Brendan Rodgers’ imminent appointment as the new Liverpool manager is another example of young managers getting proper recognition for their work.
Rodgers has worked wonders at Swansea City, taking them into the Premier League and getting them to safety with an unwavering commitment to playing attractive, passing football.
The Northern Irishman learned much of his trade under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, who invited him to become head of Chelsea’s academy on the recommendation of Steve Clark after impressing in the same role at Reading.
“I like everything in him. He is ambitious and does not see football very differently from myself,” said the ‘Special One’ about his new recruit.
“He is open, likes to learn and likes to communicate.”
It is quite a journey for a man who was forced to retire at 20 because of a knee problem and is testament to the hard work he put in, but also his attention to detail that seems to be prevalent in many young coaches across Europe now.
Mourinho was an example of someone who did not play at the top level, but dedicated himself to coaching and becoming a professional football manager.
These men are rare a breed and we see them get high profile jobs sometimes, but the overwhelming majority of managers were players who have had long careers and make what is often seen as a ‘natural’ progression.
Rodgers is not the only man to have done this, Andre Villas-Boas is another who has gone a long way in the sport despite never having played as a professional.
Villas-Boas was fortunate enough to live in the same apartment block as Bobby Robson while the former England manager was in charge of Porto and conversations led for Robson to take the young Villas-Boas under his wing.
Currently out of work following his dismissal from the Chelsea job, Villas-Boas was not only an example of how a good manager does not need to have played the game at the highest level, but he does not need to have played professionally at all.
He was another who learnt his trade working under Mourinho – Villas-Boas’ job was to put together files of the team’s next opponents to aid preparation for games.
It is this attention to detail that helped him rocket to success when he decided to go into club management, but his rise may have been too fast for his own good.
Academica de Coimbra was his first job after leaving Mourinho at Inter Milan and he made an immediate impact, taking them from bottom of the league in October and with out a win, to 11th place and ten points clear of relegation.
Such drastic success did not go unnoticed and Porto appointed him as he man to regain the title they lost the year before – the first time in five years they had failed to finish top.
A similar reaction took place, but the resources available to him at the Portoguese giant meant improvements were magnified significantly.
The 2010-11 season saw Porto win the treble for the second time in their history, storming to the league title undefeated and conceding just 13 goals.
Part of that triple was the UEFA Europa League, with Villas-Boas becoming the youngest ever manager to win a European competition at 33 years and 213 days, while Colombian striker Radamel Falcao set a new goalscoring record by netting 17 times in just 14 games.
Another move beckoned, but his experience at Stamford Bridge was almost disastrous and he has been looking for a job since.
Villas-Boas has been touted for a number of other posts since being sacked by Chelsea, including Liverpool, so it will not be long before he is able to begin a project elsewhere.
One man who is just beginning his journey into first team management is Andre Stramaccioni, who has the daunting task of turning around a stuttering Inter Milan side for his first time as head coach.
Stramaccioni’s route was similar to Rodgers, in that both had to retire early and went straight in to youth coaching, building their reputations from the bottom up.
Inter were a quivering wreck following Jose Mourinho’s departure to Real Madrid and Rafa Benitez was stuck with a squad that were comfortable in the methods used by the Portuguese.
Benitez and Mourinho can’t exactly be called the best of friends and there is a possibility that dynamic could have had an effect on the former Liverpool manager’s reign.
It is not an entirely new thing for people to become coaches after little or no playing career – Gerard Houllier was a teacher before embarking on a managerial career.
However, the examples above show there are more and more young managers being given jobs with greater responsibility at clubs with high profiles and a history of success.
These men succeeding in their roles could be down to a number of reasons, but it is definitely nothing to do with their stature as players – something that may have been more relevant in the past.
Rodgers predecessor, Kenny Dalglish, was about as vaunted as you can get when it comes to reputation as a player, but he just could not seem to coax good performances out of his side on a regular basis during his second stint with Liverpool.
The game has come a long way in the past 20 years and it is possible to say footballers have become more professional, though not all of them.
Areas such as nutrition and psychology have become important parts of any football club’s preparation, which shows how much more sophisticated the science around the game is becoming.
When the players begin to change physically, it is logical to suggest that the way they can be used could also change as a product.
These young men have found success by doing things in a different way and enhancing the levels of performance they are able to get out of players – why else would they be getting jobs? They do not have any significant experience of the game at the top level.
Modern football has facilitated prosperity for those who plan ahead with more detailed information and it has given rise to these young men who have become students of the game, their obsession driving them to greater sophistication.
Rodgers could just be the beginning and we should not be surprised if we see more ‘professional managers’ come to the fore.
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