KIERAN SHANNON: Keane has learned subtle changes in art of management

Jose Mourinho and Roy Keane have a bit in common. If anyone in the party is travelling business class, it shouldn’t be the suits.

More than once when the situation arose that the Chelsea party would be split between economy and business class, Mourinho took up position in the cheap seats and let the players have the cushy numbers; he would lead from the back, not the front.

It might be a strange thing to say about a man who seemed to make the two Champions Leagues he won seem all about him, but even the most confident had a humility about him.

Alex Ferguson and Keane may have something in common too. Keane’s general demeanour around the Irish camp the last week seems to confirm he has changed a lot of his firebrand ways since his imposed exile from management. Ferguson did so a long time ago. He always knew there was still a use for the hairdryer but later in his career he’d realise its power would be in the selectivity.

In a study of leadership back in 1999, a couple of psychologists called Murray and Mann specialising in the area of leadership predicted: “In the 21st century, leadership will be through persuasion and goodwill; it will replace leadership through power and intimidation.” In a new book called Managers: Inside The Minds of Footballer’s Leaders, Ferguson acknowledges to author Mike Carson that football and footballers has changed — and consequently, so did he.

Tony Pulis, who did such a fine job at Stoke before they each had run their course with one another, had a reputation for being old school but he tells Carson he used to be a lot more old school. “I think players — possibly reflecting society in general — take things more personally than they did 20 years ago,” he’d tell Carson, echoing Ferguson’s sentiments. Where once he’d frequently bawl a player out in front of the rest of the group, such criticism was later dished out more privately and more constructively.

It’s a fine book which Carson, a management consultant, has put together. It leaves itself open to accusations of being full of business-speak jargon, but it is unavoidable considering his background and also the similarities between running a business and a football club and/or team. It’s still all about people, and leading them, guiding them. Differentiating between various styles is going to include some shorthand for the initiated and uninitiated alike.

It’s particularly interesting reading as a parallel read to an Irish book with a very similar name. The Managers: The Tactics and Thinkers that Transformed Gaelic Football, by Dáire Whelan says what its subtitle says. Predominantly a study of those men who won All-Irelands, it features fine contributions from the likes of John Morrison and Art McRory, while Carson’s breadth of interviewees extends to the likes of Pulis and Sam Allardyce and Neil Warnock that may have been successful without actually winning the ultimate silverware.

There have been several books on GAA coaches before. Seamus McRory’s Voices from the Sideline. Finbarr McCarthy’s 10 Greatest GAA Managers. Whelan’s work though provides a narrative, from the godfathers of Kerry football such as Dick Fitzgerald and Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan right up to Jim McGuinness. Quite a few of the stories you’ve heard before; others, you won’t have, and by putting them together to monitor and appreciate just how much the game and management has evolved through the years means it is a worthy book for anyone who has ever stood on the sideline — or even abused the man on the sideline.

There are a number of similarities between the books and the coaches, as different as the codes are. One manager talks about making his players feel that you are one step ahead. “At half-time I can say, ‘Boys, in this match if we go to the last 15 minutes level they will take too many risks and we will win it.” You’d think it would be Jim McGuinness or Mickey Harte talking there, between their use of the term ‘boys’ and those boys playing a conservative, counterattacking defence. Instead it’s Mourinho.

“By doing a few things that were different, the players began to believe in me, and that was crucial, because after all I was never famous. For donkey’s years all managers would have been former players. Here was I with no playing experience to my name trying to show them new ways to play the game.” Mourinho? Wenger? Eugene McGee.

Carlos Ancelotti talks about having both steel and empathy. Like Mourinho — and Eamonn Coleman and Billy Morgan — he wasn’t afraid to be friends with players. He wasn’t afraid to put his hand on their shoulder. He wasn’t afraid to drop them either. The art of dropping someone, of picking someone up, what to do when one of your players is arrested, it’s all part of football.

Roy knew that as a player. He seems to realise it’s all part of management too.

Working with O’Neill and possibly reading Carson and Whelan too might give him an even greater understanding of that.


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