Danny Hughes: The survival guide to being a good GAA club manager
WHO is more important to a team? The players or the manager? While watching Liverpool versus Manchester United on Sunday, the context of the result really becomes much more apparent when you consider how the players of both teams have been treated by the respective managers.
Liverpool appear healthy. However, it was hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. Yesterday’s sacking confirmed as much. As a Liverpool supporter, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Yet I do think that if you are an aspiring coach or manager you could definitely learn a thing or two from Jurgen Klopp.
You could also learn a thing or two from Jose, but this may revolve around what not to do.
Take, for example, two supposedly key players. Before the game last weekend, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard appeared in a Twitter post, acting out what appears to be a birthday celebration. Embarrassing stuff from players who are not exactly ‘learning their trade’, as some would say.
The same pair carry huge reputations, not to mention mind-boggling weekly wage packets.
Think of what the average GAA club and inter-county player gives in terms of effort, commitment and dedication. Think of our amateur players in both hurling and football in the context of professional soccer players such as Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.
For many years now, Gaelic football has been too manager-led. A bit like the problems Manchester United now face, many teams can lack real characters and winning attitudes.
A new manager or coach will not matter one iota in real terms if you lack the character or spirit in the changing room.
As we are well aware, the new season in almost every county in Ulster will commence in early spring next year and already preparations are under way at club level under new managers who are based from within and beyond the respective county.
The expenses many clubs are now paying is significant. Personally, for me, the whole thing is becoming uncomfortably out of control. It is hard to know where it is all going to end up.
We could arrive at a scenario which requires a bail-out by Croke Park in some form at club level.
Don’t get me wrong – no manager should be out of pocket when it comes to coaching or managing a team. And there is no doubt, there are easier hobbies out there.
The pressure of coaching a team is not to be underestimated.And sometimes, this can feel like a lonely place, especially when you are losing and perhaps getting a fair bit of criticism from supporters.
You add into this mix the pressures being placed on managers as a result of expenses being handed out and you have the potential of a toxic club atmosphere developing.
Alongside this, if a manager was presiding over an unhappy changing room of players who are perhaps not good enough or committed enough, there can be very few solutions for a manager.
From a player’s perspective, if a manager is receiving expenses which you as a player are not, resentment can manifest itself within the four walls of a changing room – especially as many club players are now contributing to a manager’s and his management team’s expenses.
Indeed, how do players react should they not be regularly playing? Perhaps they also feel they are unfairly treated.
The major issue many clubs find themselves facing relates to this very issue. Players are currently opting not to play under stricter and more demanding managerial regimes.
The whole culture around club football now appears to be a vicious circle around commitment versus expenses versus pressure.
That culture is creating a micro-economy of sorts where there appears to be a small number of managers and coaches revolving around our club teams.
All managers and coaches seek success, trophies and progress. Unfortunately, as we know, there can only be one winner.
So where does that leave us? Not in a healthy place in my opinion.
The bottom line is that a manager needs to inspire and wants players to play for him.
Klopp’s approach achieves this, while Jose’s outdated and confrontational manner doesn’t appear to work anymore.
Appearing to shame a player nowadays, professional or amateur, into a performance is no longer relevant.
From my own experience, I would suggest a few key rules for any aspiring coach or manager to adopt when considering their approach to a new club team.
* IT is a club team, not an inter-county one.
* WE ex-county players tend to expect too much when returning to our own clubs – indeed, moreso when a club goes and hires the recently retired inter-county player as coach or manager.
Should you expect the cones, balls, strength and conditioning coaches, doctor, fully-equipped gym, on-site physio and masseuse at training, you are going to be quickly disappointed.
It is more than likely you will have a few cones, some torn unwashed bibs and you will find yourself heading into the trees and fields to try and retrieve a ball with another club’s name on it as you have lost all the others provided.
You have already been warned by the club treasurer that any new balls will come out of your expenses.
* DO not under any circumstances tell a club player he can’t come back for commitment reasons. This is a tricky one for new managers to understand. I could never tell a club player or servant he is not on the panel or expel him from one due to commitment issues.
The club will need this individual in some capacity over his lifetime and, as an outside manager, you are not a long-term member. You just have to live with the timekeeping, lack of attendance and general slack attitude.
You will just have to bench him until you have only 14 players midway through the year and then give him game-time.
* YOU cannot shame club players into performances. At one time, this was all managers did. I have news for you. Shame a player into a reaction and you will get one – just not the one you expect. The club player leaves, citing the manager’s bad attitude. This talented genius has the ability to get you the sack and, eventually, albeit indirectly, he will. Who wins? The talented genius wins, in the long-term.
Best thing to do? Get the talented genius on your side, perhaps a six pack of beer, and watch him want to play for you. A new approach worth trying, I think.
* YOU are the reason for failure. As the new outside manager, it’s your fault. If you are going to get expenses, then why should the players take the blame. You are basically receiving money to take abuse, abuse and more abuse. It is what it is. Make your peace with it.
* YOU are on double the expenses you have agreed. As a result of the whispering culture, the local gossip-monger has in fact told everyone that you are on twice the rate agreed with the committee. This has added to the pressure you are under and the pressure you feel. According to reports from your nearest rivals, you have already paid off the mortgage and upgraded the car.