Ken Jones: A manager must be more than just a coach

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A curious thing about this mad sporting world is that any number of people in all walks of life imagine they would be successful in football management. Some have taken the fantasy as far as to put themselves forward seriously for vacant situations.

A curious thing about this mad sporting world is that any number of people in all walks of life imagine they would be successful in football management. Some have taken the fantasy as far as to put themselves forward seriously for vacant situations.

Now that the England rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward, has resigned, apparently as a result of difficulties that have arisen over the release of Premiership players for international training sessions, the quite extraordinary suggestion that he could play a significant role in the future development of the national football team will probably gather impetus.

While it is generally agreed that England's success in the Rugby World Cup last year could not have been achieved without a core of outstanding players, most notably Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio - who added his name to the retirement list this week - Woodward's organisational skills and ruthless decision-making were central to the enormous progress made under his stewardship.

Although he is said to be embarrassed by the indiscreet suggestion that he intends to pursue quickly a career in football immediately after fulfilling a commitment to coach the British Lions next year, Woodward is so clearly consumed by ambition and a high opinion of himself that an unprecedented transition flourishes in his mind.

As a former rugby player of high repute put it this week, England's ascent to the pinnacle of rugby achievement sprang from the structure Woodward was able (with substantial financial support) to put in place, surrounding himself with specialist coaches and fitness experts.

Out of this, Woodward's reputation was made. Out of it, too, may come the inner belief that he can help to improve on the underachievement that has beset English football before and since the World Cup triumph of 1966.

On the other hand, Woodward, despite favouring football as a schoolboy, and the bond he appears to have established with the Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe - another comparative latecomer to the game - has never coached a professional football team at any level and has never borne the responsibility of selecting one.

Whatever came out of the meetings between Woodward and senior FA officials earlier this year, it is pretty clear that he was given no encouragement to believe that his credentials, even if supported by a concentrated effort to secure the necessary coaching qualifications, would be sufficient to justify more than an advisory role.

This week, I have sought the counsel of coaches, all of whom were seriously put out by the thought of Woodward being given an important position in the game. "It simply doesn't make sense," one said. "Woodward is clearly an outstanding coach in his field but in football he would run into problems he has never encountered. There are plenty of people who think they could handle this job but it would not make an atom of sense to employ them."

Holding firm opinions about the game and putting them into practice are entirely different things. This applies equally to identifying faults and bringing about improvement. But as the former England and West Ham manager Ron Greenwood once said, expertise is assumed automatically, even if it amounted to no more than a kickabout in the school playground.

In Woodward's case there are no exact precedents. Arsenal's 1971 Double was secured under the management of Bertie Mee, previously the club's physiotherapist, who left the coaching to Don Howe. "Organisation was Bertie's strong point," Howe said. "The respect was mutual." Ultimately, however, it broke down when Howe was not invited to the ceremony at which Mee was made manager of the year. Soon afterwards, Howe left Highbury to manage West Bromwich Albion.

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. The big difference was that Saldanha, a man of wise and independent virtue, had played professionally and taken a Botofago 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, formerly the national team's head of security. Admitting to no great knowledge of football, he tried to learn as he went along. "I am reading many books about coaching," he told me before a match against England in Rio. For all Coutinho's organisational skills, his attempts to impersonate a European style proved futile.

Then there was George Allison, who was persuaded to manage Arsenal on Herbert Chapman's death in 1934. A director of the club, Chapman had served for more than 20 years as London correspondent of the Hearst chain of American newspapers, and was the BBC's first football commentator. Inheriting a great team, Allison, who gave up playing in his teens, accumulated three League championships and an FA Cup. Apparently he did not know a great deal about football but he, too, was big on organisation.