Wednesday 17 February 21
I was cleaning out my bookshelf and changing things around when I came cross Paul Merson’s terrific read HOW NOT TO BECOME A FOOTBALLER and stole a few lines that changes the mood as it involves Don Howe who was very much a part of my life and George Graham who I have known quite well since a 15-year-old. Some of Paul’s stories are hilarious and some unprintable, but this caught my eye: Arsenal were having a ‘mare in 1986 and Don (Howe) resigned after a lorryload of shocking results, and George Graham turned up in May.
I was gutted for Don. He was a top coach, one of the best in the world at the time. l worked with him again when he was looking after the England Under 19s, and he was phenomenal, really thorough and full of ideas.
When he talked you listened, but Don’s problem was that he didn’t have it in him to be a manager. Really, he was just too nice.
As a coach he was perfect, a good cop to a manager’s bad cop.
Being a coach and a manager are two very different jobs. When someone’s a coach they take the lads training, but they don’t have the added pressure of picking the team or running the side, and that makes a massive difference. I don’t think Don could hack that. He wasn’t the only one, there’s been loads of great, great coaches who couldn’t do it as a manager. Brian Kidd was a good example. He was figured to be one of the best coaches in the game when he worked alongside Fergie at United. He then went to Blackburn as gaffer and took them down.
This is a conversation I have with my son Anthony about his future as he is coaching the USA Under 21 team, after managing Newport County and then coaching the Bahrain and New Zealand national teams before going into the MLS with the Colorado Rapids. He is happy coaching – some people are – and I tried to explain you get more satisfaction from management because it’s the whole package, you are totally responsible for the player where a coach can coach them – I never listened to a coach outside of Don Howe, which is probably why? – and after picking up the balls and the cones “you’re done” as they say across the Pond. I always go back to Waddington under these circumstances as he was, as you well know by now, my kind of manager and the more I watch managers behave he goes up even higher in my estimations. Like me, although he was manager and the chairman was his best friend, maybe? he disliked them deep down, although unlike me I don’t think he disliked people anything like me, I take a knife in the back like it was in the heart, which is a part of Alan Hudson, and if there’s one thing I’ll take to wherever I’m going next, I’ll go never knowing where I got it from. The favourite is my father, although I was a pussy cat in comparison. Yeah, I take things personally and although I don’t carry a grudge I don’t forget which I always say, ‘After that knock on the head where David Goodier told my family, we have dispersed the blood clot on the brain (which Betty Shine said she did two weeks earlier) it seems my memory bank is better than ever, although I do suffer like most people my age of forgetfulness, but I think that’s not through old age, it’s just like a kind of shrugging things aside, like not taking things as serious as before, only a thought?
Anyhow, the whole point with Anthony, after watching one coaching session in Colorado it hit me or reminded me that players don’t really take much notice of the coach. I didn’t. Plus if any player can tell me they took any notice of things that they shouted at them from the touchline I’ll call them a liar. I remember one time at Newcastle, St James’ Park, playing for Arsenal and we were winning in a canter and the play stopped. I was in the centre-circle and had the ball. Terry Neil shouted something, but all I could hear was “Huddy, Huddy” so I threw the ball up and half-volleyed it at him and it was the best pass I’d made all afternoon, for it has him all over the place, that was my reply. I really cant remember one thing ever told me from the bench or in a team-talk. It is not being ignorant it is being that I already knew how to play the game and “You People” who sit there making things up as you go along cannot tell a player what to do once the game is swinging. I go back to Don Howe and Terry Neil on the bench at HIghbury when Don was constantly telling Terry to “Make a change, make a change before it’s too late, do it now,” and Terry never listened for about twenty minutes and when he did I got up and walked into the dressing room to warm my feet up under the hot tap, while Tony Donnelly was in stitches with laughter.
Management is a different kettle of fish as Waddington said, “I never told Alan how to play, he already knew,” and why would a manager fork out a record £240,000 on a player and then try to tell him how to play, you might as well get a dustman or a bus conductor – although they’re not around anymore – and tell them what to do.
A manager can change your life whereas a coach cannot. I remember one occasion I was in London with Geoff Salmons and I stayed down on the Monday as there was something wrong with my car and I had to meet Maureen. We had a game on the Tuesday night at Newcastle and I must say I was ‘out of order’ but was prepared to take the consequences. I called the club and our coach Alan A’Court came on and started laying down the law, and I said Alan (who I liked as man) slow down I’ll be back ready for tomorrow, but he continued to complain and in an instant I said, ‘Al, listen you are my coach not my manager, I said I’ll be back and I’ll be back, if the manager wants to deal with me that’s a different matter.’
Once again, after the match the manager, Mr. Waddington, gave me that look, and that was enough, for in my entire time I an honestly say I broke the rules, no not broke the rules because there was none, I was a little out of order on four occasions and I regretted it, but if you weighed it all up, I did more for Stoke City than they did for me – in the end. I helped them from the bottom four to the top of the League in nine months and became quite something to those fans and then after Stoke screwed me and Jimmy Greenhoff after that stand fell apart, I went back again and did my Red Adair act.
I say Stoke City not the manager because by screwing me and Jimmy they screwed Tony as well and he told them that, “If you sell my two best players we’re in trouble” and six months later they were relegated after getting knocked out of the FA Cup by Blyth Spartans along the way.
As a coach you have absolutely no control over a player and like with Dave Sexton as an example, who like Anthony in Colorado, was both coach and manager, which is how the conversation came about, you can have them as a manager in your office and if you ‘fall out’ you have to go out and coach them, and if you upset them in the office and then you tell them to do a certain thing, the first thing which will come to their mind is, well I asked you in the office and you said “no” so therefore I don’t think so.
A player will run an extra mile for the manager if treated well, whereas a coach, as I say, it is a different kettle of fish.
You might call this a balancing act, where one day we were training in Seattle and I had started playing head tennis and before you knew it the whole squad was playing and we even had shirts made, for fun, and the competition was fierce, as in any dressing room. On this particular day we got in early and put the benches out as the ‘net’ in between the lines, very professional-like. We had these grey track suits which when you sweated it seeped through without mistake, and when you play this game it becomes a great for your fitness and technique all in one.
Alan (Hinton), our manager, used to walk in like he was going shopping, a man so casual you wouldn’t believe, which was fantastic because he had that balance and as he came through the opening where the dressing rooms were I saw him stand and watch. Then he came over and I came towards him on the track, “Alright, captain” he said, ‘Yeah Al, we’re having a competition and it’s fierce.’
He looked me up and down and said, “It looks like you’ve done a days work already, carry on.”
Bobby Howe our coach did not have a say in it.
Alan was happy that we were working hard and after all, like me, he really weren’t one for coaching, he believed that if you could play, you could play.
That’s management folks!
That basically is exactly what Paul Merson says in his book about Don, he’s great on the coaching field but in the office he is that fish out of water?
That is something I don’t want my son to become because the rewards as manager are so much higher, and I don’t mean financially but personally by that I mean by knowing that you are not just improving the player you are improving the person. The balancing act again where only a manager has the scale, the coach has not.
Ask Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Diego Maradona, Jim Baxter and George Best all geniuses in their own way, if they ever listened to a coach from Monday to Friday and I have a feeling you’d get the same answer.