As far as football biographies go, you can’t talk about Alan Shearer’s illustrious Premier League career without mentioning his troubled times with Newcastle. After Kenny Dalglish left the club towards the end of the 20th century, the Toon board reacted by appointing recently sacked former Chelsea boss Ruud Gullit as manager, a player whom Shearer said he knew he wouldn’t get along with right from the off. The pair never quite had a smooth relationship, nor did Gullit have won with the other stars of the squad either, Duncan Ferguson comes to mind, and the apex (or nadir, whichever way you look at it) of it came in late in 1999, when Shearer and Ferguson were both dropped for a crucial Tyne-Wear derby at home to Sunderland, which Newcastle lost, and ultimately caused Gullit to resign. Shearer had always held one belief in him over the Dutchman: that he was a good coach, but a bad manager.
And therein lies the point of discussion here, who is a coach? Who is a manager?
In 1998, when Roy Hodgson was sacked by Blackburn Rovers, the Premier League was thrown into shock when Rovers decided to replace him with Brian Kidd, then Manchester United’s assistant to Alex Ferguson. For Kidd, the motivation was curiosity as much as anything else, ‘I don’t wanna die wondering’ was what he said in his first press conference at the club. Blackburn duly got relegated that year, and after a while Kidd returned to working as a staff member behind the scenes, now with Manchester City, as he realised what everyone also did, he was better off coaching than managing.
But Kidd seems to be a good coach, why isn’t he manager-material as well? Coaching mostly requires on the pitch duty, as coaches carry out training instructions from managers, cases of positioning, shooting, marking and what not. Not that the manager doesn’t do all these as well.
Current Leicester boss Claude Puel is known for developing the finishing skills of the likes of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Anthony Martial among others, proving that the manager more than takes part in coaching, after all, they are known as ‘head coaches’ as well. Puel is also known for the gruelling training routines, particularly at Olympique Lyon, proving that the manager has oversight, the final say when it comes to coaching decisions in the side.
When Liam Rosenior wrote, in the guardian, about getting his manager’s license, he explained how potential managers deal less with tactics, and coaching, but more on the psychological aspect of it, handling egos, facing squad unrest, dealing with the physical and mental stress that comes with management, the aspects that simple coaches don’t quite have to go through. You could have not-so-good coaching going on in the team, but good management could still fashion out productivity, hence the term of managers making some teams ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. Likewise, you could have excellent, but poor management could bring about a team’s downfall. The cases of motivation within the squad, tactical adaptability, player management- knowing when to or not to risk key players for key games- those rest with the manager.
So, by that logic, the term ‘technical advisor’ leans more toward coach than manager. Technical advisors are supposedly experts in their field, football as well, and are mainly charged with offering recommendations to the managers, who decide whether or not to act on them. Technical advisors are supposed to be mostly behind the scenes, and are not necessarily a must-have in a team.
So are managers coaches? Of course, a core part of managing is coaching, hence the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Sean Dyche, Simone Inzaghi, among others, receiving praise for aiding the improvement of players this term, even if the coaches play key parts as well. And that perhaps sums up coaching and managing, the former isn’t quite public figure.
Like a member of a technical crew in making a movie, they’re mostly overlooked in the big stage, recognised only by their managers, or their players.