Help choose the sporting leader of October from McCaw, O Connell, Owens and Klopp

November 1, 2015

Richie McCawLeaders We Deserve subscribers are invited to submit candidates for Leader of the Month. The following attracted attention in recent news stories. This post reveals my four sporting leaders of October. Unsurprisingly, three were from the Rugby World Cup

Richie McCaw

Increasingly recognized as  rugby’s leader of his generation before and after New Zealand’s World Cup win and maybe as the greatest of all time [GOAT]. Photo is of Richie in 2008 from wikipedia.

Paul O Connell

Not for his heroic injury-wrecked Rugby World Cup, but for his long term impact as captain on the Irish Rugby team.

Juergen Klopp

New Liverpool manager Klopp identified for his charisma even before the victory against Chelsea [Saturday 31st October]

Nigel Owens

Takes top spot refereeing the final of Rugby’s World Cup. Rated best in the World.  Humorists in Wales said they know Wales would get to the finals. Owens is  already a celebrity off the field for his courageous stance on gay rights.


Comments and suggestions of nominations to add to the list are welcomed.

Tough decisions made in the Davis Cup reveal Leon Smith’s leadership qualities

August 3, 2015

Davis CupWhen Great Britain defeated France in the quarter finals of the Davis Cup in July 2015, the media headlines extolled the brilliant series of victories by Andy Murray. The leadership qualities displayed by non-playing captain Leon Smith should also be acknowledged

The Davis Cup is the most prestigious of international tennis competitions. It is held annually on a knockout basis with divisions, the higher of which is the World group. GB has not won the cup since 1936, another unenviable statistic for British tennis. Even reaching the quarter finals in 2015 is regarded a success for the team and its outstanding player Andy Murray.

Read the rest of this entry »

Murray v Kholschreiber, Madrid 2015. Questions for coaches

May 7, 2015

Andy Murray printwords[Notes prepared during the match as a mini-case for coaches with case questions]

May 2015: Andy Murray wins his first clay court Tennis title, in Munich, in a tight match against clay court specialist Phillip Kholschreiber. Can he continue his progress against the same opponent, again on clay in Madrid, a few days later?

Murray is least successful when playing on clay courts surfaces such as Munich and Madrid. He shares this relative weakness with British tennis players who have little experience of the surface as juniors. No Britain before Murray had won a ranking clay court tournament for nearly forty years.

The result at Munich was somewhat surprising, considering Murray’s weakness and Kholschreiber’s comparative advantage on the surface. The return in Munich offered a chance to see whether Murray might sustain the form h showed in Germany.

The context of the Madrid match

There are considerable factors to disconcert Murray. He was recently married with considerable accompanying media pressures. There have also been major changes to his coaching team.

Additional more immediate distractions included a bizarrely late start around one a.m., after inflexible scheduling. Bad for the players and arguably worse for spectators who would expect to be watching well into the early hours of the following day.

Early exchanges

Murray starts the faster and moves 3-0 with two breaks before dropping his own serve. Kholschreiber breaks back. Commentator Petchey, formerly Murray’s coach suggests his game plan was for an intense start which had been followed by a dip after the initial adrenaline rush.

Murray wins first set

Andy Murray retains aggressive but not over-aggressive play and holds break to win 6-4. Kohlschreiber demonstrates his strengths on this surface.

Second set

Both players playing well. Kholschreiber wins a brilliant lengthy rally and breaks at 2-0.


4-1 2.15 am. Stadium has nearly emptied. Murray holds. Slight dip by Kholschreiber. Drops serve.


Murray also drops serve with poor first- serve percentage

5-3 and closes out

Third Set

Murray holds a strongly-contested game. Murray breathes heavily at one stage,

Kholschreiber and Murray scramble. Kholschreiber makes last mistake.

2-0 to Murray who then holds serve to love


4-0 as Murray breaks easily.

5-0 as Murray holds

6-0 as Kholschreiber eventually capitulates.

Murray survives and overcomes an unusual set of problems, Kholschreiber eventually weakened both mentally and physically.

Questions for coaches

What factors would you consider in preparing Andy Murray for the match?

Murray appears to have started with a tactical plan. What do you think it might have been?

Why was the lower-ranked Kholschreiber considered a favourite before playing Murray in Madrid, even after his loss to Murray in Munich the previous week?

What aspects of Murray’s game might have contributed to the result in Madrid?

Wimbledon transmission among ‘UK’s Cultural Crown Jewels’ under threat

December 26, 2014


A range of sporting events broadcast in the UK is protected by law. This attempts to control transmission arrangements for Football and Rugby World Cup finals, the Grand National, and The finals of Wimbledon

The BBC enjoys privileged transmission of a range of such events. These are under increasing threat through commercial pressures.

Recently, [ December 16, 2014 ] a story broke that The BBC has begun talks with British Telecomm [BT] about sharing transmission of Wimbledon after the BBC current contract ends in 2017.

Wimbledon is a protected species

Wimbledon fortnight in July is a cultural as much as a sporting event. Its symbolic significance is up there with the National Health Service. Political parties are united in the need to protect and preserves both in the public (and their own political) interests.

The arrangements illustrate something about the broader social culture in the UK and a widely held suspicion of unregulated commercialization of cultural events.

Mixed economy or mixed-up interventions?

I have never successfully explained the rationale to American friends who tend to view the phenomenon as quirky, and evidence of unhealthy state intervention in the workings of a free market economy. Any defense has to explain the funding of the BBC through a ‘license to view’ charged to anyone receiving BBC transmissions. In an earlier era this was enforced through the use of sinister transmission vans, targeting homes with TV aerials around the land.

“It’s the way we do things here” I say, rather defensively.

When culture and commerce collide

For all its iconic status, Wimbledon is also derided as a symbol of middle-class values state-sponsored and propping up an elite and effete sport. It is the target of much blokeish bile to that effect, as each July approaches.

When culture and commerce collide, the battles tend to be highly emotional. The discussion polarizes traditional values and the need for innovative change.

To be continued

Change at Manchester United

September 14, 2014

by Paul Hinks

Manchester United’s current turmoil provides a platform to explore how leadership dilemmas are influencing events at the world famous football club


On the 10th Sept 2014 the BBC reported Manchester United’s annual revenues They had risen by 19% to £433.2m -but they also reported an 84% drop in Man Utd’s profits.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward directed attention towards a new shirt deal with Adidas. When a club of Manchester United’s stature is discussing shirt deals instead of trophies there’s implicit recognition that it has fallen below its own high standards of achievement.

Change vs Inertia

Sir Alex was manager of Manchester United between 1986 and 2013 – his teams became synonymous with success, dominating footballing headlines for all the right reasons. Trophies symbolized the success; fans and pundits alike enjoyed watching an entertaining style of football which also delivered results – to the envy of rival fans, this was the ‘Manchester United way’.

Manchester United’s culture, discourse and identity

Reference the ‘Manchester United way’ and it has a different meaning to different people – perhaps a benchmark for free-flowing attack minded football, or a fan’s recollections of an important victory against a fierce rival; perhaps somebody referencing the successful development of Man Utd’s youth into world class talent?
A great attribute of sport – and football in particular – is that it provokes opinion and debate effortlessly. For a club of Manchester United’s stature, any deviation from their own high standards of success amplifies the process of inquiry.

Alpha Males and Autocratic Leadership

The appointment of David Moyes as Manager is increasingly reflected upon as a transition period which didn’t go to plan. The swift and recent appointment of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United’s manager [19th May 2014] takes the club in a different direction again. In some ways Louis van Gaal’s leadership style has parallels with Ferguson’s: strong values; clear standards; absolute authority. In Ferguson’s time those who crossed him, or fell short of Manchester United’s standards, quickly found themselves playing for another club. Louis van Gaal maintains a similar reputation.

The ‘Make or Buy’ dilemma

In his short tenure, Louis van Gall his has spent in the region of £150m bringing in new players. He’s also started the process of shaping his team, which includes the controversial sale of highly rated home grown player Danny Wellbeck to Arsenal for £16m. Are we witnessing the start of a new ‘Manchester United way’ – one where success is bought rather than developed in-house?

The Guardian provided additional commentary on the situation:

Ryan Giggs has denied Manchester United’s recent transfer policy represents a betrayal of Old Trafford traditions, although Nicky Butt, the club’s reserve team manager, admitted promoting homegrown talent must take a back seat under Louis van Gaal.
United have spent £215m on new players over the past 12 months and off loaded the academy graduates Danny Welbeck to Arsenal and Tom Cleverley to Aston Villa on the day Colombia international Radamel Falcao arrived on loan from Monaco .

That turnover prompted Mike Phelan, United’s former assistant manager, to accuse the club of losing their identity, while Eric Harrison, the ex-youth team manager who brought through the famed “Class of 92”, said United were losing “their soul” as a consequence.
There’s a certain paradox and tension between retaining tried and tested methods versus embracing new and different ways of working.

Like any organisation, Manchester United has various metrics to measure its success – trophies remain the currency that most fans prefer to use – but perhaps here is one of the biggest misnomers of football – football is increasingly commercially focused. Sure the fans crave the bragging rights that go with winning, but there are other stakeholders to consider too.

‘Something Special’

Sir Alex had an enviable reputation for developing the potential in players, nurturing youth into world-class talent; examples include: Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt – there are others too. Perhaps aged 63, Louis van Gaal perceives time is not on his side? Perhaps his experience helps him recognize the urgency in returning Manchester United back to be serious challengers for honours? If he doesn’t succeed quickly, perhaps another candidate will be afforded the opportunity?

Manchester United’s various stakeholders – its fans, directors, owners, sponsors – and indeed its closest rivals all expect Manchester Utd to be serious contenders for honours. Few other clubs have history and expectation to deliver success – Louis van Gaal is shaping the future of club which many regard as ‘something special’. How he delivers will be watched with great interest.


July 14th 2014 

The Adidas shirt deal is worth £750 million over ten years.

September 14th 2014

Manchester United beat Queen’s Park Rangers 4-0 Van Gaal’s team with its costly Galacticos win in style at Old Trafford. Move from 17th to 9th in league table.

September 15th 2014

Disenchanted Ronaldo wants move back to Manchester United.

After Sir Alex: Van Gaal leads out Manchester United for his first game as manager

July 24, 2014

Louis van Gaal
The match [July 23rd, 2014] is a ‘meaningless’ friendly in Los Angeles. Or is it so meaningless?

Louis van Gaal arrives as manager at Manchester United Football Club after managing Holland in the recent World Cup in Brazil. He joins a club suffering a severe dip in performance following the departure of the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson, who is widely credited with the record-breaking successes of the club in recent decades.

Van Gaal’s reputation as a leading manager has been established in a string of successes at the top European clubs. After Sir Alex, his own selected successor and fellow Scot, David Moyes, lasted less than the season, as results declined disastrously.

In the recent World Cup, Van Gaal reinforced his reputation as a tough but creative manager of the Netherlands’ [Holland’s] national side. For example, he came up with an incredible and pre-planned decision to substitute his first choice-goal keeper in extra time to bring on one better able to win the imminent penalty shoot-out.

First impressions at MUFC

Within days of Holland’s departures from the World Cup, their new manager arrives at Manchester United. There followed a few days of intense image management, reinforcing his image as a dominating personality who expects to get his own way on as many matters as possible.

MUFC fans largely approved of this, [call-in messages at the club’s TV station MUTV] as it was a style for which Alex Ferguson was recognized and feared.

The pre-season tour

Within a week, the squad had left for the pre-season tour of North America, van Gaal grumbling about excessive traveling which was a disruption to pre-season preparations. He said such arrangements would not happen again on his watch.

Reconstruction of the club

On van Gaal’s arrival, funds withheld from Moyes were released by the owners and board to strengthen the team. New players were acquired seen as the quality needed to address weaknesses in defense and midfield.

The LA Galaxy game

The first pre-season game was against LA Galaxy, a club with prior connections with MUFC, through the recently-retired David Beckham. The match was switched to the Pasadena Rose-bowl to accommodate the interest it attracted. A near-capacity 86,000 fans watched the game.

The American team, half-way through its season, was expected to be match fit. This did not make much difference in the first half. United, playing a new attacking formation, were lively and effective, scoring three unanswered goals.

The new manager had made it clear he would be assessing all players before completing his summer transfers. At half-time, as agreed for the fixture, large numbers of changes were made in each team. The United squad players brought on were more successful than their Galaxy counterparts,and scored a further four goals unanswered.

Final score: Los Angeles Galaxy 0 Manchester United 7. The Van Gaal managerial regime could hardly have started better.

Leadership reflections

The new manager has a direct – some would say brutal – style which seems designs to overwhelm all opposing views. His history of success with his teams has been accompanied with confrontations with players and with influential figures in clubs he worked in. He wins respect and makes enemies. The style can be found in many business and sporting leaders. In his encounters with the press, the style does have resemblance to that of Sir Alex Ferguson who could be famously (or infamously) combative.

There is something vaguely Machiavellian in the public persona which may be designed to rule through fear rather than being judged weak.

Germany v Brazil. A Hegelian nightmare of momentum and demoralization at the Football World Cup

July 9, 2014

Last night, a shocked global audience watched Germany defeat and humiliate host nation Brazil in The 2014 World Cup. Can the German philosopher Hegel offer insights to the astonishing happenings?

Searching for sense after the game [July 8th, 2014] I remembered the ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The philosopher remains influential for his system of thought which considers the nature of contradictions and how they become integrated.

Triumph and its contradiction

So Germany whacking in seven goals suggests the presence of triumph and its contradiction, disaster.

Or maybe it was through the energized performance of the German team and the defeated efforts of the Brazilians which produced the 7-1 scoreline. Some would describe what happened in terms of momentum and demoralization.
Any which way, Hegel invites us to seek a synthesis emerging from the thesis and its antithesis in seeking understanding.

Demythologizing the game

Without synthesis the story has no satisfactory closure. A focus on a crushing victory and defeat risks the stabilizing of beliefs of superiority and inferiority in cultural terms. It may be better to recognize the events are in a limited time and space. We should beware of y wider stereotypes, of German efficiency and Brazilian creativity crippled or destroyed by the loss of key players.

At a stretch, I can just about reach a Hegelian synthesis in which the story of the specific and spectacular game tonight is demythologized. It is important to appreciate the power of myths and myth making.


It is not destiny that will permit Germany to win the 2014 World Cup, it will be the interactions between two teams which have each earned their places in the final.

Note for fellow pedants
See this beginner’s guide to Hegel for an introduction to his logic. Note also that the three step process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis is widely used, but was never specifically characterized in these terms by Hegel.

What happened next …

Holland beat Brazil in the decider for third place no-one wants to play.

Germany and Argentina play a close final, and a brilliant goal by Gotze wins the World Cup for Germany and illuminates a drab game.

Scolari and his coaching team resign before they receive any more public humiliation.

Germany, spiritual home of Hegelian philosophy, welcomes its heroes with promises of redoubled efforts to retain world supremacy in Football.

Triumphalism, Humiliation, Rebirth. The cycle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis continues for Brazilian German football.


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