Wednesday, 3 February 2016
What is a Football Philosophy?
We hear the term a lot now in modern day football but what exactly is a football philosophy and where does it come from?
Let's go back to football some 20 odd years ago. Football in the early to mid 90's was very different in certain aspects. The game had some great players and great managers.
Who can remember watching the Brazilian Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Marco Van Basten, Baggio, Romario, Luiz Figo, Lothar Matthaus, and the amazing Zinedine Zidane.
And there was some great teams as well. Remember Lippi's Juventus who finally managed to remove Capello's AC Milan's grip over Serie A? Who remembers the Manchester United team of 93/94 and the Ajax team of 94/95?
So did these great teams have a football philosophy?
The answer is yes, they did although not as obvious and clear as today but all these great clubs had a history, a way of playing and entertaining the crowd that became their identity, their philosophy.
So why is a philosophy so important to the success of a football club.
Football is a business whether we like it or not, however over the years most football clubs have not been ran that way at all. Business and money are dirty words to the passionate fans of football clubs who believe they are part owners in their club and climbing up the league and winning titles should be the goal.
Owners of football clubs in years gone by were largely successful businessman who usually struggled with the running of a football club and the reason was down to the structure of these clubs and importance and control any manager had over the football club.
Let me explain in more detail of what happens in clubs that are not AC Milan, Juventus or Real Madrid.
The chairman hires a manager to get the club success, he is a businessman so wants success more than anybody. He is also a fan of the club. The manager is often hired because of his track record of results or titles elsewhere at different football clubs, with different players, different mindsets, attitudes and financial wealth.
Often the chairman doesn't understand football to the level he needs to, so he looks at the numbers achieved by the manager sitting him front of him desperate to take the reigns and decides to take the manager with the best previous record.
The manager is appointed and wants to do things his way. Why wouldn't he, what does the chairman know about football!
So the manager wants to play a certain way, so he hires his coaches, assistants and other staff relevant to how he wants to play, and then sets about hiring players as well that he believes will make his team successful.
Unfortunately because the new managers style is different to the style of the last manager, a lot of the current squad and staff do not fit in, so need to be moved on. This is costly for the chairman but he has to back his manager.
So the new manager invests significantly in new players, staff in the hope that he can replicate the success he had at other clubs previously. However the wholesale changes of staff and players and the managers new playing style will take at least 2 -3 years to come good.
The academy at the club has always been pretty decent but the players coming through are not suitable for the new managers style of play so do not manage to break into the first team.
Fast forward a year and the manager isn't having the success his CV suggests he should have. The chairman has lost patience and a lot of money and decides to call time on the manager and thew whole process starts again.
In 2011 the Premier League initiated the Elite Player Performance Plan of which I have been part of that process at the club that I coach for.
Part of the EPPP compliance was all clubs had to demonstrate they had a clear philosophy and developed players and played in accordance with their Football philosophy. The premier league had spent large sums of money analysing the great clubs of the 90's, and others to see how the better clubs structured themselves and achieved their goals.
So does it work? Well the answer is a resounding yes.
Lets take a look at Southampton who I believe are the best evidence of a modern football philosophy.
In 2009 Southampton were in administration and unable to pay their players wages. They had received a 10 point deduction because of the administration and were relegated to League One. On 12th September Nigel Adkins took over as the manager and achieved promotion to the Championship that year playing a pleasing brand of possession football, their philosophy was starting to take shape.
In 2010 the club appointed Les Reed whose job was to oversee four key areas
Youth Academy, Scouting and Recruitment, Sports medicine and Science, and Kit and Equipment Management.
Les Reed set about establishing Southampton's philosophy from how they played, the type of players that fit the system, the staff required to ensure the philosophy was achieved and implemented from the academy to the first team. Every Southampton player whether a 14 year academy kid to a first team player knew what was expected from them.
With this now in place the club could now look for a manager to fit in with the club philosophy and not the other way round. In fact I listened to an interview that Les Reed gave a few years ago regarding their philosophy where they termed the manager a "Department Head" similar to a senior manager in a business who's job is to carry out the club strategy.
This showed that Southampton's philosophy and strategy was way bigger than any manager, and the manager they required had to fit in with the clubs beliefs.
Southampton enjoyed back to back promotions to the premier league and are now established as a strong premier league team with a clear identity. They replaced Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino who many hadn't heard of, but Southampton knew exactly the sort of manager they wanted and Mauricio hit the ground running and knew what to expect.
His success meant he was poached by Tottenham Hotspur, but still Southampton didn't panic, they knew the sort of manager that would fit in with their philosophy and soon hired Ronald Koeman. During this period Southampton had also sold the likes of Lambert, Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Shaw and others.
Surely a club like Southampton couldn't cope with selling of such talent?
Who else thought they might go down?
Again the opposite happened, they knew exactly the profile of the players that they required and had been developing players in the academy this way so they could step up. Their scouts knew exactly what to look for when bringing in players from other clubs and they brought well.
Despite the changes and the vast sales of players Southampton remain 7th in the league with a youth academy the envy of many of their bigger rivals. They know exactly what they want and managers, staff and players will come and go.
Not only does this breed success but its also way more profitable than changing your entire infrastructure every time a new manager comes on board.
So yes it works and it's no different to how successful businesses are ran, so why wouldn't it work for a football club?
In Club Soccer Director your job as a director of football/Soccer is the same. To get success you must established a philosophy at the club and hire the right staff and players that fit with this strategy.
How will you handle this? Will you be side tracked by a great manager with a proven track record?
Remember it's your responsibility to achieve success at the club and make your mark.
Club Soccer Director is coming soon for Mobile and Tablet devices
Any comments are appreciated.