"Why aren't you doing this? Mourinho does it!" Because he's at Chelsea, and this is an U8s grassroots team.
It's seen year after year with fans. The mighty Blackburn Rovers have been in a crisis for the last five years. We seem to be largely ignored by the mainstream media and football fans in general, as we're not a fashionable club that people have any affinity with. We did however (definitely didn't) buy the league, right? So it's what we deserve. When the inevitable happens, and our manager is sacked, and new names are linked with taking the hot seat, most fans moan and moan about the names in the hat for the job. Steve Bruce, Owen Coyle, Gary Megson, Steve McLaren, Mick McCarthy etc. Some become even suicidal over the thought of one of these men leading our club. "We need a motivator, like Mourinho". We need someone young with passion and new ideas, like Pochettino". "We need someone like Koeman who is going to buy cheap and buy well". "We need someone like Klopp who is going to play exciting attacking football". It's amazing how despite such good ideas and all the will in the world, these men never come to cash-strapped mid-table Championship Blackburn. Why could that be?
The problems at Rovers run deep. The Championship is like a lottery. The difference between 1st and 24th is not really that far when looking at quality, points, and how well they did the season before. Absolutely anyone could go up or go down. The tenure of a manager in that league is something like a fortnight these days. But why? Most teams are struggling for money, don't have a squad of brilliant players, and are cycling through the same thirty managers over a three year period. Eventually you get the winning combination of right manager, right squad, right place, right time. That's essentially how it works. So why are we placing so much importance upon the manager?
We've all seen greatness in one way or another. Certainly with those in leadership roles, the demand for greatness is far higher than that which we place upon our peers and ourselves. We need a saviour. Someone to rescue us from this mediocrity. Anything other than an unbeaten treble season will be seen as a failure (you just have to listen to some of the callers on TalkSport to understand the sheer delusion of sports fans and their expectations). We judge all of our teachers by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, and we judge all of our coaches by John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, and Alex Ferguson. Are we all truly deserving of such a great leader? Have I actually ever done anything to deserve having one of them as my coach? Can I really expect that level if I am playing in an U10s team in a park?
It seems that if you're not giving Al Pacino type speeches at half time, and parading up and down the touchline like a man possessed, you don't know what you're doing. It seems a strange concept to me. I am routinely criticised, in every country I have worked in, for not being passionate enough, For not shouting enough. There are several points that need to be considered here, and I shall attempt to address them all accordingly.
What is passion and why is it important? You need to be having a heart attack each game, and be red in the face, foaming at the mouth. That's passion, right? Seems to me like lack of emotional control. I think this short poem sums it up:
"Passion is living uncomfortably on purpose
It is choosing to stay up late
And wake up early
It is choosing to forego certain luxuries
And sometimes even some necessities
It is choosing to look foolish
Even when you care what others think
It is asking for advice
And choosing not to take it
It is being afraid and anxious
But going out of your comfort zone anyway"
A lot of people, particularly parents, try to judge me based on the small glimpse that they get of me. They may see the ninety minutes of the game, see me escape the game without suffering an aneurysm, not kick bottles or throw notepads down in disgust, and not slaughter my players. I sound like a horrible coach, right? Perhaps it's my almost autistic personality that makes me come across as uncharismatic, uninspiring, and perhaps even uninterested. But then do I need to be? Aren't you paying loads of money, giving up three days a week, and travelling the country to play the game you love with your friends? Surely if you're not self-motivated enough to perform after all of that, you're wasting your own time, and everybody else's. To achieve true, sustainable success, we need intrinsically motivated players, not those that only play if the coach shoves a rocket up their backside.
It's this snapshot that people base their opinions on. Our team is playing, and they look over to see Spock in the dugout, wearing a tracksuit, and making notes. This Vulcan looks so out of place stood at the side of a football pitch. Again, off of my most recent batch of criticism, and my most recent comparison to Guardiola, I'm just left wondering what on Earth these people are on about? The very next night I went to see Reading play Man City in the WSL. The Reading manager, a man probably around five to ten years older than me, spent most of the game within my view as I was sat pretty close to the dugouts. He was rather animated. One dad pointed out how I don't shout during games or training, and then within the same breath said "but admittedly, I haven't been to a game yet". That's almost too stupid to comprehend. What is this obsession with shouting? Anyway, I watched the Reading manager with some intent. Most of his animation was aimed at the referee. Unless I am being completely biased, he gave about the same amount of tactical instruction during a game as I do. The difference is that he also filled his time with other noise and a lot of gesticulations.
|Got a picture with England and Man City captain that evening too! Myself with Steph Houghton|
What is this obsession with shouting? If my players felt like they were not prepared or guided sufficiently before or during a game, they would say so. Some of them do, and I take the time to explain it to them again, or in a different way. I do give quite a fair amount of instructions, so I'm wondering what the problem is. It's because 90% of it is done during the teamtalk, when parents can't see or can't hear what I'm saying. From their point of view, I hand out shirts, put down cones, and then make notes about a game of football for ninety minutes. It must appear quite strange when you think of it like that. My view is that you fail to prepare, prepare to fail (Performance = Ability + Preparation). The game we won on Saturday, I maintain that we won that on Thursday evening in training. How many of the parents were there, watching me guide players around the practice pitch? Zero. But they were there to see Lieutenant Spock make notes about his side's 4-2 win on Saturday, and then they were there to see Lieutenant Spock make notes about his side's 10-3 loss on Sunday. For the Sunday game, kicking off twenty three hours later, we had exhausted players, a three hour bus journey, injuries obtained during the game, and as a result, players on their last legs, playing out of position, in what to most of them was a completely new system. Perhaps if I had shouted at them, their muscle fatigue would have disappeared, and they would understand positions that are not their own as if by magic.
But I'm not passionate, because I don't shout.
I have got to have spent over £20,000 on my coaching education, and I am nowhere near done yet. I have left my family, my comfort zone, even former girlfriends (it's very hard to find one when you flirt like Spock), flown across continents, coached in foreign languages. This season I will be going to over seventy games of football - either to coach or to watch. For the last six or seven years, it must be a similar number, but I decided to keep track for a laugh. I have watched games in more countries than most people have been to.
But I'm not passionate, because I don't shout.
And then people have the sheer audacity to try to give me some friendly advice. A few pointers. "I don't know if you've worked with women before...", "I don't know how much coaching you may have done..." That is so incredibly insulting! But because I am Spock, I see no validity in pointing out the fallacy, which would only serve to spark a conflict. Rather than beginning with "I don't know how much..." why not start with "Have you ever..." or "How long have you...". Then, I don't think you're an ignorant condescending... Outrageous. They don't even know they're doing it. They genuinely think they're being helpful. Imagine going up to David Beckham, not knowing it was him, and trying to give him some advice on how to curl free-kicks into the top corner. 'Ere, Dave! Listen mate, I don't know if you've taken many free kicks before, but what you need to do is... If he just stood there smiling, nodding, and agreeing, you might feel some genuine good in your heart, like you've helped a poor lost soul. That's your good deed done for the day. Wouldn't you feel a bit silly when you realised how arrogant you just came across to one of the game's finest ever dead ball specialists? For that very reason, I attached a link to my LinkedIn profile on a recent email, saying "For those of you who wish to know more about the man that's coaching you or your daughter..." Petty, I know, but still... shove it.
While you people out there are sat on your fat bottoms watching Gogglebox, as another bunch of people are sat on their fat bottoms watching TV (You're literally watching people watch TV! The 1969 Moon landing really was the pinnacle of humanity, as surely we are now too moronic a species to ever take such a great leap again) I am reading, writing essays, watching videos of games or sessions, or even travelling to or from a game. That's passion. I got accused of having no passion in Mexico all the time. Essentially, being English, and not becoming annoyed and making a huge emotional deal out of everything ever, I have no passion. It's all for show. These disingenuous folk would quit at the first sign of trouble. Passion is perseverance, resilience, and determination.
All the good coaches I know, all that I aspire to be like, are thoughtful, analytic, considerate, cerebral. They all have plans. Coaching is not reactive, and nor is it instructive. It is guidance. It is facilitation. Mourinho recently criticised Cristiano Ronaldo's hysterics from the bench during the 2016 Euro final, as Portugal beat France 1-0. Ronaldo was heralded as a hero, for overcoming the disappointment of injury, and for spurring his team on to win. Some fans even called him the manager of the tournament. Mourinho, who has won everything as a manager, multiple times, in different countries, was heavily laid into on Facebook by a group of neanderthals that can hardly form a sentence. Apparently Mourinho is just jealous because he was never a good player. That's really not it at all. Ronaldo lost all emotional control that night. The players on the pitch got their jobs done in spite of his input, not because of it. Imagine if Portugal would have lost, as they nearly did in the last few seconds. Ronaldo would have been blamed for putting far too much pressure on the team, and for becoming a distraction.
Seriously, imagine the situation. It's the Euro final. You are representing your country. You have dreamed about this moment for your entire life. The whole world is watching. That includes everyone who wants you to succeed, and everyone who wants you to fail. It doesn't get bigger than this. You're in no mind to half effort this whatsoever. We are all aware of how unlikely it is, even the top players will ever get to play in an international final. Ibrahimovic, Bale, Shevchenko, Shearer etc. So many players to have broken transfer records and be labelled the country or world's best player never get to play on that stage. You are so motivated to be here, and you are so motivated to win. If you are not enthused by this point, if you are not already motivated enough to perform, then you're really not much of a football player. Consider for a moment that many on the field play for the top club sides in Europe, and are used to big stages. Your teammate shouting and screaming on the sideline is hardly a productive influence. The coach wasn't doing it, so why did Ronaldo feel the need to do it? For this very reason; Have you ever told someone to be careful when crossing the road, to not fall out of a tree or off a fence, or to not drop something expensive or cherished? Why exactly are you telling them that? No one wants to die when crossing the road. Just ask the chicken why he is crossing the road - he's not doing it because he wants to die. People say these things because they are scared; scared that the one they are talking to is incompetent, and scared that they could not handle the suffering that comes with such a critical mistake. "If you got hit by a car, I don't know what I'd do!" So now when crossing the road, you're not just looking left and right, trying to avoid traffic, you're thinking "I better not die, or else mum will be so upset." I'm being a tad facetious, but you get the point. I don't think Ronaldo could have handled losing, and I don't believe he feels Portugal are good enough without him. I didn't see a passionate leader out there. I saw a scared man that had lost control.
Why did the pigeon cross the road? Because he was having sex with the chicken.
What many of us ignore, or simply don't grasp, is the complete fluky nature of the game. During that Saturday game, in which we won 4-2, we could rightly have been losing 2-0 after twenty minutes. Our opponents had a free-kick that cannoned back off the post and away to safety. All we could do was watch as it flew by. Then another, a clear goal scoring opportunity, also came back off the post. A couple inches more, and there's two goals. We then scored with our first attack. We then scored with our second attack. What's the odds of that happening? We did play well, and limited the scoring opportunities of our opponents, no doubt about it, but I genuinely believe that fortune masked our inadequacies just a little bit. I didn't like the positioning or recovery of some of the players, but we got away with it. Game won. I appear like a genius, right? Everyone is really happy and confident. So let's characterise luck in football as "benefiting from positive outcomes of events of which you had no control", such as the free-kick coming back off the post. Not a thing we could have done to influence that in any way. Once it left her boot, it was up to God. According to the work in The Numbers Game, a game is decided by about 50% luck. When games are often decided by only one or two goals (1-0, 1-1, 2-0, 2-1) as an average of two goals are scored per game, you can see how in the hundreds of thousands of intricate moments of a match, how one quick lapse in concentration, or one fortuitous call, or one dodgy bounce, can decide the match. Hundreds of thousands of moments, but it only takes one to get it so right or so wrong.
Performance = Results is not strictly true. There is a definite positive correlation between winning and playing well, we all know that, but there have also been times when a team has played like garbage and won, or played brilliantly and lost. Rovers lost 3-2 away to Spurs at White Hart Lane many years ago, and it still sticks in my mind as one of their best ever games. A Robbie Keane handball that wasn't given leading to a Spurs goal, a clear Paul Stalteri handball in the penalty area that wasn't given, and even a few other contentious calls that went against Blackburn. I've named just two that could easily lead to game deciding moments, that would take a goal away from Tottenham, and give a goal to Blackburn. That's enough to change the favour of that match to 2-3. Football is on a knife edge. Rovers played incredibly for ninety minutes and lost. Spurs played awfully, got a few lucky calls, and yet won. Because as an inferior species we place our evaluation of games upon the W or the L, we often miss what really counts. If you get your performance right most of the time, you will win games most of the time. It's actually that simple. There's really nothing else to it.
We measure games and leagues in terms of wins, losses, goals, points etc. as that is completely objective. There's no argument. This team won because they scored more goals. This team are first place because they have the most points. It's measurable even to the point that complete novices can tell you which team has won. So then why am I, as a coach, so obsessed with performance rather than result? It's because you often can't determine the result, as has been proven, but you can determine your level of performance. You can do this, week in, week out. Your fitness, your preparation, your desire, and your organisation - those are four factors that are entirely within your control, and that week to week, you should be working on and monitoring. If you get those things right, you'll definitely play well. If you play well, you'll probably win. See what I mean? See what I mean? I don't go crazy at goals, because it is highly circumstantial. When I see a really good move come out that we rehearsed in training, or the players identify the pictures that I have been showing them, that's great, and is far better than a goal, because I actually had some direct input on that. It shows me that what I am doing is working.
My role as a reserve team manager is to provide a platform for the younger players to develop, helping them get ready for the step into the first team. It's a huge jump for some. Adult football is a big scary world. They don't need an ogre like me to shout at them and add unnecessary pressure. They are adapting to new surroundings, new demands, new teammates. How is screaming and being critical of them going to help with that process in any way? Feedback, yes, that's an absolute necessity. I haven't been doing as much of that lately as I could, but there's reasons for that; some of them are a little fragile for that at the moment, and I'd like to see them adjust a little more before I start being critical of them, while also, I like to watch. We have two eyes for seeing, one mouth for shouting (paraphrased), so constantly telling them what to do, won't actually tell me what they can do.
I am a facilitator, no doubt about it. I don't look to give them information that they don't already know, but instead give them the tools which they can use to find out and assimilate new information on their own. I provide a structure and a framework. The routine and the consistency provides a great environment within which they can measure their own successes and failures, and can self-correct, often with guidance if requires. I'm not going to give them all the answers, because I can't do it for them on the pitch. It's like with babies, If you forever wipe their bottom and feed them with a spoon, they will never become independent. I can't send our first team manager coach-dependent players. They need to be self motivated, intelligent, open minded, driven, and willing to take on board feedback.
That's what many of my critics seem to forget. I am not a top coach at a top club with millions to spend, looking to win trophies. Their job and their mission is so different to mine. That's another reason why comparisons to Pep are so ludicrous. It's a completely different game. I have the time and the environment to be patient with players, to give them guidance, help, hold their hand if necessary, and give them the gentle nudges and prods in the right direction. My job is to prepare and develop players to play at a higher level. I am not picking a best eleven every week to go out and win games (we still want to win, and have every intention of doing so, before anyone starts that one), but I can play a weaker player to give them game time, and I can play a player in an unfamiliar position in order to develop a new side of their game. In the first team, if you can't do what the manager asks you to do there and then, you're effectively useless. In the reserves, we can help with that. We have time.
Another contribution must be that people like to panic. I don't panic. It's an unnecessary emotion. I can logically weigh up the chances, pros and cons, and decide a course of action, while remaining completely focused and completely at peace. Because others can't do that, they begin to question your sanity. I keep saying "I got this", and invariably I do. I am asking for others to share my confidence and patience, but they don't. They are quick to worry. But why? I am the one with the plan, the information, the experience, and the knowledge. If I'm not worried, it's because there is nothing to worry about. It's like when driving and the idiot next to you suddenly shouts "WATCH OUT!" and you begin frantically scanning to determine where the danger is. Turns out it was something you had already identified, had taken steps to avoid, and were now calmly manoeuvring around, because you are the one in control, and you are the one with the information. That irritating little turd isn't driving, and often hasn't been looking at the road ahead like you have. What's worse is when there is nothing to worry about, and it's just their terrible eyesight. What a wonderful metaphor for being a coach dealing with parents.
There's so much logic in what I do and why I do it. I am trying to do a better job of showing what my way is to my detractors, but at the same time, being careful that I am not just giving them more rope with which to hang me with. I've already been told off for making jokes and using bad language (I don't use any of the big seven four letter words, just English slang) just wait until they see the football and compare it to how I want it played! Some parents have mentioned (in preseason, this whole rant comes from preseason) that the players are unsure of what I want them to do. For now, I just want them to do as I tell them and let me watch them. Like I have said before; I don't know how good a player is if she is only doing what I tell her to do.
Amongst all this criticism, there has to be a kernel of truth. What they really mean is that my game management is not effective. True. It's deliberately toned down so that the players can make their own decisions. Maybe I could start providing a bit more in game feedback, but how much, in the grand scheme of things, is that likely to raise their performance during one match? 5%? maybe. What about when comparing it to my mission statement, how much is it likely to have a long term sustained effect on their continuous growth as independent footballers? 0.0035%. Just a rough estimate.
So now we need to determine how much of a role the manager plays in top level football. How important are they? It is said that a manager is accountable for up to 15% of a team's performance. That's positively or negatively, meaning that in the Premier League, if all other circumstances were the same, a good manager would move the team up by three places. If the only difference from one season to the next is that one change of manager in that one club, and all the other players and countless number of variables involved with all the other teams stayed exactly the same, a good manager could only have that much of a difference. If you're in fourth place, that's good news, same as if you're in twentieth. It can even have financial rewards as another place higher in the table is worth a larger amount of prize money.
To some extent we can see this at Chelsea. From Mourinho, right through Ancelotti, Scolari, Villas Boas, Di Matteo, Benitez, Hiddink, and even back to Mourinho and Hiddink, Chelsea have just about stayed the same. Always competing for the title, picking up a trophy or two each season, achieving more success than not. These are not bad managers, but they were all moved on at one point for some reason or another. And then there's Arsenal under Wenger, the other extreme, always finishing second, third, or fourth. To a large extent, cups are pot luck, whereas the league is the true test of who is the champion. For a cup, you need to win six or seven games. For a league, you have to battle it out for around forty matches. In the league you play everybody. In the cup, you could play anybody. What if all the big teams knock each other out, and then the time that you go to play them, they have a Champions League tie in three days, have two key injuries, three suspensions, and there's been a recent fight on the training ground. And how about their sub keeper is playing in goal, and then gets a red card, and is replaced by an outfield player for the last fifty minutes of the game? One of those days where everything goes wrong for them, and everything goes right for you. It's bound to happen once or twice in the season. If it happens in the cup, you go through to the next round. If it happens in the league, it's only three points out of a possible 140 odd. The stake of the game impacts the likelihood of resulting success. Just have a look at Portsmouth's 2008 FA Cup run to understand what luck is.
What managers can you think of that have made a huge profound impact upon their clubs? An obvious example is Sir Alex Ferguson. When he went to Manchester United, things weren't going very well. Since then, they went on to win just about everything, several times over, and have become the most successful and iconic club in the country, and are one of the most favourite around the globe. Could Ferguson have done that at another club? Could Manchester United have done that with another manager? It's hard to know for sure, but there will definitely be a case of right time, right place. So much of it is down to circumstance. People always talk about Hiddink doing a fantastic job at Chelsea, clearing up Mourinho's mess. WTF? Mess? Hiddink inherited the English champions. One of the best and most talented sides in Europe. They were just on a bad run. It's nothing serious. Sometimes it happens. Blackburn are only one win away from ending their five year bad run of form. What we know with Chelsea at the time is that they were not going to be awful forever. English champions were always bound to come good again at some point. They didn't have to worry about Champions League football when Hiddink took over, and had also played a lot of their more difficult games. Hiddink's first few games were relatively easy, and probably would have been won under Mourinho too. It was a pretty safe bet for Hiddink to take that job, as there was no expectation placed on him, and things were only going to get better.
It's the same as when Harry Redknapp took over at Spurs from Juande Ramos. He dined out on that one for years. He got them from the relegation zone into the top four, as if by magic. Again, Spurs were not exactly a bad side, they just had a bad start. They were always going to get better, and their fixtures were about to become considerably easier. There's often a spike in form when a new manager takes over anyway. The first six games of a new manager are often much better than the last six games under the old manager. Because fans are idiots, that first six games gives a lot of leeway in regards to bad results. If the new manager were to go six games unbeaten, and then be slaughtered in the seventh, the fans would be a lot more understanding than if the old manager achieved the same results. With the new manager it can be excused "It's just one game, he's still getting used to the squad, he's already proven he knows what he's doing" would be the sentiment felt on the terraces. If it were the old manager, receiving a smashing in the seventh game after going unbeaten for six "Well that just proves it! He's incompetent. That result was entirely his fault. The players aren't playing for him anymore."
I don't want my players to play for me. Absolutely not. They should be playing because they love football and want to be successful. If their effort level is determined by how much they like the coach then they're a bit of an idiot really.
It's all about perspective, which can be so easily tainted. Now we know that a manager makes only little difference from season to season. I can apply a bit of my own experience to this. When I took over the reserves, we were given no hope of anything other than bottom, and probably without a win. It was looking that way until around Christmas time, and then we had four players leave in a short space of time. No tears were shed. In the end, we put a good run of results together, played some good football, and finished 7th. Success. Was it down to me? Not really. The most I can claim is probably the difference between 7th and 8th. And here's why. We weren't as bad as everybody initially thought we were. Losing those players was actually a huge blessing in disguise as they had become a burden. The league may not have been as difficult as originally thought, because there were two teams that were definitely worse than us. I can take credit for dragging one more team beneath us, but that's it. We're likely to go a couple places higher this season, but again, my input on that has been limited. If we do, it's because I picked better players during the trials. The talent was obvious. Any other coach would have spotted that. It's nothing miraculous or amazing. There is no secret. If you have better players, you will probably do better.
When Chelsea, Man City, or Blackburn (who definitely didn't buy the league) started investing heavily, that's what gave them the platform for success. They still had to go out and win games, and a good manager can help you do that. Money essentially buys you a raffle ticket. In any given season maybe only three or four teams can afford a raffle ticket, and then one of them does better than the other two or three. Managers can make a difference. I believe that Manchester United will win the league this season under Mourinho, and Man City will come second with Pep. Some factors there are that both teams can't be bad again this season, and both Spurs and Leicester won't be so brilliant for two years running. Already that changes the make up of the top four teams (teams with a raffle ticket). Arsenal will do an Arsenal, Liverpool aren't actually that good, Leicester and Spurs will struggle, and Chelsea have some serious rebuilding to do. Guardiola will improve Man City tactically, but I think it's too much to do in his first season there. The Premier League is not a one or two horse race like he has been used to. Mourinho knows how to win the Premier League, and has Ibrihimovic, who has proven it impossible to finish any position other than first. Isn't Mourinho the only manager in the Premier League to have won the Premier League (apart from Wenger, who has clearly forgotten how it was done)? I will have to check that. And he's at a club that has written the book on how to win Premier League titles. When other teams win it, they're simply borrowing it from Manchester United.
Unless you put in someone with complete incompetence, the team shouldn't really do any better or worse, until you employ a genius manager. A lot of managers are sacked in low positions, but had they been given time, the teams would have recovered. That's not the way in modern football. It's only when a complete catastrophe of a manager comes in, like Brian Kidd or Steve Kean, that you need to panic. These men were so clearly out of their depth that it was horrible to watch. Like a car crash in slow motion. You can see the look on people's faces as they realise what is about to happen, and that they can't stop it.
The thing about coaches is that they are just like you and I. They are hardly remarkable people. Just like teachers. Remember when you saw a teacher outside of school? Perhaps shopping or at a restaurant. Don't you live in the school? Coaches have families, hobbies, desires, feelings, goals, dreams, fears just like the rest of us. Some are unpleasant in their spare time, some are genuinely nice people. Some give to charity, others tell the homeless man to get a job. Some don't drink or smoke, others can't run ten feet without wheezing. Some wash their hands with soap, others take dumps and walk straight out the bathroom. Just like the rest of the population. Anyone has the potential to be a coach. Anyone has the potential to be just about anything they want to be.
You have to be quite ambitious to be a coach. I believe a lot of people lack that. Do they not know what they are capable of, or can they not be bothered? Frankly, I don't know which is worse. To me, they're both scary thoughts. To be a coach you have to think you are worth listening to, and in order to do that, you have to know stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but some stuff. Enough stuff. It depends on your level. A lot of people have good knowledge of football. I'd even say there are people out there who don't work within football who know the game better than I do. But why aren't they a coach? Perhaps they wanted to have a successful career and go to bed early. I joke, but it's true. Why do it when all you receive is criticism?
It's not an easy task. I could hardly even describe it as a worthwhile task. I think it shares that same kind of self sacrifice you get with parenting. You have to have this unrelenting resolve and care for your players. So many players have referred to their former coaches as like a second father, or some other key figure in their lives. That's a huge responsibility. That is a very tight bond. A lot of people aren't prepared for that. There's also the disappointment. Your players will let you down, time and time again. They will throw it all back in your face. They will blame, criticise, stomp their feet, and deliberately cause you problems. And why? All you're trying to do is make them better at sport. Just like as a parent, you do all you can to shelter them, provide for them, and guide them, and then they go and listen to One Direction. Some things are unforgivable.
It may be Star Wars again, but there is wisdom. In order for me to care about the team, I need to not care about the team. If I become too attached to players, then I have favourites and my judgement is clouded. If I start to treat the team as MINE! then I begin to put my hopes and desires before that of the team, which is a very dangerous path to go down. Instead, I have compassion, or unconditional love, shown in the form of one (optional) three second hug at the end of the season. I really don't like people.
"They don't care what you know until they know you care" - is a very true expression in regards to coaching. I do care. Deeply. But how does Mr. Spock show others that he cares? Simple. Consistency. Always be there. Always put them first. Always make sacrifices. Always help them. Always give them feedback. Always find something positive about their performance. Always give them a fair chance. Always treat them with respect. Always be available for communication. Always be open and welcoming. Always be disciplined. Consistent is defined as; acting or done in the same way over time, especially as to be fair or accurate.
This spiel is from the Tom Hanks movie Bridge of Spies:
Rudolf Abel: Standing there like that you reminded me of the man that used to come to our house when I was young. My father used to say: “watch this man”, so I did, every time he came. And never once he did anything remarkable.
James Donovan: And I remind you of him?
Rudolf Abel: This one time, I was at the age of your son, our house is overrun by partisan border guards. Dozen of them. My father was beaten, my mother was beaten, and this man, my father’s friend, he was beaten. And I watched this man. Every time they hit him, he stood back up again. Soldier hit him harder, still he got back up to his feet. I think because of this they stopped the beating and let him live. “Stoikiy muzhik”. Which sort of means like a “standing man”. Standing man.
I can see a lot of myself in that story, and of other coaches. There's nothing incredible about us, just that we stand there and take it, and never give up. Sure, I could devote countless hours to convince people to see the world my way, but it's not an effective use of my time. You've got to remember, I am currently at a volunteer or part time level, not being paid millions. I don't need nor do I have disciples. Essentially, my word is law, because I'm the only idiot brave enough and stupid enough to give up my time and make these decisions. It has to be done my way. When I worked in Canada, the chair of the club set out a very important rule that she made abundantly clear to everyone; parent coaches, no matter how good or bad your kid is, they play. You can't be giving up all that time and then have people question you about giving favouritism to your child. Your child plays. Simple as that.
One of my biggest problems is my apparent lack of empathy. Like I said earlier, I do care. I really do. I just don't have time for petty excuses, or anything that stands to get in our way. Had a long day and don't want to come to training? I don't care. Feel sad about something going on in your life and you're letting it affect your performances? I don't care. I often lack empathy to the individual, mainly in the context of them not helping the team. If a player has an injury and is struggling mentally and physically, that's terrible, and then I can be sympathetic. If someone can't be bothered and is making excuses, I'm quite cold. Sympathy is not something to be dished out willy nilly. It often lowers the standards of what you think is acceptable, and helps them find inches where they can cheat or slow down. It justifies their excuses and half effort because the message is received that they can get away with it.
It can be quite an issue in women's football. Men and women often struggle to communicate in the work place because of one fundamental difference; when a man has a problem, he wants to solve it. When a woman has a problem, she wants to moan about it. Sure, there are exceptions, but generally this is true. When my female players present me a problem, I try to help them solve it. I frequently use the phrase "What can we do?" "I don't know, I just feel..." Shut up. Feelings are irrelevant. What's the ideal situation? Where do you want to be? How can we get there? I don't want to listen to you whine or complain, I want to help you figure out the solution so then you can get back to playing and feeling good again. To many women, that is unsympathetic, and cold. But if I'm giving you my ear and my time, trying to help you find the solution, to me, that shows I care. Remember that there is no emotion, only peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. What use is complaining if you're not going to do anything about it?
My brand of cynical optimism is often misunderstood or misinterpreted by the players. I'm actually quite enthusiastic about our chances, even though it may seem like I don't believe it. I genuinely believe we can be successful. My definition of success may not be the conventional success that is obvious for all to see, as I have discussed in other pieces before. I don't base it on winning or losing, as we know that can be fairly random, but I base it upon sustained, measurable performances and improvements. We get better by doing that. We get closer to achieving our goals that way.
The most important factor as far as players are concerned is trust. Do they believe you have their best interests at heart? Do they believe you can help them get to where they want to go and be what they want to be? Are you truly on their side? They don't often think that the first time they meet someone that is quiet, reserved, emotionless, and cold. And that pretty much hits the nail on the head. I am terrible at first impressions, due to my unremarkable personality, but for those with the foresight and commitment, I am brilliant at lasting impressions. Some players will see me, give me the minimum amount of time before making their mind up, and will invariably decide that I am an incompetent buffoon. They will then go elsewhere, and my reputation dwindles. As that is happening, my trust and my bond with the others, those who are a tad more patient, begins to grow and grow. Suddenly they see what I'm up to. All the little pieces fall into place. It adds up, and they get it. The penny drops.
The best way to build up trust is to be consistent. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Tick. I do that. I'm quite explicit in that I don't sugar coat things. I let them know the task and the odds. We have to know the size of the mountain. I then let them know that I believe in them. Truly believe in them. And not just by telling them in some vapid attempt and boosting self confidence. I do it with my actions, by prepping them, selecting them, setting them challenges. "This game will be tough because... we are strong in these areas and should... our way to win this game is by... you have shown that you are capable of getting something from this game because..." It's going to be difficult, but you can do it. That's always the message. No smoke and mirrors. I would say I'm fairly consistent because I am quite predictable. I like routine. It's essential. And that makes me quite predictable. Routine and structure provide the framework within which to operate. Creativity still has a structure, it still follows a sequence, despite what we may think. I let them know in advance what the plan is, and how I intend to measure the success of that plan, providing information and feedback along the way.
I do need to be much better at that first impression. I could win a lot more players over a lot quicker if I did that. Then again, I don't wish to pull the wool over their eyes. What they see is what they get. I could show a little more personality, but that runs the risk of opening up too much to the players, and becoming too involved. Showing you care, taking an interest, but still maintaining a distance so that you don't lose that respect, is a very thin line, and once crossed is nearly impossible to go back. Coming out my shell is quite difficult for me. I grew up as quite a lonely only child, and was bullied at school. I've never really fit in anywhere, and never really cared either.
Does a coach need to be the life of the party? Yes and no. We have moved away from the days of coach-centred teams, and it is now player-centred. As previously mentioned, it's their game, their decisions, and it's just impossible to micro-manage eleven players at the same time. Think of any boss you've had, you probably do your best work when given a little freedom, a little leeway, and don't have them constantly watching you and telling them what to do. How many times have you had a boss like that and thought to yourself "If you're going to keep telling me what to do, why don't you just do it yourself?" Coaches and bosses that act like that, are they doing it for the benefit of the team or are they doing it for their own ego? I don't need the reward of others. I don't want trophies and headlines. My reward is seeing my hard work in training coming out on the pitch. Are the players seeing the game how I want them to see it, and responding in the way I want them to respond? Did that routine we spent hours on in training come out in the game? That's my reward. A pat on the back, a handshake, an occasional nice text, that's all good too, but I want to see my team play well and have fun.
You've got to be able to talk confidently in front of others. In regards to confidence, many will say "Fake it 'til you make it" which I can agree on for novices, but no further than that. There's never any substitute for quality. Never. I've seen absolutely useless coaches that have bags of confidence. They almost convince themselves that they are good, and what they are doing is working, and so their confidence blinds them to their own inadequacies, so the blame shifts to the players, and it becomes a very frustrating Catch 22 scenario. Novices must have the confidence, with a growth mindset, to realise that the only way to grow is to make mistakes. If you're not trying, you're not learning. Give it a go, assess your performance, take measures to improve. Plan - Do - Review.
Confidence in your own ability comes from your knowledge. I know what I'm saying is worth listening to. I know what I'm showing you is going to help you in games. I will only know that from experience, which comes with insurmountable failures. I can't remember how many games I've lost, how many teamtalks were uninspiring or ineffective, how many instructions were such jibberish, how many demonstrations were useless, how many explanations were hot air, how much I've waffled, how my drill, exercise, or game was too easy or completely irrelevant. It all adds up. It helps me improve. It helps me streamline the process. I've failed so many times that I have confidence in my abilities because I have tested them and shaped them, and have a very clear idea of what is required.
Game knowledge is a great place to start, and without it, you're essentially useless. You don't have to be an expert, however, to be effective. Let me reiterate; there is no substitute for quality. If you don't have a deep knowledge of football, you'll never be able to coach effectively anything other than basic games for young players. Level 1 sessions that are probably the same regardless of sport. But that knowledge can be locked away, stored in some dark recess of your brain, if you don't have the following skills; teaching, communication, motivation. Know your audience. Know what motivates them to play, which then affects how you talk to them, which affects how you teach them. You may have this great idea about playing a False 9, but unless you can succinctly place that information into the heads of your players, what good is it? Even when you've tried everything you can and the players just don't get it (and you are cursing for being damned to spend time with these utter morons) it's still your job and responsibility to get that point across to the players. You're the coach, right? You're the idiot that believes you're worth listening to. So figure it out.
Are we brave, or just stupid? It's hard to say. So why don't you coach? Not a criticism, just a curiosity I have. Are you scared of the criticism? Do you not have the time? Do you now actually know what you would do to coach the players? It's pretty easy to tell me what to do without ever having to prove yourself or justify your sense of superiority. It's even easier to compain about the England manager from the comfort of your armchair, having less than 1% of the knowledge that is required to do that job. But it's okay to be nasty to the England manager as they get paid millions, and all they have to do is win a game of football. I think it's the impression that we all love; "I could do that, but I don't want to." We watch a fight scene in a movie and believe we could kick everyone's butt. We see someone overwhelmed by their lot in life and assume they are being mentally weak. We see someone dealing with a delicate conundrum and from the outside believe we have spotted the simple and obvious solution. We don't seek to understand, only to reinforce the over hyped impression we have of ourselves, attempting to convince others of the same lie, as we look to hide our inadequacies. You just have to look at the makeup or fashion industry to see what. I hate using "People in Africa" examples, but I think we can justify them when talking about fashion. While people in Afirca are fighting disease and poverty, young girls in the Western World are spending hundreds of pounds in order to paint their face, to ascertain some false idea of perceived beauty, to look good for three hours on a night out, to be able to take flawless, Photoshopped selfies to put on Snapchat and Instagram. Bloody ridiculous. But that's the world we live in. We spend money we don't have, on things we don't need, to impress people we don't care about.
So are you worried about what others think? Do you believe that you're not actually good enough? Do you not have the time? If that's the case, shut up and let me do my job. Even if it's not true, shut up and let me do my job. Just shut up and let me do my job. But it's not actually about you. It's not even about me. It's about doing something for someone else. There's a lot of five year olds out that that could do with some help. Could you give up a few hours a week to help out some needy kids? Everybody has to start somewhere, even you.
Now we've ascertained that just about anyone could be a coach, and that very few could be a coach, and that even the ones who do have a limited impact, let's talk a little bit about great success and great failure. Do we remember a certain Steve Kean? A man completely out of his depth. It doesn't mean he's a bad coach, but for that level he was terrible. Like Keith Andrews, not a terrible footballer, but a terrible Premier League footballer. We're all terrible Premier League footballers if we are held to that standard. It's when someone is completely out of their depth that everything goes tits up. Just like running the country. We hardly notice any difference from one Prime Minister to the next. Their influence is so greatly limited by the idiots and the nonsense surrounding them. We just need to look into the US to see that. Obama clearly has had enough of all the mass shootings, wants to pass some legislation, which is then blocked in the senate by the Republicans. So what's the point in having a president if we're going to stop them from doing what they wish to do, and only let them operate within a small area? He can't change the colour of the presidential underwear without it going to a never ending debate the results in personal attacks and accusations. If Obama was the only thing that mattered, and it was all down to him, his impact as president would be much deeper, but the US, the UK, and most nations, hardly change over time.
Put the wrong person in, and it all goes horribly wrong. It's fair easier to do that. Next time you're choosing a leader, given how limited their impact is actually going to be, look at it from the point of view "Which one of these idiots is going to mess things up the least?". Even when it does go tits up, is it the fault of the leader? Sure, we could blame Steve Kean, but anyone would have failed with Venky's in charge, offloading all the good players, and making statements like "We're going to give the manager five million to spend and expect Champions League football within four years." Kean just made a bad situation even worse, then stayed around the put petrol on the fire. Even Pep would have failed at Rovers under those circumstances. Was the World Financial Crisis down to one idiot, or countless irresponsible idiots over a long period of time?
Everyone who has ever been successful owes so much to circumstance. We are all victims of circumstance. That's the largest contribution to successful people, and is unnoticed or disregarded. Things have to fall into place. Not quite the planets aligning, but still quite rare. This is all well documented in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. Is Klopp as good as Mourinho? In ten years time, will he have won the same amount of trophies? Probably not if he stays at Liverpool. If he does achieve great success at Liverpool, then that will be fantastic work, but as the world of English football is at the moment, you have to be at either Chelsea, Man City, or Man Utd to achieve long term sustained success. Is Sam Allardyce going to do any better than Hodgson or Capello? Probably not. It might be that Sam comes in at a time when some of the other top nations have an off year, and that the players are on good form, stay fit, and the right combination falls into place. Would Del Bosque be seen as a genius if that amazing Barcelona generation hadn't have formed? Spain's style of football was largely influenced by what Barca were doing. And what if Robben scores in that final in 2010 in South Africa? What if Oscar Cardozo didn't miss that penalty for Paraguay against Spain in the quarter final? You see how success is really on a knife edge, and that we have such little influence over it. We are a thousand leaves blowing in the wind.
Anyone can become a coach, but so much has to go right for you to be the best. I have seen hundreds of intelligent, committed, knowledgeable, hard working coaches. Realistically, how many of us will go on to win the World Cup with England, or dominate the Premier League and Europe? That doesn't mean we're bad coaches at all. It's difficult to accept that notion, as true as it is. We'll end up in academies, colleges, international schools, decent clubs in average countries, lower division teams. Just small cogs in the massive machine. If I stopped coaching tomorrow, the world would keep turning. My positions would be quickly filled. The paths of my players would be largely unaffected. Blackburn Rovers would be just as likely as achieving a league and cup double. Nothing big nor small would happen. It's not my destiny. If I go on to win the World Cup with England, a hell of a lot of luck and circumstance would be at play. I'll never get there if I don't put the work in, and improve my abilities massively. Even if I did all that, and did become capable, I would be one of many hundred in contention. England managers last usually around two or three tournaments, further limiting the opportunity of being awarded the role.
What's left to ask is why do I do it? Why do I keep turning up? The simple answer is that I love it, and that I can't think of anything else I'd rather do, but I don't like simple answers. I see my friends and friends of friends, and just people in general that are happy with the nine to five, work for the weekends, love watching TV, or inundate themselves with movies, books, console games, or have active social lives, going to bars, for coffee, to restaurants. They always seem to have time. It's the comfort zone. As I have a few weeks off before I begin teaching, right now I am operating from within my comfort zone. I like it here. Kind of. I still have sessions, games, assignments, and training for the new job coming up. Still, I'm seeing enough of the Comfort Zone to know it's potential. Going shopping, seeing friends, taking a walk in the park. It's all so lovely. But what's the point? What are these people trying to achieve? I couldn't do that type of life. I'd be bored stiff. I need a purpose. I need a challenge. All those things are just distractions that would slow me down from moving further up the ladder. It's just idle chatter. Let's go shopping and meet for coffee! Shopping isn't an event for socialising, it is a process necessary for obtaining needed or wanted items. To extend it any longer that that is highly illogical. And as for meeting to talk over coffee, giving up valuable hours while sipping a beverage, why? Literally, why?
People will tell me that not everything has to have a purpose, but to me, everything needs to be explained, understood, and justified. We're very simple beings that are so easily influenced by others, and so easily manipulated by routine and other small details (just read Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein). Add to the circumstances that determine opportunities, and you also see that it is our circumstances that make us who we are. We are being pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions by our environment, which shapes how we view the world. Those very same circumstances that created us can also give or take our opportunities to be successful. Now, as we realise that we are lottery balls mixing around the machine, what's the point in doing anything ever? I can only achieve brilliance if my circumstances allow me the opportunity. I can only become capable of brilliance if my environment shapes me so.
Do I truly love it, or am I conditioned to need it? Without football, there would be a huge void in my life. We all need interaction, and desire a purpose, a sense of belonging, and events or people that make us feel better about ourselves. Mine is all tied up in football. It makes me appear selfless as I put so much in and expect nothing back in return, but that's just it - I'm getting everything back in return. It has become my purpose. It has become who I am. It dominates my life in every way, and permeates all my thoughts and actions. In the rare moments that I am permitted to ponder without distraction, I become conscious of the complete lunacy of the situation. In the morrow, I will revert to type, as I know no other way. Like a drug addict.
How has this happened to me? It's surprisingly simple. Why any of us do anything is surprisingly simple. Everything we do can be categorised and explained by endorphin, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Endorphin - It has one purples; to mask pain when we do important tasks. It is often released at the time of stress or fear to mask pain. Endorphin gives you the edge to keep pushing yourself, as without it, you won't push yourself when you're tired. It's what keeps you staying late at work when you know your work is worth it.
Dopamine - It gives us a good feeling when we finish a task or reach a goal. Dopamine makes it feel good to solve problems and get things done. Dopamine can become very addictive, as drugs and alcohol release dopamine. You are eventually conditioned to enjoy dopamine, rather than the substance you are taking. It is addictive because it helps reinforce a behaviour that is important to our biological growth.
Serotonin - Sometimes called the leadership chemical, it gives us the feeling of pride when we know others like us or respect us. It's necessary for social bonds. Without serotonin, we'd be cold hearted loners, as endorphin and dopamine are both selfish chemicals. Serotonin helps to create trust and security, making others work together for a common goal. Serotonin helps us work for those to whom we are directly responsible, as a boss or a coach, or as a parent. It helps us to work hard to make those around us proud.
Oxytocin - Is the feeling of friendship, love, or deep trust. It's the feeling when we're with our trusted friends, or when we do something nice for someone, or they do something nice for us. It's essential for our survival as a social species because without it there would be no empathy or generosity. Dopamine can give short term gratification, but Oxytocin is long lasting. It makes us crave to be within a circle of safety, because working in groups has been essential to the survival of our species. It makes us feel good, reduce stress, and accomplish more as a team.
Each person is different, and due to nature and nurture, circumstance and environment, we begin to value different things. These chemicals, as released by the brain, seek to reward and reinforce certain behaviours and feelings. I was not designed as a baby to be a coach. That doesn't happen. My circumstances provided me with supportive parents, in a country mad about football, at a time where the industry of coaching is growing, and the research into sport is increasing exponentially, where there are now about twenty to thirty times more jobs in sport than there were when I was a baby. My circumstances also meant that I would love football and be allowed to play it, watch it, dream about it, but conversely not make me any good at it, and so I'd have the passion, no skill, but opportunities to go elsewhere in the game. Both my parents are very hard working, compassionate people, who regularly put the needs of others first. My mum would regularly be up all night slaving away at something, for absolutely no benefit of her own. My dad would drop everything at the drop of a hat to help anyone he could. They always put others first. They were both nurses. Now you can kind of see why I have that caring (even though I don't care) self-sacrificial nature. I've been conditioned to believe that's how people should operate. Take the pain, grit your teeth, and give it your best, so that others may benefit from your work.
This last decade has been a strange one for my generation. The generation before us were able to afford properties, move out fairly young, and find jobs. House prices and interest rates have gone up massively that it kind of stifles the independence. I'm not saying it's impossible to move out these days, get a mortgage, and support a family before turning thirty, but it's nowhere near as common as it was a few decades back. People are living at home longer, staying in education longer, and working part-time as a result of these circumstances. We're also a generation of people not willing to work outside our industry. "My degree is in... I'm not taking a job in..." The service industry is now huge, and so jobs have arisen that were not there thirty years ago. There is a demand for more things, more frequently than ever before. Sport in particular did not have strength and conditioning coaches, sport psychologists, and a team of analysts thirty years ago. These opportunities did not exist. The opportunities in the USA have also helped shape my generation of coaches. We've had a taste of life abroad, and we want more. Many choose to stay, and become slaves to their company. Others come back, after making a full-time wage from coaching, expecting the same to be possible over here in the UK.
Throughout our lives, due to all this around us, internally, we are being nudged, guided, and reinforced by the chemicals our brain release. Do I truly love my players? Is football a life and death matter? Absolutely not, but I am convinced of it. Logically, it all makes no sense to me. There's so much pain and sacrifice involved, and for what? Minimal chance of success. And even when there is success, it's fleeting. But those moments are so good (dopamine) that you're willing to go through all that pain all over again (endorphin). You must rely on your team, as you can't do it without them, and so feel a bond being created (oxytocin), and as a coach, you feel the need to lead your troops into battle (serotonin). To gather them together, raise your sword, and shout "Follow me!"
Then why do we even need a coach? We want a figurehead. We want a scapegoat. We want someone to learn from and to aspire to be like. The Prime Minister does not necessarily need to inspire the general population. Our influence of day to day politics is minimal as politicians don't listen to us anyway, and for the large majority of us, we only care every four or five years when an election comes up, as we suddenly pretend that it's a life and death matter, and that we know everything, as we have thoroughly researched our vote. We have no idea what the man or woman leading our country is really like, so we make assumptions based on what we read in papers, or see on TV. We judge them based on the power of hindsight, and rarely do we know their full manifesto, nor how this latest event or decision fits into their long term plan. Essentially, we are not members of the Prime Minister's team. We are not within that inner circle. We are like the parents, or the fans, who only know titbits of information, and have no real perspective over the world in which they operate. We make decisions and judgements from afar without knowing the full facts or reasoning, and really, with little intention to find out. What actually matters is is the Prime Minister effectively leading the cabinet? Can they inspire and lead their party to make the right choices? Can they brief and prepare each individual to do their jobs correctly in a way that fits into the grand scheme of things?
The Prime Minister is someone to blame when things go wrong. An opportunity for us to vent our anger, hatred, disappointment, at someone who will never know, care, or be affected by our actions. Much like when people are less than courteous as drivers, but very nice in person, or how people make idle threats over Twitter, but would never actually want to fight in real life. We're all weaklings, hiding our inadequacies by pretending to be Big Time Charlies. I'm not inferior, you're inferior! It's really sad that we have gotten to this stage. Our own fear and self-loathing creates confusion, tension, and can tear communities apart. But we're okay as long as we've got someone to blame.
So why do I coach? I'm addicted. I can't stop now. Eight years, thousands of pounds, many hours of work and sacrifice, many thousands of miles travelled, months and years without seeing loved ones. It's who I am and who I always will be. I'm too old. I'm in too deep. Years ago I could have quit and had a normal life, with a normal job, in a normal house, with a normal girlfriend. As nice as that sounds when I regularly get in at eleven, everyone is asleep, and I have been beating myself up mentally due to the wonderfully helpful comments of well meaning parents (and it really is a very tempting lifestyle) I don't want that. I can't do that. Normal is boring. There's no excitement, no achievement, nothing to live for. I don't want to watch the future unfurl in front of me, I want to shape it to my liking. I want to take charge of my destiny. I want to see, do, travel, explore, work, grow, win. I want to get... there... wherever there is. People who strive for normality, who do all they can do blend in, to gain acceptance, they are wasting their gifts. It's horrible to see wasted potential, no matter where that potential lies.
In years to come, when I'm old and grey (thirty five by the way I have begun to rapidly age) I want to look back and smile and laugh at all I have achieved and all I have seen. The people, the places, the disappointments. It's no fun sitting on the beach with a cool drink in the sunshine if you've got no stories to tell or photos to share. When I get to that stage, and I will, I can look back at my infinitely stamped passports. I can scroll through Facebook and peer into all the lives I have been touched by, and all the lives I have touched. I want to look at the photos of all the interesting places I have been, and everything cool I have seen. I want to remember the stadiums, the teams, the players, the wins, the losses, the goals, the journeys. This ambition is hard to understand to those who don't share it. Life is wasted without it.
I am completely unremarkable, yet in a way that makes me stand out. You have to be odd to be number one.
The colourful quotes dotted throughout were stolen from Leaders Eat Last.
- The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong - Chris Anderson, David Sally
- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness - Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
- Predictably Irrational
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference - Malcolm Gladwell
- Outliers: The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants - Malcolm Gladwell
- Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game - Michael Lewis
- Mindset: How You Can Fullfill Your Potential - Carol Dweck
- The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown - Daniel Coyle
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action - Simon Sinek
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't
- Contagious - Why Things Catch On - Jonah Berger
- The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More - Barry Schwartz
- The Bolt Supremacy: Inside Jamaica's Sprint Factory - Richard Moore
- Leading - Alex Ferguson
- Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself an Conquered the World - Raphael Honigstein
- Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom - Daniel T. Willingham
- The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone - Especially Ourselves - Dan Ariely
- The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home - Dan Ariely
- The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels - Michael D. Watkins
- Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography - Alex Ferguson
- Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World - Graham Hunter
- Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life - John Wooden, Jay Carty
- The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success, and Happiness - Dr. Steve Peters
- The Gaffer: The Trials and Tribulations of a Football Manager - Neil Warnock
- The Secret Footballer's Guide to the Modern Game: Tips and Tactics - The Secret Footballer
- I Am The Secret Footballer: Lifting the Lid on the Beautiful Game - The Secret Footballer
- Mourinho: Anatomy of a Winner - Patrick Barclay
- Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning: The Biography - Guillem Balague
- A Season on the Brink: Rafael Benitez, Liverpool and the Path to European Glory: A portait of Rafa Benitez's Liverpool - Guillem Balague
- The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football's Leaders - Mike Carson
- The 90-minute Manager: Lessons from the Sharp End of Management - Chris Brady, David Bolchover
- El Diego: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Footballer - Diego Maradona
- Pelé: The Autobiography - Pelé
- Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently - Kathleen J. DeBoer
- Coaching and Winning - William E. Warren
- The Coaching Philosophy of Louis van Gaal and the Ajax Coaches - Henry Kormelink, Tjen Seeverens
- Sir Bobby Robson: A Life in Football - Bob Harris
- Man's Search For Meaning: The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust
- Coaching and Leadership in Women's Soccer - Even Pellerud, Sam Kucey
- Getting the Buggers to Behave - Sue Cowley
- What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful - Marshall Goldsmith
- Sports Coaching Concepts: A Framework for Coaches' Behaviour - John Lyle
- How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
- Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
- The Champion Within: Training for Excellence - Lauren Gregg
- Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of Success - Matthew Syed