The Andy Cole Column: Coaching - it's a tough job but somebody’s got to do it
Fired Up! When Sir Alex Ferguson says he expects you to do something, he means it
Thursday 12 November 2009
Sir Alex Ferguson's influence on his players doesn't stop when they leave Manchester United. I had a timely reminder of that last week, in the form of a verbal boot up the backside, but the incident ended up working very much in my favour.
The Boss knows that not all my intentions turn quickly into actions, and when I bumped into him at the Lowry Hotel, near Old Trafford, he pulled me up and asked: "Just when are you going to get on with your badges?" I've taken the first step, working towards my Uefa B licence (there are two levels above the Uefa B licence which I'm working on: the Uefa A and the Uefa Pro licence, which you need to manage in the Premier League, or Europe's top leagues) but he's right, I need to get serious about it. He ended with "I'll be expecting you to come and see us in the very near future" – and when Sir Alex says he expects you to do something, he means it.
There is no better place to watch and learn than the Carrington training ground, and the cast of familiar faces is all part of how United maintains the aura of a family club, which is no mean feat in the modern game. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the current reserve team coach; Brian McClair is the academy director. I'm hopeful that they'll be comfortable enough to let me join them and maybe even put on some sessions.
The downside is I'll have to put my work with Huddersfield on the backburner. I've been working on an informal basis with the strikers there since the start of the season, and I'm grateful for that opportunity, but when Sir Alex comes calling you'd be a fool not to take the chance.
You only need to look at the current coaching set-up at United and the calibre of his assistants down the years to see what high standards they have. In recent years many of them have left Old Trafford to handle massive clubs and international sides, or both, in their own right.
I'm thinking Carlos Queiroz, who left first for a spell at Real Madrid and last year went on to manage Portugal. Walter Smith, likewise, with Scotland and now Rangers. And I count Steve McClaren among them, too. He was at United from 1999 (the season when we won the Treble) to 2001. We we won the Premier League in each of McClaren's three seasons with us. His enthusiasm in training sessions set him apart. Fresh ideas – always enjoyable, different. As a player that's what you want. And before Steve, Brian Kidd was fantastic, too.
That family aura isn't just a gimmick either. The pressure on managers has never been greater, and I'm not just talking about the Premier League, where Liverpool's troubles continue and Manchester City attract criticism when they fail to win – even if they come away with a draw.
Rafa Benitez will either find a way to turn things around, or he won't, but either way he's an experienced guy and knows that top-flight football is a business that demands results. And Mark Hughes, whose team have lost just one game all season, is tough enough to ignore the noise.
But what really shocks me is the treatment of managers lower down the league system – I'm thinking specifically of Darren Ferguson at Peterborough. The club have let him go, and even some of his players have come out saying they've let him down, but that's beside the point.
What should count for something is the awesome job he's done for Peterborough, winning two successive promotions with them to get to the Championship, which is the most competitive division in Britain. And although the start to their season hasn't been fantastic, they are hardly adrift – they're bottom, but only by a single point. Surely he has earned some time? His departure is a disgrace.
The fee for Andy cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. Cole works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar
A trip to Vietnam is no tour of duty
I'll be watching the England match against Brazil on TV – Brazil always bring the promise of attractive football. Then on Sunday, I'll be off on my own exotic travels as I resume my playing career – albeit in some Masters events. First, I fly out to Vietnam, where there are games in Hanoi featuring former players from Manchester United, Liverpool and other Premier League clubs.
Michael Thomas will be there, and David May, and I'm looking forward to the banter, the camaraderie and all the action you miss when retired. Jason McAteer, Andrei Kanchelskis and Ray Parlour are among the other names involved. Then we'll move on to Malaysia. I've been to Kuala Lumpur before on club tours, but never Vietnam. I'm looking forward to it and I'll file my column from there next week.
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