In his ground-breaking book "The Football Man", published in 1968, Arthur Hopcraft remarked upon a study of the manager as a Svengali figure published in the FA Year Book two years earlier. It contained this wry comment: "At the moment a manager or team manager can be appointed in rather vague circumstances."
Those circumstances centred on the fragile notion that players of outstanding ability were equipped to surmount the difficulties involved in the production of a winning team and the establishment of a sound policy. The most successful managers of that era - Sir Matt Busby, Sir Alf Ramsey, Bill Shankly, Don Revie and Bill Nicholson - had all been top-quality performers on the playing field. But there were examples to prove that fine players do not always make effective managers.
The most arresting was Billy Wright's failure to revive the fortunes of Arsenal. Even the reputation Wright had secured as captain of England with more than 100 international appearances was not enough to gain the confidence of his players, and overcome the doubts that were soon voiced in the boardroom. Sir Stanley Matthews, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, whose career spanned three decades, set all thoughts of management aside after a difficult three-year spell with Port Vale.
Of the men who represented England in the 1966 World Cup final only Jack Charlton made an impact as a manager, qualifying the Republic of Ireland for two World Cups after winning the old Second Division title with Middlesbrough. For all his lauded coolness, perhaps because of it, Bobby Moore was offered only minor posts. Bobby Charlton, a brilliantly gifted footballer, lasted only two seasons as manager of Preston North End. Sir Geoff Hurst, Alan Ball, Martin Peters and Nobby Stiles failed to make the same impact as managers.
Conversely, Jock Stein, a moderate player who was turning out for Llanelli in the Southern League when recruited by Celtic to become player-coach of their reserves, became, through the sheer force of his personality, one of the great managers. Stein was tactically astute, but personality was the key factor in his success.
Following the victory Porto gained over Deportivo La Coruña on Tuesday to reach the Champions' League final it was pointed out on television that their coach, Jose Mourinho, who is rumoured to be Chelsea's chosen successor to Claudio Ranieri, has no playing background at all. When the ITV presenter Des Lynam put this to his pundits Terry Venables and Ally McCoist it wasn't clear from a shrugged response whether they saw Mourinho's rise as remarkable or simply fresh proof of the influence now wielded in the game by men who achieved little or no distinction as footballers.
The playing careers of the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, and the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, are merely footnotes to what they have attained as football educators. Gérard Houllier of Liverpool was a schoolteacher. As history informs us, this is nothing new. Carlos Alberto Parreira who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and is back in charge of the national team, never rose above the level of a goalkeeper in junior games. The great Milan team of Franco Baresi, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard won a Scudetto and two European Cups under Arrigo Sacchi who never kicked a ball. Italy's coach when they lost to Brazil in the 1994 final, Sacchi went around saying: "You don't have to have been a horse to be a jockey."
All successful coaches have the capacity to dominate. They have the will to make their methods tell. As a player, Sir Alex Ferguson fell short of the highest class but his many successes point to superiority in the brains department. Ferguson has been a winner because he has been smarter than most of his competition, because he is an unyielding perfectionist. Brian Clough's advice to budding managers was: "Play all the angles before they start playing you."
Mourinho, a former PE teacher, introduced himself to the game 12 years ago when acting as an interpreter for Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon. He followed Robson from Lisbon to Porto and later Barcelona. When the Englishman left, he stayed to work for Louis van Gaal, later becoming a fully-fledged coach with Benfica and Uniao Leiria before returning to Porto in January 2002. With back-to-back League titles, a Uefa Cup win and a Champions' League final under his belt, Mourinho has come further than even a man of his unshakeable confidence could have possibly imagined.
Mourinho's philosophy is another matter. In the Uefa Cup final against Celtic last year his players were accused of failing to observe the game's spirit. Porto play a hard game, one that relies on total dedication to the team ethic. They do not paint pretty pictures. Pragmatism prevails. This may be enough for Roman Abramovich, but would it be enough for Chelsea's supporters? In the age of the coaching technocrat the standard is being set in north London. Wenger is a winner too, but he does it with unmatchable style.Reuse content