01 Oct 2009
THE FUTURE: NEXT GENERATION
Young, keen and itching to prove their mettle in the dugout, we hear the expectations and ambitions of four future managers.
I’ve always been intrigued by management and got my first taste of it a few seasons ago when George Burley left Hearts. I was made joint caretaker/player manager for a couple of weeks while the board decided on their new manager. Then, when George Burley became Scotland manager, he asked me to join his coaching staff while I was still playing.
Having that hands-on experience with Scotland has been terrific for me. I feel extremely honoured to have been given that platform from which to learn how top players in Scotland and around the world work. I’ve been involved with on-field performances as well as some very difficult, well publicised off-field situations with players. Seeing how they were dealt with has been hugely educational. I’ve learnt a great deal about management through working with George Burley and Terry Butcher.
I was only 20-years old when I did my B licence. I went on to take my A licence and UEFA Pro Licence, which I believe all aspiring coaches and managers should do. It opens your eyes to everything from what happens on the training field to dealing with your club’s board of directors. On the Pro Licence in Scotland, managers such as Sam Allardyce, David Moyes and Kenny Dalglish gave seminars and shared their insight. It was hugely educational.
I know that the ability to handle different characters will be important as a manager, as will an appreciation of the types of training that players respond to. In the modern game, you have to get the right blend of tactics and team preparation, while still allowing your players to enjoy training. Since my appointment as assistant manager at Falkirk in June, I’ve worked hard with manager Eddie May to strike that balance.
I have learnt something from each of my past managers. Gordon Strachan was very intelligent and greatly respected by the players. He’d punish them when necessary, but would keep it in the dressing room rather than making it public. I also thoroughly enjoyed working with Walter Smith and Craig Levein.
Young managers get little time to prove themselves these days. I intend to make sure I’m as well prepared as possible. My roles with Falkirk and Scotland will be of huge benefit to me in that, giving me time to develop as a coach and do some all-important networking in the industry. It is great to be able to learn on the training field and experience a range of situations, without having the burden of making the final decisions just yet.
One day, I’d like to manage in England at the highest level. For many years, there have been very positive role models in English football for young Scottish coaches.
JIMMY FLOYD HASSELBANK
Football is my life and I’d like to give something back through management. I hope that my determination and desire to get things right will help me to succeed. However, it’s important that the players buy into that desire, because while you can guide them in the direction you want them to go, they make the final on-field decisions. One of the biggest challenges I foresee as a manager will be communicating with the team. You have to be flexible enough to communicate effectively with players at both ends of the age spectrum, give individuals the level of attention they need and manage different personalities.
I’m currently studying for my A licence at Chelsea and have had the opportunity to coach the U17s team. I’m also going to FC Twente in Holland for a month to coach under Steve McClaren and learn from him. I will certainly try to emulate some of my former managers. For example, while Guus Hiddink was a hard taskmaster to play under, he was greatly respected by the players because he was very honest and fair. If he put you on the bench he’d explain why. George Graham, meanwhile, is one of the best at getting the most out of players. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to visit other managers, such as Arsène Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, to watch and learn from them.
I’d like to join a club that believes in me and that will give me the time I need to prove myself. And one that is aiming high, not just happy to survive. It would also be great to work alongside an older, more experienced assistant manager, who can advise me and provide a different perspective. There are so many talented and experienced coaches in English football and their knowledge is valuable. I hope my experience of playing overseas and knowledge of the English game will be a good basis for my career. I want to manage in England, so it’s encouraging to see former colleagues like Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo being successful here. For me, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER
From an early age, I’ve been interested in the tactical side of football and I’ve always seen myself going into coaching at some point. When I was a young boy, I’d play computer games where you could be the manager and when I watched football matches on TV every Saturday in Norway I’d make a note of the team line-ups and what systems they were playing.
I had planned that after I retired from playing I’d take six months or a year off – I’d promised my wife. But, about 20 seconds after I told the gaffer I was retiring he said, “Why don’t you stay and coach my forwards?” I couldn’t say no to a learning opportunity like that with Manchester United. So I said yes and had to go back and tell my wife.
Sir Alex Ferguson has made reference to how well I read a game when on the bench and I take that as a compliment. It wasn’t something I did on purpose, it was just natural for me to sit and analyse a game. I feel very privileged to be in this position. Now I’m no longer a player, I can pick his brains more and he opens up and talks to you in a different way. He’s very generous at imparting knowledge and advice and I’ve learnt many things over the last two years – in particular, how he deals with people and picks players.
When I was a player, I knew I couldn’t be the same as Ryan Giggs or David Beckham, but I could try to be good at one thing they did. In the same way, I pick the best qualities of each manager and aspire to that. You have to be yourself, but you can learn from other people as well. I believe encouragement is an effective way to get what you want out of the players, so I always try to look at the positives when I’m coaching, as well as correcting mistakes where necessary.
I have passed my A & B licences and I will start my UEFA Pro Licence this summer. It’s very important that you have a base and structure to what you are doing, because moving from playing into management and coaching is a big change. When you have the opportunity to coach, you can put the theory into practice and deal with issues when they arise, but having formal training and qualifications prepares you for the reality.
I’ve been offered a few head coach jobs in Norway, but as reserve team manager you can learn without the pressure or limelight. But I’m not afraid of that pressure – I’m looking forward to experiencing it again, as I did as a player. I am delighted to have this job in which I can progress and learn from my mistakes.
When I was a player, going into management didn’t really cross my mind and I didn’t take any coaching badges. In hindsight, that was a mistake, because they give you more perspective on the game and really make you think about everything. I’ve now my done my A and B licences and would advise any young player to do the same.
When I had to retire through injury, my manager at Leicester City, Micky Adams, asked me to stay and coach the goalkeepers. Kevin Keegan then asked me to join his coaching staff at Manchester City, which was a great opportunity to work with different people with different ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed working for both Kevin and then Stuart Pearce.
When Iain Dowie called me up out of the blue and asked me to be his assistant manager at Coventry, I jumped at the chance to take on more responsibility. I later went on to be his assistant at QPR. Since leaving QPR, I’ve been watching and learning from football at all levels.
The transition from player to manager was probably harder for me at Leicester City, because I went straight from being one of the lads in the dressing room to being a member of the coaching staff. Going to Manchester City was easier as I didn’t know many of the players. I was the goalkeeping coach and not a former colleague.
As well as working as Iain Dowie’s assistant, I’ve worked under many great managers, either as a player or a coach, and have learnt a great deal from them. I won the Barclays Premier League title under Kenny Dalglish and the League Cup under Martin O’Neill and the thing that struck me about their two tenures was the simplicity of their approach to winning. They believed you don’t have to overcook it. Both also had an eye for a good player and I learnt from them that recruitment is a massive part of successful management. I often reflect on my past managers and how they would handle certain situations.
I want my training sessions to be upbeat, sharp and enjoyable. I have found that if a session goes on for too long or there’s too much information, the players tend to switch off. I know that Arsène Wenger does everything on the clock.
It’s not easy to get an interview for a manager’s job these days, let alone a job. You have to be as prepared as possible and draw on what experience you have. Having been an assistant manager, I understand the responsibilities that come with management. Once appointed, you get very little time to make an impact, so need to be quick in assessing your players and conveying your ideas to them. I know that it’s hard work and I’m conditioned to the long hours that come with the job. But I have plenty of energy and it’s the job I want to do.