Jose Mourinho as chess strategist

May 10, 2017

 

jose-mourinho-and-coat

Jose Mourinho has frequently confounded football pundits with his statements and decisions. He may be still be a chess grandmaster of football strategy

Jose Mourinho’s track record as a football manager is beyond dispute. Since his first appointment,  he has won leagues and international trophies with remarkable frequency. He attracted attention of the leading clubs in Europe and continued on his winning ways throughout his career.

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EUFA is the United Airlines of Sport

April 13, 2017

 

 

This week, United Airlines perpetrated the mother of all PR disasters. Given the opportunity, EUFA managed to equal that crass insensitivity after a terrorist attack before a Champions League match

I have commented in the past, that airline leaders often display depressingly high-visibility egocentric leadership styles. A few retain some public credibility but even those such as Richard Branson attract hostile as well as admiring headlines. More typically, we find boorishness personified in figures such as Ryanair’s Michael O’ Leary, or arrogance elevated to an art form, as illustrated this week by United Airlines’ leader Oscar Munoz. The Fortune publication made a similar point.

LWD subscribers will be aware of the video of the incident, in which a paying passenger was dragged bleeding and screaming from a flight. The incident and initial remarks by Munoz were followed by a billion dollar drop in share value of the company.  Nice one Oscar, who eventually did a Trump-like pivot, declaring such behaviour on the airline will never be repeated.

Meanwhile a terrorist attack in Germany targeted Dortmund’s football team coach which was being driven to a Champions League match against Monaco. Only minor injuries occurred although there could been more serious outcomes. The match was postponed for a day. There was a spontaneous coming together of rival fans against the terrorist actions before and during the match. Dortmund lost narrowly, but the reactions of the fans were widely praised. Later it emerged that the footballing leaders at EUFA had responded with a similar insensitivity to that displayed by United Airlines. A text message to the Dortmund officials made it clear that the only priority was to play the match as quickly as possible.

A few weeks ago, an objection was raised against a potentially dangerous pitch by Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. He claimed the UEFA response was that the match should go ahead, and the players were fully insured.

EUFA is the European arm of FIFA, that exemplar of corruption in the sporting world, competing for the title with the Olympics authorities and their anti-Drug agencies.

I try to find some positive learning messages in LWD posts. Perhaps the reactions of Dortmund and Monaco fans give a glimmer of hope. Maybe Oscar Munez will have an O’Leary Damascene conversion to ethical leadership.   Maybe EUFA will show some recognition that they will have to try harder to escape the legacy left by its association with FIFA’s antics under disgraced leader Sepp Blatter.

Maybe.


Premiership wins a license to print money, but who profits?

June 2, 2016

Claudio Ranieri

While international success continues to elude English football clubs, its Premiership has acquired a license to print money. But who profits from it?

Next month, the European Football Championships begins.  Of the so-called home nations, England, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, and Wales have all qualified. Scotland, riding high politically in its efforts to make a break with the rest of the United Kingdom, continue the Brexit process by making a break from qualifying this time around.

In a league of its own

But financially as well as literally, England is in a league of its own. The Premiership continues to strengthen its economic prospects. This is rather strange, as its success is not matched by the performance of its international team, or of its Premiership big hitters. In recent years these have been Manchester United, joined by billionaire backed Chelsea, together with the Mancunian noisy neighbours City, and the well-heeled Gunners of Arsenal.

Even the iron rule of ‘big bucks rule’ broke down this season, with the thousand to one outsiders of Leicester winning the premiership. [Manager Claudio Ranieri pictured above.]

What is happening? Where will it all end?

Deloitte, a financial organization, takes a favourable view. The future is bright.

This is based on financial projections. As another commentator remarked,

Football is the global sport.  Interest is still growing. The Premiership is the hottest football franchise of all, with huge TV rights, sponsorship, and is increasingly attractive to all vut a few of the the top players.

As with the current EU debate, the argument could be contested, but it carries some weight. Football Premiership style is fast and exciting. It is also technically rather flaky, and more physically demanding than other top leagues such as those in Spain and Germany.  The recent results in the top team competition, The Champions League, confirm this point.

The Leadership Question

On the leadership front, the general position is that top clubs seek out the top international coaches.  Manchester City has moved to obtain Pep Guadiola to add the final piece to the jigsaw puzzle to become world beaters.

The response from Manchester United was to hire the self-styled special one Jose Mourinho to nullify any competitive advantage.

A great coach might be a necessary ingredient for success. Necessary but not sufficient.  And a coach may achieve great results with fewer resources than the competition.  Jurgen Klopp (now galvanizing Liverpool, and Mourinho started his rise to fame that way, as did Brian Clough a generation earlier, and arguably the great Sir Alex Ferguson, whose shadow Jose now has to step away from. Such a coach will attract and retain the key match winning players also needed.

 


One more time: How not to sack a manager

May 24, 2016

Louis van Gaal

Louis van Gaal is sacked as manager of Manchester United. At least, that is what a thousand media reports said soon after his team won the FA cup this weekend Read the rest of this entry »


Why England Rugby may have found their ideal coach

February 29, 2016

Eddie JonesEddie Jones could be the ideal coach for England, according to one theory of leadership. But a Clive Woodward he ain’t

In the words of Monty Python, England rugby needed something completely different, after its nightmare of a World Cup last year. The selectors reacted by sacking the rather school-masterly Stuart Lancaster, and replaceinghim with the pit bull terrier that is Eddie Jones, and mastermind of Japan’s World Cup heroics.

Leaders Member Exchange theory

I base my case on a theory of leadership known as Leader Member Exchange or LMX. It is not as fashionable as charismatic leadership, which anyway is revealing its dark side in the US Primaries at present. But LMX has been subjected to a fair level of academic scrutiny.

LMX and Eddie

The classic paper on LMX by George Graen and Mary Uhl-Bien is now twenty years old. However, it has withstood the test of time and is still a good starting place for anyone wanting to make a serious study of leadership.

An update can be found in Dilemmas of Leadership (2015) and in The Sage Handbook of Leadership.

The key point about LMX is that a leader’s impact becomes clearer if you can tease our characteristics of the relationships between leaders and followers. This requires understanding of various levels of interaction including ‘one on one’ and ‘one on group’ levels. After twenty years, there is still a lot to go at.

[Incidentally, in re-reading the Graen and Uhl-Bien paper I found a sophisticated treatment of ‘leadership making’ as followers contribute to the ‘making’ of’ a leader, the rationale for Leaders We Deserve.]

In this post, I borrow just a few ideas from LMX to comment on Eddie Jones the coach as leader, and his impact on individuals and the England team performance. I make no attempt to test the validity of LMX theory.

Effective leadership resides in developing mature trust-based relationships between leader (in this case Jones) and followers (the squad). I mention the squad not the team. There have been examples of disastrous and immature relationships between the elite first-pick team and the mid week team, for example, on Lions tours. The trust placed in the leader from the first team (the in-group) is rnot found among members idesignated as reserves unless the social identity of the players is handled sensitively.

The theory has contributed to thinking about how in-groups and out-groups form. Jones has to deal with that, as does any other coach. The tricky problems of trust development are believed to be important. In football, the terminology for trust breakdown is ‘losing the dressing room’. A simple specific example was the situation (dilemma) facing Jones’ predecessor Stuart Lancaster over the selection of the son of one of his coaching staff.

Everyone hates us …

We are getting some clear messages from Jones about his beliefs, and those he would like to instill into his players. They have included the old in-group and out-group motif. He insists that England is hated by the other five nations and the team has to deal with that.

The selection of the tempestuous Dylan Hartley as captain is consistent with the combative style Jones seeems to be aiming for.

When questioned about targeting Ireland’s gifted but injury prone Sexton of Ireland, this week, Jones said he expected to play to any weakness in an opponent.

It is a kind of ‘nobody loves us but we don’t care’ style.

Gentlemanly values, ungentlemanly conduct

Whereas Mourinho’s football teams were as tough as any, The Special One preferred to pretend they always were superior players dealing with the unjustified assaults of inferior opponents.

In the past, England’s rugby coaches have been English and tended to approve of gentlemanly conduct. The taste for muscularity was still there, revealed in the fondness for a preference for selecting for forward dominance, and use of a vocabulary in which massive was the adjective of choice for general performance and physicality.

Clive Woodward, coaoch of England’s world cup victory had his favoured enforcers, but would rarely celebrate violence openly.
Somewhere between the two extremes of concealed and overt encouragement of in-play mayhem was the approach of the great coach Caewyn James who years ago urged his Welsh team to get their retaliation in first.

Expectations are high in England

Early days. Will Eddie Jones lift England to their expectations of competing with the Southern Hemisphere teams? He has one advantage. The current squad has potential to do better than they have been doing.

Maybe, like Trump on the stump, he is giving voice to an approach his players already approve of.

It may all end in tears. But there is a great potential waiting to be unlocked in the current England squad. And Jones may be just the man with the key to unlock it.

If I have read LMX theory accurately, the challenge will come as the squad develops, and different relationships are called for between a coach, his captain (or her) and players.

[drafted before the England Ireland match , Feb 26 2016]

 


Inverting the Pyramid

January 11, 2016

Inverting the Pyramid

Book Review

‘Inverting the pyramid: A history of football tactics’ was written by football journalist Jonathan Wilson. It was published when Jose Mourinho was in his first spell as manager of Chelsea This review, unpublished at the time, has been updated as part of a study of Jose’s second spell at Chelsea

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Claudio Ranieri: The Tinkerman leads Leicester, Jose leaves Chelsea

December 27, 2015
Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri is a rare individual in the top reaches of football management He exudes amiability towards the world, combined with passion towards the game from the touch line.
He arrived in England in 2000 to coach Chelsea, a prestigious club, but, on sheer weight of trophies, one less successful over the years than  two heavyweights from the North West, Manchester United and Liverpool, and (as galling for local pride) their London Rivals, Arsenal.
Ranieri produces results
In a short period of time Ranieri produced results.  He took Chelsea to runner-up position, its highest level ever at the time, in the Premiership, To this he added a semifinal of the European Cup.  Only the most churlish fans of the ‘runners up are losers’ mentality could complain.  Mostly, the fans were delighted.  They were even able to enjoy Claudio’s relentless search for the best team, and his tinkering with starting positions which earned him his reputation as The Tinkerman.
His  less than perfect grasp of English and cheerful tone in press conferences added to his popularity.
Ranieri’s stay at Chelsea was about to be hit in the most radical change in fortune in the. Club’s history.  They were acquired by the Russian Multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich.  From the outset it was clear that Chelsea would buy the best players, pay the best wages, and, no secret, the best coach.
Abramovich hires Jose
An unsuccessful attempt was made to lure Sven-Goran Ericsson away from his post as manager of England’s national team.
Meanwhile, a young coach was making an impression on European football  with the Portuguese side Porto.  His name was Jose Mourinho. Porto won the European cup.  Abramovich hired Jose.  The Tinkerman left Chelsea.
The ironies of fate
A decade later, in December 2015, Ranieri took the unfashionable club Leicester City to the top of the Premiership.  Mourinho was at Chelsea for his second spell as manager there, with a team that was struggling  close to the relegation zone.
In one of those ironies of fate, Ranieri’s team faced Chelsea in December and won convincingly. A few days later, Abramovich sacked Jose Mourinho for the second time.
Sometimes, as football philosophers such as Justin Timberlake says, what goes round comes round.
Aknowledgements
[Extracted from ‘Mourinho Matters‘  (c) Tudor Rickards, to be published in early 2016]
With all best wishes, and thanks for your  support,  to my valued contributors and all those subscribers who clicked on LWD in 2015.