomitable will sorts top managers from lesser men

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The Independent Football

When Chelsea won their only League championship 49 years ago they were managed by Ted Drake, a formidable former Arsenal and England centre-forward, whose haul of 42 league goals in one season stands as an unattainable record at Highbury.

When Chelsea won their only League championship 49 years ago they were managed by Ted Drake, a formidable former Arsenal and England centre-forward, whose haul of 42 league goals in one season stands as an unattainable record at Highbury.

If Chelsea become champions of the Premiership this season it will be under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, whose success is all the more remarkable for his never having risen above above the standard of a parks player, getting his first insights to the game as Bobby Robson's interpreter at Sporting Lisbon.

Chelsea's close rivals, Arsenal, have achieved success under the sure hand of Arsène Wenger, whose playing experience was limited to junior professional level, as was that of the England coach Sven Goran Erikkson. The Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, who was on the books of Real Madrid as a teenager, played for obscure Spanish clubs.

It has long been established that outstanding players do not necessarily make the most effective managers. One of the most arresting examples was Billy Wright's brief, troubled experience as manager of Arsenal in the Sixties. Wright's reputation as a deeply respected captain of England with 105 caps could not overcome a breakdown in understanding in the triangle of boardroom, manager and players.

Presently, of eight Premiership managers with international playing experience, David O'Leary (Aston Villa), Graeme Souness (Newcastle), Kevin Keegan (Manchester City), Chris Coleman (Fulham), Nigel Worthington (Norwich City), Ian Dowie (Crystal Palace), Mark Hughes (Blackburn Rovers) and Bryan Robson (WBA), seven are in the bottom half of the table. Of the top six, including Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, David Moyes at Everton and Steve McClaren at Middlesbrough, only O'Leary was a top-quality player.

Jack Charlton was the only member of England's 1966 World Cup team to make a success of management, winning promotion with Middlesbrough and qualifying the Republic of Ireland for two World Cups and a European Championship.

Personality must be the key factor in managerial success. It is not a question of being a nice man or a nasty one, of being hard or aloof, of being imaginative or cautious, hard or indulgent. All of these things are subordinate to the essential quality that, it seems, all the most successful managers have: the capacity to dominate. This is just not an overbearing manner, a thrusting of two fists at the world; it is not just arrogance. It is a steeliness in a man's make up, the will to make his methods tell. As the late Arthur Hopcraft wrote in his acclaimed book The Football Man: "The successful manager may have all kinds of talent from charm to low cunning, but to stay successful he needs to be very close to indomitable."

It was as a result of his fierce criticisms in a newspaper column and on radio that Joao Saldanha was invited to manage the Brazil national team following a disaster in the 1966 World Cup. Saldanha had played professionally, and had taken a Botafogo team that included Didi and Garrincha to the Rio Championship. Having brought together the most brilliant assembly of players in Brazil's history, Saldanha fell out with the authorities and was replaced by Mario Zagallo shortly before the 1970 World Cup finals.

Seven years later, Brazil turned to an army captain and former volleyball international, Claudio Coutinho, whose only previous connection with football had been as the man for ensuring the national team's privacy and safety of their wallets. "I am reading many books about coaching," he said in Rio prior to a match against England.

As the list included one by a British football writer, whose experience did not run beyond Sunday football, it was decided immediately to abandon the idea of betting on Brazil, an eminently sensible decision considering their futile attempt to impersonate Europeans and that the encounter passed without a goal. Not long afterwards, Coutinho drowned while scuba-diving.

An Arsenal director, George Allison, was persuaded to manage the club on Herbert Chapman's sudden death in 1934. Allison had spent 20 years as the London correspondent of William Randolph Hearst's chain of American newspapers, and was the BBC's first football commentator.

Inheriting a team that included the great Scottish schemer Alex James and eight England internationals, Allison, who gave up playing when still a teenager and had never managed, put his name to three League championships and an FA Cup. Apparently, Allison did not not know much about football, but a lot about man management.

Tottenham Hotspur also put their trust, albeit temporarily, in a man who had no qualifications as a coach or a player. While grooming Bill Nicholson for the job, they handed it to a member of the administrative staff, Jimmy Anderson. What Anderson knew about football would not have covered a microchip. He once suggested to Danny Blanchflower that the best way of playing against the Sunderland trickster Len Shackleton was to demoralise him. "If he catches the ball on his shoulder, then you catch it on the back of your head," he said.

Came the day when pressure proved too much for Anderson. "They're at it again," his wife called from the foot of the stairs after scanning the Sunday sports pages. Groaning, Anderson knew it was time to quit.