Coaches’ Voice is a website where coaches share their journeys, their playing philosophy, the challenges they have had in their careers and even carry out tactical analysis on videos of real in-game scenarios.
It’s highly recommended for true football enthusiasts.
A while ago I had the pleasure of chatting to them and did an interview with them which I would like to share in my blog. In the interview, I remember how I started life as a football manager, and look back at my overall experience of managing in England, Greece, Spain, China and France. As ever, I speak the truth and hide nothing.
Below, I summarise the main points from the interview, but here you can read the whole thing.
“It wasn’t until I was 30 that I started thinking about becoming a manager”
When I was 30, I became interested in coaching from the moment Gianluca Vialli was named player-coach at Chelsea. I took note of everything he did, the good things and the bad things.
When I finished my career as a player, I spent a year in Uruguay, but the pace of life over there was too slow for me. It was at a party celebrating Chelsea’s 100th birthday when I decided to return to Europe, and Dennis Wise asked me to be his assistant at Swindon and then at Leeds.
“After my time at Chelsea I was in love with 4-4-2”
In the first team I managed, Brighton, I found myself with young players who were keen to learn, and I was very clear in my head that the best system was 4-4-2. I learnt all the different movements from my time at Chelsea and I knew how to put them into practice.
I also learnt how to be flexible, when in a game against Leeds I changed formation to 4-3-3, although it was with two attackers tucked inside almost like a 4-5-1, after having lost the reverse fixture 3-0. The team were great that day.
That year we survived, finishing in thirteenth place, and the following year we were League One champions, lifting the title ahead of much more powerful teams like Southampton.
The next year we got to the Premier League promotion play off semi-finals. But even then, there was a change in the club’s direction and my relationship with them ended.
Sunderland, AEK, Betis, Shanghai Shenhua and Girondins de Bordeaux
At Sunderland I experienced the greatest miracle of my management career when we saved ourselves from relegation on the penultimate day of the season after drawing against Manchester City and beating Chelsea, Manchester United, Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion in 6 rounds.
At AEK Athens I learnt how to see football in a different light. We qualified for Europe and beat Olimpiacos, the stand-out leader, in a special game at the Olympic Stadium.
At Real Betis, as I explained in the Coaches’ Voice interview, I didn’t know much about the situation at the club, the internal problems, and the differences between the club’s expectations and reality.
Just five days after leaving Betis I got a call from China and signed for Shanghai Shenhua, where I had a truly enriching experience learning about a culture so different to ours.
And finally, at Bordeaux I arrived in order to save the club from relegation and we qualified for Europe, with a great end to the season. However, my departure soon came about when I said that it was disgrace that the club sold a player on the same day that we were going to play a Europa League match, and I only found out at 12:15 because he didn’t turn up at the hotel.
“I don’t dream of any particular club, just of a chairman who understands how I work”
At the end of the interview you’ll also find out why I believe that if you find a good chairman, you’ll find a good club.
I really value having a chairman who knows what I’m about. I build relationships based on common sense and honesty, so I always say it like it is, whether that’s to the players or to the fans. Perhaps that’s why I have always had a close relationship with them.