Football

Coaching is not as simple as it might have once been

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Deep down there is a coach in each and every one of us. It never ceases to amaze me how coaching has become the be all and end all to football matters and how the coach is now the most revered and respected person at a football club.

There is little doubt that those who manage to succeed and are rewarded handsomely for their efforts are truly blessed but what makes for a good coach?

There has to be a skill or a certain human trait that is required to operate under such trying circumstances and it is clear that the coach enters the profession knowing full well that it will almost certainly be a rocky road. To my mind it all appears like Rocket Science and Wizardry combined and I do not know how to accurately judge the merits of a good coach or what criteria you would use to tell the difference between a "good un or a bad un".

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It cannot be based on results. If it was then Ian Holloway was the best coach in the UK in 2011 and the following year he was the worst. That does not add up so we must look at a variety of different clues to ensure we understand what the coach does and what his worth is.

The very first thing a coach requires is passion, and plenty of it. Without this the coach is doomed to failure so he must be self motivated so that his passion and enthusiasm dont dwindle during periods where things are not going as well as planned.

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An absolute must for any coach is the ability to lead by example. By that I do not mean he must be able to show Lionel Messi how to nutmeg somebody and slot one home from 25 yards but he must have the right day to day football mentality and ensure that his players maximise their potential.

The coach must be able to speak and listen in equal measure. He must be open to the ideas of others and pragmatic in his approach, particularly in the heat of battle. He must be quick to react and brave in his decision making. A coach with a "we've always done it this way" attitude is no use to anybody because each situation will need clarity and positivity.

A good coach will view the opposition as both strong and weak and will plan for both, using a strategic approach to ensure that all those involved are educated and given the right instruction and information.

Jose Mourinho has the strength of character to be authoritative and positive in dealing with his players and those who employ him. This gives him an advantage over others and should not be under-estimated as this important human trait ensures that he will never settle for second best nor will he allow those around him to settle for second best either.

Training sessions should be planned and timed with short term goals for each exercise. The coach should be able to identify quickly those players who are motivated and enthused by new techniques and those who struggle to cope with change.

Sir Alex Ferguson never made friends with his players and never fell in love with his team. Decisions were based on what was best for the team or the club and sentiment was never considered. The best examples of successful coaches here in the UK confirm the train of thought that falling in love with your team is a recipe for disaster.

The coach should however be compassionate and caring but with the ability to be tough and abrasive when required and he should understand when each discipline is required.

It does of course help enormously if our man is tactically aware and understand how footballers think and how they operate. He must understand and know the balance required for attacking and defending and he must allow for player inconsistencies.

It helps when the coach is entertaining and fun to be around and where he is not too dominant and intimidating yet he is able to deliver the sharpest, fiercest of short messages with no ambiguity on what is expected.

Bill Shankly had dedication and enthusiasm in abundance and there is little doubt that it rubbed off on his players so that he became a figurehead. A club with this culture will always be strong and sustainable.

Finally the coach must accept that winning and losing is part of the game. He must never get too elated in triumph nor too downhearted in defeat. He must accept that coaching is not a finite art that can not be altered or changed. If Mourinho coached every team in the Premier League there would still be a top and a bottom and he would be cherished by some and sacked by others.

It really is a simple job made difficult by the presence of the opposition.

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